Edinburgh Film Seminar: Prof Duncan Petrie

23 February 2016 @ 14:00 – 16:00
50 George Square
Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9JU

Edinburgh Film Seminar


Professor Duncan Petrie
Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York


Date: Tuesday 23 February 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: G.02, 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh EH8 9LH

The Influence of Film Schools on European Film Culture

The predominant model of the film school in Europe has been that of the ‘national conservatoire’, a publicly-funded institution concerned with high-level professional training relevant to a specific field of activity. Such institutions had long been established in relation to established art forms such as music, dance and drama and this extension to film clearly signals the latter’s incorporation into the pantheon as le septieme art. But while the traditional arts had largely functioned as the preserve of the educated cultural elite, the significance of cinema as a popular and accessible form of mass entertainment and the product of a modern technological and industrial process had consequences for the role and operation of film schools. Indeed, many of the major European film schools were established as part of a wider film policy geared towards the revitalisation of national film industries and moving-image cultures through the creation of new institutions and agencies and the provision of public support for production, distribution and education.

In this talk I will explore the development of national film schools in Europe and consider their importance in the development of moving image culture across the continent. This will consider the initial emergence of film schools in the inter-war period beginning with the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow in 1919 and followed by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, set up by Mussolini’s Fascist government in Rome in 1935. Next on board were the French with the Institute des hautes etudes cinématographiques (IDHEC), established in Paris in 1943. These three schools provided the model and inspiration for subsequent developments after 1945, which saw the proliferation of new institutions on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Initially the most effective were those in the East, with Filomwka in Lodz and FAMU in Prague providing the incubator for what became the Polish School of film-making the 1950s and the Czech New Wave of the 1960s. More recently the impact of the Danish Film School – as the seedbed of Dogma 95 and Nordic Noir – has demonstrated the continued industrial and cultural importance of such institutions.

Duncan Petrie is Professor of Film and Television at the University of York. His engagement with the study of film was initiated in the department of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh in the 1980s with his PhD thesis leading to his first major publication, Creativity and Constraint in the British Film Industry (Macmillan, 1991) and a position as Research Officer at the British Film Institute. Since then Duncan has worked at the University of Exeter where he set up the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, and the University of Auckland, where he was head of the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies.  Duncan’s other major publications include the monographs The British Cinematographer (BFI, 1996), Screening Scotland (BFI, 2000), Contemporary Scottish Fictions (EUP, 2004), Shot in New Zealand: The Art and Craft of the Kiwi Cinematographer (Random House, 2007) and Educating Film-Makers (Intellect, 2014), co-written with Rod Stoneman. Duncan has also edited or co-edited a further ten books including Screening Europe (BFI, 1992) and The Cinema of Small Nations (EUP, 2007), with Mette Hjort.