Queen's Film and Media

Film and Media Studies
Film and Media Studies

History of the Department of Film and Media

Photo of the old Film House

Film Studies at Queen's began in the 1960's when George Whalley, head of the Department of English, acknowledged a need to give academic attention to the important place that cinema had come to take in modern life. He appointed the Canadian film critic and scholar Peter Harcourt (1931-2014) to teach film classes in the English department.

A separate Department of Film Studies, with Robin Wood as a second faculty member, was established in 1969. Harcourt founded Quarry Films as a filmmaking workshop attached to the Department, and courses in filmmaking were gradually included in the curriculum.

By the mid-1970s, Queen's offered students a BA(Honours) program in film. Peter Harcourt was followed as head of the Department by Jim Kitses from 1974-77, Bill Nichols 1977-86, Peter Baxter 1986-94, Blaine Allan 1994-2005, Clarke Mackey 2005-11, Susan Lord 2012-2017, and current head Gary Kibbins.. Administrative Assistant to many of those Department Heads was Jill Spettigue, who retired in May 1996. Linda Graham then took over and is currently on leave. The current Departmental Administrator is Denise Arsenault and Stephanie Wilson is the Undergraduate Administrative Assistant.

From 1969 to 2014, Film Studies occupied Film House at 154 Stuart Street. An acute need for additional space was answered in 1980 with the house next door at 160 Stuart Street (on the right in this 1984 photo of former Queen's professor Peter Morris (1937-2011.) In 1990 Queen's decided to renovate the houses and join them with a central addition, rather than move Film Studies to another university building.

The new Film House provided the Department with modern, efficient space while maintaining the relaxed, intimate feeling it has always enjoyed. Meanwhile, increased student demand for film courses has raised standards for admission to upper-year courses, and increased class sizes. Classes too large for the original 25-seat screening room are held in several rooms on campus equipped with 16mm film, video and computer projection.

Students filming

We officially changed our name from "Film Studies" to the "The Department of Film and Media" in 2008, to better reflect what we actually do, and the direction we wish to move in the future. Because of the inherent interdisciplinarity of Film Studies and the interests of individual faculty members, the range of educational areas and skills addressed in courses has widened over the years.

When the Department was created in 1969, film was an emerging discipline. The courses we offered initially dealt almost entirely with feature films intended for exhibition in theaters. Now, a third of our courses deal with media other than film, most notably television and digital media. Emerging digital technologies are also rapidly changing how moving images and sounds are made, viewed and used, and it is necessary to keep abreast of these changes and make them a core part of the academic inquiry we undertake in the future. We have also begun to offer courses (such as Culture and Technology, and Culture and Representation) which include a cultural studies perspective.

The word "Studies" suggests that a program is focused only on the academic study of a subject, but our program has always included production courses at each level, so we think it is more accurate to leave the word "studies" out of our revised name to indicate that we do integrate studies with practice.

Production facilities have also changed, as Super-8 film cameras have been replaced with VHS, and more recently, high-definition digital video cameras. Cutting film on 16mm editing tables has given way to non-linear video editing on computers. Planning began in 2009 for Film and Media to move to a new home, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, and the move from Film House to The Isabel took place in spring 2014. New facilities include a soundstage, audio recording and mixing studio, DigiLab computing facility and 90-seat screening room.

Film Archive at Film House

The Department has built a considerable collection of films, videotapes and video discs with funding from the university and external agencies. It has developed archival agreements with the National Film Board and the CBC, and with private donors. (The Department holds the complete works of noted Canadian filmmaker Allan King.) The archives serves as a resource not only for teaching within the Department but for the university and for scholars internationally, particularly in the area of Canadian film.

Students can take advantage of international study programs at the International Study Centre at Herstmonceux, England, and a number of overseas universities, notably the University of Glasgow. We offer a special field concentration with the Department of Drama, known as Stage and Screen Studies.

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