Professor Sarah Street awarded AHRC grant
14 June 2016
The Eastmancolor Revolution and British Cinema, 1955-85
AHRC-funded project, 2016-19, PI: Prof Sarah Street, University of Bristol, CI: Dr Keith Johnston, University of East Anglia, and two post-doctoral researchers
This project investigates the impact of Eastmancolor, a film stock introduced by Kodak in the 1950s, on British cinema. As a relatively cheap, 'monopack' stock that could be used in any camera, Eastmancolor revolutionised the ways in which colour films were made. Over the next thirty years colour filmmaking came to dominate sound cinema for the first time. The project's focus is on how British cinema, its filmmakers and other professionals adapted to one of the most important technical innovations in film history. It explores British cinema's response, at first confined to a few genres, before fully embracing the economic and aesthetic advantages of colour filmmaking. It will identify key genres and films, personnel who experimented with colour and significant issues relating to the preservation and restoration of colour films. The project will achieve a greater understanding of the significance of colour in British film history and culture while contributing to knowledge about the state of Britain's colour film heritage.
The project team will examine three key phases of development, providing an opportunity to fully document and examine the emergence of a rich corpus of colour production in mainstream, short/instructional/amateur and art cinema. The project is designed to highlight three interrelated major themes: Economic and Industrial perspectives; Intermedial Aesthetics; and Film Restoration. The project team will produce data on British colour films, their financial histories and why particular companies were attracted to colour after decades of black-and-white production. Colour's relationship with other key technological developments including Widescreen and 3-D cinema will also be investigated, as well as colour's role in attempts to compete in international markets. The influence on cinema of developments in colour production in other media such as advertising, publishing, fashion, painting and design will also be investigated. The project team will interview a number of film practitioners to learn more about their engagement with colour aesthetics, as well as the British and non-British films which inspired their creative choices. The project will also investigate the condition of surviving colour film prints, many of which are subject to fading and deterioration. The serious issues concerning the preservation and restoration of our photochemical colour film heritage is an important context for the project's collaboration with the British Film Institute. The project benefits from links with several other key organisations including Studio Canal, owner of an archive of British film prints from the period, the interdisciplinary UK Colour Group, BECTU (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) and the East Anglian Film Archive.
The team will produce a number of outputs directed at academic and non-academic beneficiaries. A book, four articles and a conference will bring to attention for the first time the rich chromatic range and heritage of British cinema during a key stage in its historical development. The production of four video essays will provide an opportunity for the team to engage a wider audience, as well as public screenings and a workshop with the UK Colour Group. The practitioner interviews will constitute a permanent record of interest to multiple users.