- Editors’ Foreword
What we have been calling “The Itinerant Issue” of The Moving Image was conceived at the Marriott hotel lobby bar during the 2008 Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference in Savannah, Georgia. After a long day of sessions, Caroline Frick and Dwight Swanson pitched the idea for an issue of the journal dedicated to the underexplored phenomenon of itinerant filmmaking and exhibition practices. They had both been working for many years on the subject and had already established a network of scholars and archivists doing pioneering work that, with the publication of this issue, will pave the way for future research in, and attention to, this rich area of film history. The Moving Image seemed to them to be an ideal venue for disseminating this work to their archival and academic colleagues.
Perhaps needless to say, we agreed. What immediately appealed to us about the subject was that it had such clear relevance for both archivists and scholars and for the many in our field who wear both hats. It is, in fact, a kind of dream topic for a journal like The Moving Image, which exists at the intersection of a number of different communities whose work revolves around an interconnected (though perhaps not always seamlessly) archival universe. As new journal editors, we were keenly aware that Frick and Swanson were handing us a strong conceptualization for a thematically focused inaugural issue as well as an opportunity to work closely with a group of top-notch scholars and archivists, many of them longtime AMIA members.
As these pages make abundantly clear, the authors assembled in this issue are dedicated to their sometimes elusive subject and to sharing its importance with members of the AMIA community and beyond. Their considerations of itinerant filmmaking [End Page vii] practices—including attempts to define, contextualize, and evaluate itinerant films—set the stage for what will, it is hoped, become an ongoing discussion about this important practice. Convenient as it is, however, the very term itinerant competes (even in these pages) with several others for naming rights on the subject. Though it usefully conveys a sense of the mobility that governs the filmmaking and exhibition practices explored here, itinerant has its own problematic associational baggage, with which some of our authors grapple. As the articles collected here indicate, there were many filmmakers who traveled from town to town making so-called local films (a term preferred by some to discuss this phenomenon), which they then exhibited to the communities in which they were shot.
These films were often variations on the same script or scenario, tailored to fit the local community and business culture. Once the films were shot and screened in the town in which they were made, the filmmakers moved on, usually—though not always— never to return again. The fate of the films themselves often rested in the hands of the theater owners or projectionists who exhibited them. Fortunately some held on to them, since they typically had the one and only copy ever made. Some of these surviving reels are now scattered in archives, many of them regional, across the country. We think it is fair to say that regional archives, in particular, have rescued this kind of film from what might have been total erasure from our cultural memory, although there have also been many individuals who, alongside and in tandem with regional film archives, have assisted in rescuing lost prints of this material. It is the sincere hope of our contributors that the publication of this issue of The Moving Image will further the cause of finding, saving, and studying these films, which—for reasons discussed throughout the issue—might be more likely than other films to suffer from neglect or incomprehension.
As many of the authors argue in this issue, local films produced by itinerant filmmakers offer valuable insights into the communities in which they were made. Their intimacy is often not unlike the home movie, though lurking in the immediate background of each frame is the (often false) allure of Hollywood cinema and its promises of, if not stardom and glamour, at least recognition. But because...