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The question is whether there are meaningfully discernable sub-categories within the Home Movie Form that would usefully characterize the patterns of Home Movie production. Such a Taxonomy would acknowledge that Home Movies have an internal logic different from commercial film production and consumption. It would seek to capture the “types” of home movies that are seen to recur over time and place – not variations in subject matter (“ABOUTness”), but differences in kind (“OFness”).

To contemplate a taxonomy of Home Movies is not parallel to discerning a taxonomy of mammals, or of orchids, or of coins. A taxonomy of natural species seeks to catalogue the significant branchings of a lineal family tree. For any man-made coin it is reasonable to ask, “What nation minted this? What was its denomination?”

A taxonomy of home movies aims at a different task: to identify significant regularities in form and content among a diverse and unregulated field of film productions. Identification of Genres and Tropes proceeds empirically: the categories we define arise from watching a finite number of Home Movies and noting regularities. Genres will emerge as they are recognized through viewing.


Child-Made Film – the film is the work of a minor, including films made in grade-school classes.

Military Service Record – the film is shot by individual serving in the military or at War. Leisure / Recreational footage is on a par with Action / Political footage

Cine Club Film – the film was made in the context of participation with Amateur cine clubs. (possibly also an Amateur Film)

A note on characterizing “Identity Group” films (proposed in a previous draft): while researchers are likely to be interested in finding examples of “Feminist Films” or “African-American Films” or “Gay Movement Films,” marking filmic expressions of these “identity groups” is problematic in a number of ways, not least of which is an ironic segregation of materials by people striving against various forms of exclusion and prejudice. (The best name for such a Genre might be Films of the Other). While it is important for the public to be able to locate films involving such movements, they would be better marked either (a) by Subject Keywords descriptive of their actual content and (b) through biographical metadata describing the Maker of the films.

As a side note of related importance, though, this question should alert us to the importance of using other metadata fields to capture the presence of identity groups appearing in films and the presence of ideas related to social movements as we describe Home Movie footage, for researchers often are interested in finding, for example, footage of African-American families enjoying quotidian middle-class pastimes, or self-originated expressions of protest within communities known to the public chiefly through commercial productions. Cataloguers may feel that it is wrong to tag a film with a Subject Term pointing at ethnicity, when films portraying Caucasians earn no such notice, for doing so would seem to confirm the notion that “whiteness” and “maleness” and “straightness” are the default, “normal” settings. And yet if no means of fairly and accurately marking differences are allowed, then footage of many minority and interest groups may remain effectively undiscoverable. (A half-serious, playful solution: tag Caucasians with the subject term “White” when their racio-social status seem particularly marked in their behavior or appearance.)


Compilation Film – the film captures and preserves multiple examples of a unified theme over time or space, probably splicing together footage shot at various times and/or places. Examples: Sunsets from the back porch; Best cars of the 60’s.

Travelogue Film – the film captures sightseeing images from travel beyond the home milieu. Examples: “Our Trip to Yosemite;” “Summer in Florida;” “Coney Island Boardwalk scenes;” “Israel 1973.”

Community Portrait – the film attempts to capture the wider community setting outside of the home. Examples: Our Town of ; methodical footage of the neighbors & their houses; “The Great State of Ohio.”

Documentary Film – A film devoted to the exposition of a single subject of interest, often with lavish enthusiasm and attention to detail. Often capturing esoteric interests. Examples: Sid Laverents’s “The Butterfly with Four Birthdays.” (This genre would perhaps best represent the borderline between Home Movies and Amateur film).

Voyage Film – the film captures travel in the context of a public voyage, as on a luxury liner or group tour. Examples: “S.S. Caledonia Cruise 1933;” “Goodyear Blimp, Florida 1966.”

Amateur Drama – the film presents an original storyline played out by participants taking on dramatic roles.

Parody /Tribute Film – a film that re-enacts popular media such as TV shows, commercials, or movies, for example home-made episodes of Star Trek, or a re-make of Lord of the Flies made by a 7th-grade class.

Art Film – the film is manifestly an attempt to create a work of art, as opposed to a mere recording of events, persons, or places. Includes Experimental films or unconventional techniques.

Animation Film – the film employs techniques of stop-motion photography to achieve movement of objects across the screen. (Isolated employment would be a Trope).

Sound Film – the film includes a recorded (likely magnetic) soundtrack. While this genre might be discovered in cataloging systems simply by searching for “Sound” Home Movies, it is worthwhile regarding those Home Movie makers employing Sound technologies as occupying a Generic space of their own. In other words, the employment of Sound might be seen as an essential, rather than a contingent aspect of the film, if only because of its rarity, and because the fimmaker’s use of sound is likely to be very deliberate. (In contrast, consider “Color Film” as a genre. Useless.) Finally, “Sound Film” was its own category in many of the Amateur Film contests of the 1940’s and 50’s.

Trick Photography Film – the film is primarily a vehicle for deploying one or more
“trick photography” techniques such as slow motion, double exposures, reverse filming. (Isolated employment would be a Trope).

Television Capture – A micro-genre, homemade kinescopes, basically, the preservation of broadcast media on home-movie media. Is an 8mm record of a “Movie of the Night,” replete with television tube shape and commercial interludes a valuable media document? Does the fact of recording confer some further meaning beyond the content of the broadcast element itself?


Milestone Film – the film captures the marking of some notable event. Examples: the birthday party; the New Years celebration; the opening of gifts at Christmas, mourning of death, funeral procession.

Public Event Film – the film presents an individual perspective on an event (formal or informal) of public significance, such as a victory celebration, building dedication, political campaign stop, neighborhood fire, or riot.

Nature / Wildlife Film – footage intended to capture natural beauty and living creatures in natural habitats.

Family at Leisure Film – undifferentiated footage of family members at play, engaging in pleasurable everyday activities before the camera.

Family Business / Livelihood – films that capture “work”-oriented activities reflecting family industry.

Party Film – the film records social interactions at a party set in a private dwelling. (This is an example of a truly emergent Genre – not just a home movie with dancing in it, these are films devoted almost exclusively to drinking, dancing, and socializing, generally in a busy indoor setting.)

How-To Film – the film records the process of completing a distinct activity, such as building a model rocket, baking a pie, or shoeing a horse. Processes can include hobbies, professional activities, or industrial processes.

Performance Film – the film captures a public performance intended as a personal record of a public event. Examples: High school Shakespeare play; Piano recital, Age 9; Dad leads Vespers service.

Voyeuristic Recording – the film captures imagery for the prurient interest of the filmmaker, apparently without consent or participation of the subject. Example: Bikini Girls on the Jersey Shore.

Sex Film — the film captures explicit sex acts. Examples: Pittsburgh Swingers 1972.


Sui Generis Film – a paradoxical category for uncategorizable films. A genre to take in films that are strikingly unique, indefinable and surprising in some vivid way.