Sixteen Millimeter emerged as a new film gauge and suite of equipment in 1923. Building on longstanding demand for a more flexible, multi-functional apparatus that was clear from cinema’s earliest days, the new gauge rode the tide of technological innovation that helped the American film industry become what we now simply call “Hollywood.” Designed not to compete with the products of American studios or to displace the professional standard 35mm gauge, 16mm was sold and developed as an amateur’s delight, a mighty military tool, a miraculous business solution, a prime pedagogical resource, and a community organizing device. By the end of World War II, 16mm projection devices handily out-numbered theatrical screens in the United States. Its growth thereafter was rapid and vast, fueling a boom in film technology manufacture, sales, and use. As access to these cameras and projectors proliferated and spread internationally, 16mm’s effect on cinema was revolutionary and far-reaching. It transformed realms large and small, public and private, rural and urban, local and global. It launched countless audio-visual forms, enabled new users, and created everyday interfaces that reshaped and expanded how and where and what people would see and hear.
16mm was a particular kind of apparatus: affordable, programmable, adaptable, portable, repairable, and often hybrid, linked to other small media: phonographs, slide projectors, radios, magnetic tape, television, games, and toys. The uses of 16mm were vast. It was a tool for delivering public service messages and public relations campaigns, boosting church attendance, preaching good “social hygiene,” promoting political candidates, spreading propaganda, and encouraging community dialogue. It facilitated new forms of hobby and play. Artists and activists relied on 16mm cameras and projectors as modes of experimentation, organization, upheaval, and advocacy. From the local to well beyond, small gauge filmmaking and showing also became integral to colonialist, imperialist, nationalist, and multi-nationalist institutions and efforts. For almost 100 years, this uniquely important film format upended and shaped a vast realm of creative, political, governmental, juridical, sexual, educational, recreational, informational, televisual, industrial, promotional, and experimental practices and activities.
This book invites papers that assess the phenomena that fall under the rubric of 16mm film, broadly understood as a complex technological, aesthetic, institutional transformation of moving image and sound practices. Papers may include theoretical or historical (or historiographical) approaches. Above all, this book seeks essays that identify key terms, concepts, resources, and modes of analysis that address the particularities of 16mm – its various iterations, and the broader shifts in which it played a key role.
Please send a 300-word abstract, three key words for your essay, and a short biography to us by July 22, 2021.
Greg Waller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Provost Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, Indiana University
Haidee Wasson (email@example.com) Professor, Film and Media Studies, Concordia University, Montreal
Please note that we aspire to have this collection in print during the calendar year 2023 in order that it help shape ongoing discussions about the 100th year of 16mm. Precise deadlines will be shared as the project evolves.