Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Cinema Studies and History, University of Toronto

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Critical Studies, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
Studios Before the System: Architecture, Technology, and Early Cinema

In 1909 the first permanent film studio was established in Los Angeles, California; within a decade the most dominant center of cultural production of the twentieth century would take form a few miles west. As filmmaking in America became identified with a place, Hollywood, its business model took its name from a spatial system, "the studios." While film historians have traced the subsequent influence of this system to studios worldwide, my project will investigate the studios' origins before their institutionalization in Hollywood. My dissertation will develop a transnational history of the first film studios as they emerged in France (beginning in 1897) and the United States (from 1892), the most dominant film production centers of the two decades around the turn of the twentieth century. By examining the development of film studios in these two contexts, my project will ask how the major French and American film corporations - including Melies, Gaumont, Pathe, Edison, Biograph, and American Vitagraph - contributed in distinct ways to the development of the film studio as a cinematic production space, as an architectural and industrial form, and as a site for the technological and cinematic innovations that would lead to Hollywood's "studio system" and the studios of interwar France. By situating the emergence of the first film studios in the architectural and technological changes of the late nineteenth century, my dissertation will also illuminate the ways that these structures not only contributed to the development of early cinematic form, content, and industrial practice, but also how they responded and eventually contributed to the changing built environment of such major cities as Paris, New York, and Los Angeles.