Cars and screens: cinematic automobilities

A special issue of Film Studies

Co-edited by Elizabeth Parke and Will Straw

Scholarship on the relationship of film to “automobility” has traced the historical and technological interweaving of film and cars. Much of this work has focused on American cultural inflections of these two technologies, from the genre of the road movie through those films documenting southern California hot rod subcultures. In the years since volumes like Autopia (Peter Wollen and Joe Kerr, 2002), Crash (Karen Beckman, 2010), and Zoomscape (Mitchell Schwarzer, 2004) explored analogies between automobility and the experience of cinema, the growth of in-car display screens, dash scams and other technologies has rendered that relationship more complex.  So, too, has the use of personal screens in automobiles, the rise of driver-less and rider-sharing automobiles and a growing tendency to view the automobile as a challenge to doctrines of the pedestrian city. Elsewhere, in chic European films like Un homme et une femme (1966) or the opening sequence of The Italian Job (1969) the elegance of the modern automobile and picturesque character of European landscapes have fueled exercises of stylistic cinematic bravura.  Cinema and cars (and their attendant infrastructures, e.g., roads, bridges, gas stations, parking lots) have shaped our built urban environments, forming a symbiotic dyad, with the history of each marked by innovations that influence the other, leaping back and forth from screen to road. Both cars and films have changed our relationship to visuality, inflecting the ways we perceive the world, move through space and time, and in turn, experience (or expect to experience) distance and duration.

This special issue of Film Studies seeks to expand on the existing scholarship on film and automobility.  We invite articles that explore, in a theoretical sense, the historical relationship of the automobile to cinema.  We hope, as well, to expand the geographical and temporal frame through which this relationship might be understood, with articles exploring cinematic automobility from transnational perspectives or in non-Western contexts and proposals that consider this phenomenon in relation to a variety of audiovisual formats and vehicle types. Topics, for a 6000-8000 word essay to be delivered by 1 April 2019, may include (but are not limited to):

– business relationships between cars and film (e.g., studios’ ownership of car parks and petrol stations)

– car company industrial films and investments in filmmaking

– car-film aesthetic challenges and solutions (e.g., shooting in moving cars; auto-mobile production techniques)

– ‘smaller screen realities’ which form part of the automobile experience: e.g., the small mobile screens of smartphones, built-in car interfaces, backup cameras, and dashcams

– case studies of car-film relationships that involve specific vehicle types (e.g., passenger cars, specific car models/brands, buses, taxis, motorcycles, mopeds, ride-sharing vehicles or autonomous cars)

– case studies of specific films, genre formats or cycles that hinge on motor vehicles

The editors will be contributing an introduction essay to the special issue outlining the major themes and research questions brought to light by the contributors.

Please send abstracts (250-300 words) by 15 November 2018 to Elizabeth Parke elizabeth.parke@utoronto.ca and Will Straw william.straw@mcgill.ca