Welcome to The Vocation of Cinema!
Best laid plans...
I’m happy to announce that after many months of preparations, The Vocation of Cinema will officially launch on September 1, 2021. I’ve been researching, writing, and planning for this adventure pretty much nonstop since January and I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally begin sharing some words and ideas with you.
Excited and... well, nervous. I’ve never written a newsletter before. I’m a filmmaker first and foremost. While I began writing long before I ever picked up a camera, the writing side of my life took a backseat to filmmaking during the hectic haze of film school. Getting back into the habit of writing hasn’t been too difficult - there’s a lot to talk about - but overcoming the perfectionist scruples which hinder finishing a piece has been a learning curve of its own. I’m looking forward to honing those skills as we move forward.
I’m also experiencing some butterflies over the sheer amount of topics I’d like to cover here. There is A LOT to discuss, which is both invigorating and intimidating. So, let’s talk a bit about what’s happening over the next few months.
If You’re Just Joining Us…
The Vocation of Cinema is a deep dive into thinking about the art of cinema with the philosophical and theological resources of the Catholic intellectual tradition.
At its heart lie two questions:
What is the unique calling of cinema among the arts and in the life of man?
How ought mankind respond to this calling in the making and receiving of cinematic works?
As a filmmaker and as a cinephile, I’ve always yearned to understand what makes cinema such a powerful influence in my life. I am equally held by the joy of making films, and the joy of receiving them. What is the ultimate source of that joy?
Encompassing both the path of the filmmaker and the path of the cinephile, this series will offer a number of reflections on questions of cinema, cinephilia, history, film studies, philosophy, and theology. Key to our inquiry will be an appreciative and critical engagement with the work of philosophers, film theorists, and historians.
My hope is that this series will prove helpful to anyone approaching cinema as an art that is beautiful, meaningful, and life-changing. For filmmakers and artists, it means taking hold of the freedom and the confidence to make and to make beautifully. For cinephiles, critics, and scholars it means integrating one’s quest for cinema into the flourishing of the whole human being.
Introducing Our First Series
The plan for Fall 2021 is to go deeply into one major theme via a series of related and cumulative essays. To that end, our Fall 2021 series will focus on The Nature of Cinephilia, an extensive reconsideration of the concept of cinephilia.
What’s in store? Well, this series will attempt to answer the basic question of “what is cinephilia?” Our goal is to see if we can arrive at a universal description of cinephilia which is stable and recognizable across vastly different eras of cinema history. In other words, we might ask: what does the cinephile streaming the Criterion Channel in the 2020s have in common with the cinephile haunting Parisian nickelodeons in the 1950s? And if we can find that stable nature, what might it tell us about how cinephilia is meant to assist a balanced and flourishing human life?
We’ll begin with a dive into the existing scholarship on cinephilia and its history in order to suss out various definitions of cinephilia which have been handed down to us. From there, we’ll proceed into a metaphysical consideration of cinephilia - its causes, how it operates, and the changes it works in the individual cinephile. Finally, the rest of the series will focus on specific aspects of cinephilia as a human activity: its habits, virtues, and vices, as well as its relationship to friendship, politics, community, and knowledge.
If you’re interested in participating as closely as possible, you may wish to have a look at a few works which will be touchstones for the series as we go along. The two essays below are free, and the third is available as a relatively inexpensive (and short) e-book:
“The Decay of Cinema” - Susan Sontag, The New York Times, 1996 (online)
“Cinephilia or the Uses of Disenchantment” - Thomas Elsaesser, Cinephilia: Movies, Love, and Memory, 2005 (downloadable open access PDF)
The New Cinephilia, 2nd ed. - Girish Shambu, 2014 (Kindle e-book, 2020 edition)
If you have access to a university library, you might want to track down these more expensive or harder-to-find print titles:
“Through the Glass Darkly: Cinephilia Reconsidered” - Paul Willemen, Looks and Frictions: Essays in Cultural Studies and Film Theory, 1994
Anxious Cinephilia: Pleasure and Peril at the Movies - Sarah Keller, 2020
By no means will extracurricular reading be necessary, though. My hope is that this series will provide a useful summary of existing positions while beginning to offer some potentially new directions for studying cinephilia.
Series essays (5,000-10,000 words) will be posted at least once a month. I’m hoping to post more frequently, though. Off-topic posts will be made sporadically as time allows.
Subscriptions and Support
The main content of The Vocation of Cinema is and will always be 100% free and available as a pay-what-you-want arrangement. Here are the options:
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Not able to afford a subscription? No problem - please sign up for a free subscription and enjoy! And if you pray, please say a prayer for me and for this project.
If you are able to afford it, please consider signing up for a paid subscription. I’m putting my best hours into this project and it would go a long way towards supporting the longevity of this project.
Other ways to support The Vocation of Cinema:
Tell your friends! Share The Vocation of Cinema as widely as you feel appropriate.
Please pray for me, for this project, and for all who partake of it. And please know that you’re in my prayers, too.
Thank you for joining me in this endeavour. Together, let’s explore the beauty of cinema.