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March 2013, Week 1


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Cynthia Miller <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 5 Mar 2013 11:34:34 -0500
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“Bigger, Faster, Brighter: The Histories and Economies of Special Effects”

An area of multiple panels for the 2013 Film & History Conference on
Making Movie$: The Figure of Money On and Off the Screen
November 20-24, 2013
Madison Concourse Hotel (Madison, WI)
DEADLINE for abstracts: July 1, 2013

AREA: Bigger, Faster, Brighter: The Histories and Economies of Special Effects

Freeze New York, burn Atlanta, topple San Francisco, bury Pompeii. Unleash a giant ape, a killer shark, or a shape-shifting assassin made of liquid metal. Drill to the Earth’s core, circle the globe submerged, or swoop among the towering trees of a distant planet. From the flesh-and-blood “casts of thousands” in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent-era epics to the CGI armies in Peter Jackson’s tales of Middle Earth, from the sleek cannon-shell spacecraft of A Trip to the Moon to the city-sized leviathans of Independence Day, a century of effects-driven movies has offered audiences spectacles beyond the reach of any other medium. When and how have special effects determined the economies of filmmaking or the structures of their narratives? What cultural or historical factors affect how audiences respond to special effects—as spectacle, as narrative medium, as aesthetic stage? How are such effects bound to or by genres like adventure and science fiction? When are they not?

This area, comprising multiple panels, invites papers that examine film as a site where art, technology, and money intersect, where studios and filmmakers have, for more than a century, risked fabulous sums of money in the hope of confounding our sense of the possible, the filmable, and so reaping even greater rewards at the box office. Topics might include the following:

• Landmark/summer blockbuster films or film series
• Effects-driven subgenres (disaster films, Biblical epics, SF adventures)
• Effects specialists (Cecil B. DeMille, George Pal, Irwin Allen, Michael Bay)
• Visual tropes (the ruined city, the giant machine, the destroyed landmark)
• Exhibition technologies (3-D, Sensurround, THX sound, IMAX)
• The silent spectacle (Intolerance, The Ten Commandments, The Lost World)
• Television FX (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, V, Terra Nova)

Proposals for complete panels (three related presentations) are also welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information, including an e-mail address, for each presenter. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

Please email your 200-word proposal, by July 1, 2013, to:
A. Bowdoin Van Riper, Area Chair
Bigger, Faster Brighter: The Histories and Economies of Special Effects
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