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On “Amateur Films”

A first question is whether Home Movies warrant differentiation from Amateur Films as a Form of moving image media. Although it may be difficult to define the two terms such that they would form two mutually exclusive groups, and while it might be sensible to regard Home Movies as a subset of Amateur Films, their typically casual production values (usually unedited, rarely titled), their core subject matter (immediate family, local scenes, travel), and their limited intended audience (primarily family and friends) describe a very different media object from the outward-looking Amateur Film.

Conferring a distinct Formal term for Home Movies would also have the desirable effect of raising the profile and status of these films. Nancy Watrous (Chicago Film Archives) has noted a tendency for genuine Home Movies to be shouldered to the side by more elaborately produced films that would be more properly termed Amateur Films. If Home Movie preservation is concentrated at the more professional end of the Home Movie spectrum, the more homely “family films” that are most neglected may tend to remain that way.

HOME MOVIES – A Working Definition: Home Movies are “home made” motion pictures created by individuals primarily for an intended audience of family members and friends within the immediate circle of the home.

The following factors make it likely that a Home Movie designation is appropriate:

1) The subject matter includes family members, family events, family activities.
2) The films were manipulated, edited, screened, and stored in a home setting.
3) The film materials are original reversal projection materials.
4) The film stock is a popular consumer gauge (9.5mm, 16mm, 8mm, Super8).

AMATEUR FILM would take in non-professional film production that aims for a wider audience in settings such as film-making classes, film festivals, or local broadcast, or by means of mechanical reproduction in the form of multiple prints or copies made available to a public outside of the film maker’s immediate circle of friends and family.

The following factors make it likely that an Amateur Film designation is appropriate:

1) The film is a composite work making use of multiple elements in the final print.
2) Multiple copies were struck in order to reach a wider public.
3) The film was screened at film festivals or public events.
4) The film was created in the context of a filmmaking course or made use of film editing equipment outside of the home.

While it will always be possible to cite examples which straddle the two categories and appear to blur the distinction, it is probably fair to say that those examples would represent a vanishingly small proportion of the footage we would be tempted to consider Home Movies.