*SCMS 2020*

*Call for Panelists**: FLOPS as Historiographical Resources*

While pop culture abounds with accounts and even celebrations of cinematic
failure, the academic study of Hollywood cinema typically focuses on works
that have achieved critical and/or commercial success. The underlying
premise of this approach is that successful films shed a unique light on
national film cultures on the basis of a set of familiar dynamics:
established genres and formats; popularity of stars and character types;
and repetition of time-tested marketing formulas. The flip side of this
premise is that failed works are not a historiographical resource that
merits serious consideration.

In this panel I wish to develop an approach, centered on notable commercial
failures or “flops”.  Flops are not low-budget films or routine genre
pieces that perform below expectations; rather, I define them as carefully
pre-planned and ambitious endeavors that go terribly wrong. Thus, *Heaven’s
Gate*(1980) is a flop, while a sub-par romantic comedy is not. My premise
is that flops can serve as cultural indicators as much as “hits” and
constitute an untapped resource. The reasons for their failure reveal the
dramatic *gap*between what screenwriters and directors as well as
producers, distributors, and financiers believed to be appealing in terms
of a genre, a star, or a story, and what the reality instead turned out to
be.  As such, flops provide evidence of a process rarely discussed in media
scholarship—the *falsification*of professionals’ ideas and practices about
public taste.

This proposed panel seeks to bring together scholars working on a variety
of historical periods. Suggested papers may focus on individual case
studies, of Hollywood past and recent history, which provide alternative
perspectives on familiar periods, genres, stars, production formulas, and
marketing strategies.  We are especially interested in proposals that
analyze flops against contemporaneous hits in order to challenge
established historiographical tenets.

Interested panelists please submit a 250-300 word abstract, a 50-100 word
bio, and a 4-5 entry bibliography to [log in to unmask] by August 10, 2019.
Those who do so will be notified of the panel's constitution by August 14,

*Giorgio Bertellini **is Professor of Film at the University of Michigan**.*


Giorgio Bertellini, Professor
Department of Film, Television, and Media
University of Michigan
6435 North Quad
105 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285
ph. (734) 763 1144 (o.)

Just released and free to download:* The Divo and the Duce
<> *(U of
California Press, 2019)
Associate Editor, *Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies
Book Series Co-editor, *Cinema Cultures in Contact
(University of California Press)
University website (U of M)
Publications (

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