James Constantine Frangos
James Constantine’s Answer
Embarking on a journey to become a film historian involves a blend of education, hands-on experience, and a burning passion for cinema. While there's no straight path to this career, there are numerous steps you can take to enhance your knowledge and proficiency in the field.
1. Get a solid education: A degree in film studies, cinema studies, or a similar field can lay a strong foundation in film history. A lot of universities and colleges offer undergraduate and graduate programs in film studies, which delve into various facets of film history, theory, criticism, and production. You'll get to study the history of cinema, film analysis, different film genres, and international cinema. Plus, exploring related fields like art history, cultural studies, or media studies can be a bonus.
2. Dive into independent research: As a budding film historian, it's crucial to hone your research skills. This means diving deep into research on specific films, directors, genres, or periods in cinema history. Make the most of libraries, archives, online databases, and other resources to gather information and primary sources that align with your research interests. This will not only deepen your understanding of film history but also allow you to uncover fresh insights or perspectives.
3. Be a part of film festivals and conferences: These events are fantastic platforms to immerse yourself in the cinematic world and network with other professionals in the field. You'll get to watch classic films, participate in panel discussions with filmmakers and scholars, and learn about various aspects of film history. This exposure can broaden your knowledge, introduce you to different perspectives, and help you build a network within the industry.
4. Join professional organizations: Think about becoming a member of professional organizations like the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) or the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF). These organizations offer resources, publications, conferences, and networking opportunities that can boost your understanding of film history and connect you with fellow cinema enthusiasts.
5. Share your research: Establish your credibility as a film historian by publishing or presenting your research findings. Look for academic journals, film magazines, or online platforms that accept submissions related to film history. Also, consider presenting your research at conferences or symposiums to receive valuable feedback from peers and experts.
6. Get hands-on experience: Besides academic knowledge, practical experience in the film industry can offer valuable insights into the production, distribution, and exhibition of films. Consider internships or entry-level positions at film archives, museums, production companies, or film festivals. This real-world experience will not only deepen your understanding of the industry but also let you apply your film history knowledge in a practical setting.
7. Stay in the loop: Film history is a dynamic field with new discoveries and interpretations popping up all the time. Stay informed by reading books, articles, and scholarly journals on film history. Follow reputable film websites, blogs, and social media accounts that provide reliable information and analysis on cinema. Engage in discussions with fellow film buffs and scholars to exchange ideas and stay updated on the latest developments.
Even though there's no guaranteed program for becoming a film historian, following these steps can help you acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and connections to chase your dream in this field.
Top 3 Go-To Reference Publications or Websites:
The American Film Institute (AFI) - The AFI provides a plethora of resources on film history, including their “100 Years…100 Movies” list and their online database of American films.
The British Film Institute (BFI) - The BFI is a pioneer in promoting and preserving British cinema. Their website offers access to a vast collection of films, articles, and resources on film history.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) - IMDb is an all-inclusive online database that provides information on films, TV shows, actors, and filmmakers. It's a handy resource for researching film history and exploring filmographies.
May blessings abound for you.
Guy David’s Answer
Obviously, in order to become one, you will need to carve your niche within academics.
My suggestion for you is to pursue an academic career with a path carved between film-school (for film theory and history), as well as taking history classes (pertaining mostly to modern history - as films are a 20th century art form).
Some classes in art and art theory can't hurt, as film relies on other forms of art - from the visual arts (painting and sculpture, especially through the later photography) - to theater and the performance arts (including dance, music and the combinations of theater and music - opera).
Literature is also related, as screenwriting is heavily related to prose - as are theatrical plays - the precursors of the screenplays (or teleplays...)
Another somewhat related topic you might find interesting and relevant is psychology. Much of film theory relies on psychological and anthropological research, especially when you wholistically look at different films from different cultures throughout history.
Eventually, as you find your path, you might find a specific niche to focus on (like a certain culture or genre and the films produced within it, or comparative perspective on different cultures and their take on a specific subject) - so as a researcher, you can find your own unique voice - which will pave the way to your developing your own course in film history.
Best of luck in your future career as a film historian!
When it comes to history of any type, one of the first places you can go is books. Hit your local library up and get film history books.
I personally admire Leonard Maltin, who is most famous for his Film books in the 90s, he checks all the boxes above.