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Journal of Media Practice (2012) - Hitchcock and Small-Gauge: Shaping the Amateur Fiction Film




Amateur film frequently earns its cultural value and claim to preservation as evidential substrate, a moving record of the past, with credibility rooted in the automatism of the cinematic apparatus and the indexicality of the photographic sign. Such potential is identified early within the organized cine movement, with ‘hobby’ filmmakers internalizing such definitions, as the quantity of non-fiction footage retained across the archive sector readily confirms. Less visible in critical commentary or the expanding catalogue is the amateur practitioner’s commitment to the fiction film, despite ongoing engagement via templates derived from professional counterparts, alongside exploration of more autonomous non-professional modes and genres. For many such film-makers, the figure of Alfred Hitchcock assumes a particular prominence, influencing projects, authorizing story film techniques and acting as a theoretical counter in debates concerning amateur roles and creative potentials. With a view to locating such fascinations within the understandings of amateurism with which they have been implicated, this article considers first, arguments concerning the status of the fiction film within the cine movement of the 1930s; second, the organizational codes thereafter deemed appropriate to the cine enthusiast tackling screen fiction and third, the case of an amateur ‘thriller’ with a distinctly ‘Hitchcock touch’ from the 1960s, identified here to illustrate some characteristic dependencies and diversions of the cine fiction aesthetic.