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Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G Study Guide - Final Guide: Nell Shipman, Publicaffairs, Educational Film

Media, Information and Technoculture
Course Code
MIT 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson
Study Guide

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Girl From Gods Country (Armatage)
- features actress and movie producer, Nell Shipman
- Nell left home at 13 to become an actress with a small touring company
- by 16 she had played every vaudeville role and circuit
- by 1912 she had already written and starred in her first film, The Ball of Yarn
- directed her first film in 1914
- starred in Gods Country and the Women in 1916 that was to be her big break
- Back to Gods Country, followed in 1919 featuring Shipman as the classic heroine, saving her invalid
husbands life and bringing the villains to justice though her rapport with animals, her wilderness acumen,
and her bravery and fortitude
- this film was an enormous critical and box-office success, cementing Shipmans reputation as a star
- her company, Nell Shipman Productions, was formed in 1921
- her and her husband, who was the production manager for Back to Gods Country, lived in a log cabin in
the Idaho wilderness, making movies independently
- known for her zoo of wild animals, including the famous bear Brownie
- nearly all of her films featured animals in prominent roles, functioning as romantic agent, comic relief,
victim, or hero
- she wrote, directed, and starred in 3 more feature films, all using a skeleton crew, doing all her own
stunts, wrangling the animals, and supervising the edit
- Canada persisted as a fictional location for her narratives, she did not participate in the fledging
Canadian film industry
- when the films were finished, she would trudge across the lake ti the nearest town and put on vaudeville-
type shows at the local hall to raise money for her return fair to New York where she would try to sell the
films for distribution
- by 1908, 14th Street in NYC was well established as film exchange row
- by 1912, the city boasted 138 movie theatres, and the following year saw the formation of many
distribution companies with large syndicates
- The Protective Amusement Company offered 2 features per week to 100 syndicate-affiliate theatres;
these companies made use of national distribution circuits developed for theatre and vaudeville in the late
19th century, circuits already supported by the communications-transportation infrastructure of telegraphy
and railroads
- the process of selling a product in this climate was simple: just had to put the film under your arm and
keep going down 14th street until one of the film exchanges offered to buy the picture
- until well into the silent period, the price was standard: 10 cents a foot
- independent production of this sort had shortly become virtually impossible by mid 1920s
- competition had been fierce with spying, sabotage, and theft
- with the financial and technological gearing up for sound, the film industry was interpreted by big
business and organized crime
- this new formation of the industry saw the rise of the studios and the monopoly practice of vertical
integration of production distribution, and exhibition
- the exhibition and distribution circuits that remained unaffiliated with studios were rapidly closed down
- all of the stalwarts of the silent cinema collapsed along with Shipman
- Shipmans cottage industry mode of production was out of step with the new industrialization of
- subnational similarities between the women characters that Shipman created for herself and the
melodramatic serial queens of Hollywood
- emphasis on the active female heroine who exhibits a variety of traditionally masculine qualities:
physical strength and endurance, self-reliance, courage, social authority, and freedom to explore novel
experiences outside the domestic sphere
- the woman as active, self-reliant, courageous, and competent may be found in other genres such as the
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western as well but rarely is she the rescuer
- in later films, women are reduced to a one-dimensional functionality based solely on their feminine
sexuality, operating as a mere love interest
National Film Board (Druick)
- as far as filmmaking institutions go, the NFB, a state-sponsored filmmaking institution specializing in
short non-theatrical documentary films, has an almost mythic status, both in Canada and abroad
- thousands of films have been made under its auspices since its inception in 1939, and they have been
screen widely across Canada and around the world
- against sustained opposition from the private sector and members of the Conservative party, usually in
their role as government opposition, the NFBs biggest advocates have been modernizing social reformers
aiming to use the medium of film as a communications technology for consolidating middle-ground
opinion in Canada and about Canada
- the British documentary movement out of which the NFB emerged was specifically organized to
appropriate realisms more radical potential and apply the form to the liberal nation-building project
- documentary in this tradition embodies the same contradictions s the welfare state alongside which it
- its subversive elements developed as a response to the foundationally radical socialist challenge that was
being posed to capitalist societies
- official documentary film and welfare state administration both relied on an instrumentally productive
model of social control that ultimately served to undermine their seemingly radical trappings
- the NFB was established by the passage of the National Film Act, in May 1939, months before the
outbreak of the Second World War
- grew exponentially during the war, taking over the government information and propaganda filmmaking
activity from the pre-existing Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau in 1941
- organized travelling film circuits in rural Canada as well as in factories and trade union halls, massively
expanding non-theatrical audience for films
- came under attack from the private industry for its unfair advantage in securing government contracts
and from the business press and the Conservative opposition for its allegedly politically dubious
connections to communism
- 40s and 50s when facing what seemed to be almost certain death, NFB was granted a reprieve in the
form of Cold War national cultural policy
- remade itself as an educational film provider in the 1950s
- late 1960s, the NFB embraced new technologies such as IMAX and portable video
- 1970s it established Studio D, the womens studio
- 1980s/90s, focused on supporting emerging filmmakers from minority and First Nations communities
- at present time, it supports a massive website and continues to fund documentary and educational films
- documentary film as it developed in the West during the 1930s reflected the technologies of the liberal
democracy that it was developed to support
- not only was this genre intimately bound up with the democratizing projects of mass and adult
education, it also embodied social scientific techniques, such as the interview and the representative
sample, which were foundational to the development of new techniques of governance such as the
opinion poll
- this is the style of filmmaking and the technology for knowing and regulating the population termed
government realism
- priority of the first 25 years if the NFBs existence (1939-64) was the representation of the process of
urbanization, industrialization, and the establishment of the welfare state
- dealing in public information in general and films about citizenship in particular, the NFB presents an
excellent site for reading narratives of ideal citizenship, strategies of government in the welfare state
- its documentaries depict average, typical citizens in moments of contact with government agents or
services such as schools, hospitals, and employment offices
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- measuring or indeed documenting the population may actually help to produce it
- classes acquire common interests and become manifest in part through the category choices of official
- the foundation, then, of the nation building particular to Canada has been the subdivision of the
population into manageable groups
- the close connection between social policy and documentary narrative becomes apparent in the
controlling voice of NFB films
- while Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau films were often geared to attract tourists or
promote trade, NFB films about everyday life have consistently been concerned with social types
- several analytic categories essential to the birth of the managerial welfare state are found in NFB films
about the everyday life of ordinary people such as: mental/social hygiene, labour-management, national
security, and education
- NFB films made for a pedagogic purpose and also depot people in institutional educational settings; it
made its place n the post-war world in the realm of education especially with regard to integrating
difference and promoting multiculturalism
- most common narrative strategy in early films was the enactment of a typical story; this might entail the
use of either a scripted real person or an actor
- such stories were manifest in one of 2 styles: dramatic reenactment or the observational style of cinéma-
- the use of interviews, often intercut with archival footage and with or without authorial voice-over, is
still the typical style of the NFB
- 4th style emerged in the 80s: performing documentary
- the focus is on the filmmakers subjective response to historical and social events
- in NFB films, this style is often combined with the invitation to filmmakers from marginal communities
to tell their own stories
- despite changes in documentary style and government objectives, for the NFB, issues of labour, health,
education, and assimilation have consistently been depicted in narratives about quasi-anonymous
Public-Service Broadcasting (Hogarth)
- Canadian TV would stake out what one broadcaster at the time called a middle ground between UK
(information) and US (entertainment), featuring public affairs programs that Canadians would actually
choose to watch in a more or less competitive North American broadcast market
- Canadian policy makers tended to view TV as a pedagogic service, with public affairs programming as
its cornerstone
- Canadas Massey Commission argued that television should inform Canadians about various aspects of
their lives while helping to instills in them a certain discriminatory sense
- the commission hoped information programming would encourage Canadians to concern themselves
with real as opposed to synthetic situations
- information TV would thus serve as a countervailing force against the twin dangers of propaganda and
mass culture, seeing as a sort of grounded citizenship training course
- as the genre most explicit concerned with the nitty-gritty of Canadian public life, pubic-affairs
broadcasting was regarded as a cornerstone of liberal-humanist culture
- the Massey Report called for the maintenance of proper boundaries between information and
entertainment programs
- according to the Report, images in public affairs TV should teach not by pictorial or dramatic effect but
by coherent and logical presentation of fact
- policy-makers and educators argued that viewing information-TV programs at home should ideally be
rather like watching documentaries at the cinema or local community centre
- educators hoped children might watch information programs after school and be tested on them the next
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