Call for Papers
Special Effects: New Histories, Theories, Contexts
Edited by Michael Duffy [Towson University], Dan North [University of Exeter], and Bob Rehak [Swarthmore College]
Deadline for Abstracts: 1 March 2011
Deadline for Submissions: 1 January 2012
Recent decades have seen ever more prominent and far-reaching roles for special and visual effects in film and other media: blockbuster franchises set in detailed fantasy and science-fiction worlds, visually experimental adaptations of graphic novels, performances in which the dividing lines between human and inhuman – even between live action and animation – seem to break down entirely. Yet the cinema of special effects, so often framed in terms of new digital technologies and aesthetics, actually possesses a complex and branching history, one that both informs and complicates our grasp of the “state of the art.” At stake in studies of special/visual effects is a more comprehensive understanding of film’s past, present, and future in an environment of shifting technologies and media contexts.
We seek contributions to a volume focused on special effects as aesthetic, industrial, and cultural practices, moving beyond formal analysis to a wider consideration of special effects’ historical roots and developmental paths, their underlying technologies and creators, and their intersection with other domains of art, commerce, and ideology. We are particularly interested in essays that elaborate on specific periods of change that special and visual effects have undergone over the course of their history. Although we welcome work that deals with digital technologies and contemporary cinema, we encourage contributors to contextualise recent developments in relation to broader histories of visual illusion and spectacular artifice.
The book will integrate an online forum to develop an extensive bibliography, web links to further reading, and a scholar/practitioner directory.
Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:
● Theoretical approaches to the study of special effects history and technique, including (but not restricted to) ‘ontology’ debates surrounding the interplay between analogue and digital technologies.
● Theories of spectatorship, visual illusions, and special effects.
● Critical histories/analyses of individual processes, e.g. matte paintings, compositing, bluescreen, the Independent Frame, miniatures, stop-motion animation, animatronics, prosthetics, motion capture, etc.
● Pre-visualization techniques, including production design, concept art, and animatics.
● The ongoing influence of effects pioneers including Georges Méliès, Segundo de Chomon, James Stuart Blackton, Emile Cohl, Albert E. Smith, R.W. Paul, and other makers of early ‘trick films’.
● Changes to studio structures and the evolution of the special-effects ‘house’.
● Industry “stars” such as Stan Winston, Douglas Trumbull, Richard Edlund, Tom Savini, Eiji Tsubuyara, Rick Smith, Ray Harryhausen, Willis O’Brien, John P. Fulton, John Gaeta, etc.
● The uses of special effects and spectacle in the experimental or avant-garde works of film-makers including Peter Tscherkassky, Stan Brakhage, Norman McLaren, etc.
● The significance of special effects in non-Hollywood, low-budget and independent cinema.
● Special-effects fandom, connoisseurship, and critique
● How animatronics, puppetry and make-up are adapted/reconstituted/re-contextualized for studio/franchise rebirths.
● Visual effects in television, video games, and transmedia.
● Spectacular uses of colour, widescreen, IMAX, and 3D processes.
● Self-reflexive uses of special effects as a commentary on the history/ontology of media.
Essays should run between 3000 and 6000 words in length.
Send abstracts (title, 500 word description of project, and author bio) or requests for further information to: [log in to unmask]
Editors can be contacted individually at:
Michael Duffy [[log in to unmask]]
Dan North [[log in to unmask]]
Bob Rehak [[log in to unmask]]
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