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Research Guides

CIN201: Film Cultures 1: Art & Industry

A comprehensive guide to for finding the best primary source materials (1895-1968) for your Cinema Studies assignment.

Research Tips Handout

Assignment Requirements

Students can write a research paper on a topic of their choosing, keeping the following restrictions in mind:

  1. Date Range - 1895-1968
    • Select a historical phenomenon that happened during the timeframe of this course  
  2. Focus on Primary Source Materials
    • Research resources chosen must originate at the time of the topic selected 
  3. Use a minimum of 10 separate primary research resources
    • Use a minium of  3 separate sources (e.g. different publications, databases, or collections) 
    • Below find links and tips to support your primary source research   
  4. Limit use (or avoid) Secondary Sources
    • If you supplement your research with secondary sources, this should only be for the purposes of providing context and cannot function as a substitute for the information you should be finding in your primary sources; generally, we discourage you from using secondary sources

Remember to review the assignment instructions available in Quercus and contact your TAs, instructor, or the Cinema Studies Librarian with questions about identifying a research topic and finding primary source materials. 

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What are Primary Sources?

Working with Primary Sources

The goal of this assignment is for you to have the experience of being the investigator and seek connections between primary sources, instead of reading other people's interpretations.  If you need help or want to just brainstorm, definitely reach out to the librarian. 

 

"A primary source is a document that was created at the time of the event or subject

you've chosen to study, or by people who were observers of, or participants in that event or topic."

- E.H. Brown - Writing about History, UofT Writing Advice

 

Primary Sources VS Secondary Sources 

To find primary sources, remember to restrict publication date for your search results so you explore materials created or published close to the time of your film or event. 

If the materials are published or created later than the time period being studied, they are secondary sources because they provide analysis of that subject or event and may have access to information and context that was not available at the time.  

  • Articles and reviews published at contemporary time to a film’s release are primary sources and reflect the attitudes and information of that time period. Articles and reviews published later (e.g.  stemming from an anniversary or re-release of a film) are secondary sources
  • Manuals and handbooks published during your select time period are primary sources because they reflect the current practice and policies. Scholarly books or articles addressing how these resources were used in the past or adapted over time are secondary sources and should only be used for fact or access to archival materials. 

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To find primary sources, remember you need to restrict your search results to materials published close to the time of your film or event. If they are published later, they are secondary sources.  

Personal Documents

  • Letters, Diaries
  • Interviews, Speeches

Memoirs and Autobiographies (written with someone else)

  • Use these resources to find primary source content (e.g. diaries, photos, letters, storyboards).

Audiovisual Materials

  • Photographs, artwork, illustrations
  • Motion Picture Films, News Footage
  • Audio Recordings 

Production and Marketing Materials

  • Scripts, Storyboards
  • Press Kits, Film Posters
  • Advertisements, Toys, Lobby Cards

Business Documents

  • Contracts, Annual Reports, Invoices
  • Memos, letters

Professional Association Documents

  • MPAA Production Code Administration Files
  • Audience Research Reports 

Government & Legal Documents

  • Reports, Court Cases
  • Documents in Archival Collections, e.g., J. Edgar Hoover and Radicalism in Hollywood (Media Commons in microfilm or online via Archives Unbound Collections)

Content in Newspapers & Magazines 

  • Newspapers, Trade Magazines, and Fan or Popular Magazines contain articles, original film reviews, photos, advertisements, etc. 

Secondary Sources are documents and creative works (images, film, audio) that analyse primary source materials and provide context on the circumstances that surround them. 

REMEMBER: The purpose of this assignment is to apply your own analysis and commentary on the topic or event so it is crucial to avoid the insights made by authors if you decide to use secondary sources.

Instead, use secondary sources to 

  • Identify facts, keywords or citations to help with your search strategies for primary source materials.
  • Find reproductions of primary sources (diaries, letters, photos, advertisements, business documents) and finding the citation information. or your assignment.

Finding Primary Source Materials

Explore Special Collections by Theme

On this page, find primary source collections organized by categories: 

  • different themes (e.g, Stars, Film Industry, Technology)
  • types of materials (e.g., Marketing Materials, Photographs, Government Documents, etc.)
  • special collections (e.g., Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections)

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1960.

Search with Databases 

Media History Digital Library (Lantern, Lantern - Advanced Search, Collections, Resources for Students)

  • MHDL Collections provides curated lists of publications tied to media history (e.g, film, television, radio, enterainment industry) based on format of the materials and themes covered (e.g., Fan Magazine Collection (1911-1963)Pressbooks (1914-1953)Global Cinema Collection (1904-1957), etc).
  • Lantern is the search interface for MHDL's collections. To best understand how to search using this interface, please review MHDL Resources for Students and learn more about Advanced Search and filter your results.
  • BOOLEAN OPERATORS:
    • Quotation Marks: Exact phrase, compound word, name, title or spelling (applicable in simple and advanced search)
    • AND, OR, NOT: AVOID using these operators because the database will search the text for those words instread of recoginizing instructions. 
    • Asterisk: AVOID

 

ProQuest (learn more: ProQuest Tips)

  • USE FILTERS:
  • LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WORLD AT THAT TIME:
    • Instead of searching for secondary sources, gain insights from the facts and opinions from that time period by examing the articles, images, and advertisments from materials published in that time period (newspapers, magazines, reports, etc.)
  • BOOLEAN OPERATORS:
    • All Boolean operators can be used in ProQuest (AND, OR, NOT, quotation marks, Asterisk)

 

Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections 

Learn more about the MHL Digital Collections before you submit searches
  • First browse the digital collections instead searching for a specific topic (use MHL website or find descriptions and links in this guide).
  • Examine th description of the collection to learn more about the topic and materials. Use this info to identify keywords or themes for your assignment (e.g., Janus Barfoed collection contains clippings and ephemera, lobby cards, press sheets, and photographs related to the films of more than 200 Western stars) 
Building a search with MHL's Advanced Search 
  • Target your Searches by Collection(s)
    • The default is to search all collections. Instead try limit searches to particular collections -  uncheck 'Select All Collections' and choose  collections that interest you the most
  • BOOLEAN OPERATORS:
    • AVOID using Asterisk *
    • Use the dropdown menus instead of operators
    • Under "Enter Search Term" use the following dropdown menu options on the right side
      • All the words (similar to AND) 
      • Any of the words (similar to OR)
      • Exact words (similar to Quotation Marks)
      • None of the words (similar to NOT)

Choosing Keywords - Language Matters!

Primary source materials often come in the format of digital copies of printed and writen documents, photographs and artworks, or audiovisual materials. When you submit a keyword search, databases reads the details in the item record (e.g., title, author, format) but it also reads the text displayed on the scanned pages. It's important to use the language that is relevant to that time period and location, but also select language that would be used for different types of audiences.

For example, a contract disputes with a studio would be described in different ways if searching within fan magazines, newspapers, trade / industry magazines, or court transcripts

Build your Search Strategies

Connect Search Terms with Boolean Operators 

Enter search terms on separate lines e.g., enter title of film on the top line, director's last name below, so as to articulate your search request. Use Boolean Operators to improve your search:

  • AND (narrows your search e.g., Paramount and Hepburn)
  • OR (widens your search e.g., blacklist or communist, MGM or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
  • NOT (exclude results that include this term)
  • Quotations marks (search for specific phrases, compound words, or exact searches)
    •  "Wait Until Dark" AND "Audrey Hepburn"
    • "studio system" AND "Warner"  

Use the Language of the Time Period

Remember that searching historical scans of publications you need to use the language that would be most appropriate for that time period. 

 

Think about Format 

Identify Formats that will have the Most Relevant Information for your Research 

Industry / Trade Magazines

Don't forget there are different types of content within newspapers and magazines

  • Articles 
    • Reviews (e.g., films, books, theatre, even restaurants)
    • Opinion pieces - Editorials (opinion pieces by editor of publication), Letters to the Editor (written by the public and the publication prints them)
    • Front Page / Cover Story, Feature Articles 
    • Regular Columns (e.g,. gossip columns, business updates) 
  • Advertisements (often companies or organizations can include text & images)
    • classified ads (posted by individual people seeking buy or find something, promoting their own services or small businesses),
  • Contests or Competitions  
  • Images (e.g., Photos, Artwork, Illustrations, Cartoons)

Dates are Important! 

Use the Date / Year of Publication Filter to Narrow your Results

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1960.

 

Build your Search Strategies

Connect Search Terms with Boolean Operators 

Enter search terms on separate lines e.g., enter title of film on the top line, director's last name below, so as to articulate your search request. Use Boolean Operators to improve your search:

  • AND (narrows your search e.g., Paramount and Hepburn)
  • OR (widens your search e.g., blacklist or communist, MGM or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
  • NOT (exclude results that include this term)
  • Quotations marks (search for specific phrases, compound words, or exact searches)
    •  "Wait Until Dark" AND "Audrey Hepburn"
    • "studio system" AND "Warner"  

Use the Language of the Time Period

Remember that searching historical scans of publications you need to use the language that would be most appropriate for that time period. 

Break Your Search Results into Chunks

If you end up with huge number of results, choose one theme, format, publication title, or specific date for a smaller pools of results to review. 

 

Narrow to Specific Dates or Date Ranges

Use the Date / Year of Publication Filter to Narrow your Results

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1960.

 

Think about Format 

Identify Formats that will have the Most Relevant Information for your Research 

Newspapers & Magazines

Don't forget there are different types of content within newspapers and magazines

  • Articles 
    • Reviews (e.g., films, books, theatre, even restaurants)
    • Opinion pieces - Editorials (opinion pieces by editor of publication), Letters to the Editor (written by the public and the publication prints them)
    • Front Page / Cover Story, Feature Articles 
    • Regular Columns (e.g,. gossip columns, business updates) 
  • Advertisements (often companies or organizations can include text & images)
    • classified ads (posted by individual people seeking buy or find something, promoting their own services or small businesses),
  • Contests or Competitions  
  • Images (e.g., Photos, Artwork, Illustrations, Cartoons)

Stars, Directors & Filmmakers

Photograph of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks

IMPORTANT - these materials must be created or from the time period you are examining, (e.g., an interview at the time of the film's release, not 20 years later) 

  • Fan magazines, newspapers articles, trade / industry magazines & yearbooks
  • Film industury materials (headshots, studio press releases, Production Code records) and Marketing for films (e.g., movie posters, lobby cards, merchandise)
  • Personal letters, Personal documents, scrapbooks, diaries, photo albums, 
  • Business or Legal documents (e.g., contracts, court cases, business correspondence, FBI profiles). 
  • Interviews (print, audio, or film)  

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Filters are your Friend 

Use the Date / Year of Publication Filter to Narrow your Results

Be sure to limit the date range to locate materials created in the time period you are examining that falls between 1895-1960.

 

Build your Search Strategies

Connect Search Terms with Boolean Operators 

Enter search terms on separate lines e.g., enter title of film on the top line, director's last name below, so as to articulate your search request. Use Boolean Operators to improve your search:

  • AND (narrows your search e.g., Paramount and Hepburn)
  • OR (widens your search e.g., blacklist or communist, MGM or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
  • NOT (exclude results that include this term)
  • Quotations marks (search for specific phrases, compound words, or exact searches)
    •  "Wait Until Dark" AND "Audrey Hepburn"
    • "studio system" AND "Warner"  

Use the Language of the Time Period

Remember that searching historical scans of publications you need to use the language that would be most appropriate for that time period. 

 

Think about Format 

Identify Formats that will have the Most Relevant Information for your Research 

Industry / Trade Magazines

Don't forget there are different types of content within newspapers and magazines

  • Articles 
    • Reviews (e.g., films, books, theatre, even restaurants)
    • Opinion pieces - Editorials (opinion pieces by editor of publication), Letters to the Editor (written by the public and the publication prints them)
    • Front Page / Cover Story, Feature Articles 
    • Regular Columns (e.g,. gossip columns, business updates) 
  • Advertisements (often companies or organizations can include text & images)
    • classified ads (posted by individual people seeking buy or find something, promoting their own services or small businesses),
  • Contests or Competitions  
  • Images (e.g., Photos, Artwork, Illustrations, Cartoons)

Fan Magazines

Film Industry Materials

Individual Actors / Actresses Collections

Individual Films & Film Reviews

Film Indexes contain profiles on specific film titles, key figures in the film industry (directors, actors, composers, writers, etc.), and particular companies. You will find one record for the films unless there have been remakes of the work.

  • Search for the Film Title or Name. 
  • Scroll down the record and often you will find information about the production of the film and citation information for different reviews and articles about the film. 
  • There are no direct links to online content in these resources, you will need to look up the articles listed in these records in these film indexes 
    • See How to Find Specific Articles, for instructions on how to use a citation to access a journal / newspapers / magazine article.
    • Search Individual Historical Publications (links to The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, New York Times, etc)

AFI Catalog (1893+) 

The AFI Catalog, the premier, authoritative resource of American film information, covers the history of American cinema comprehensively from 1893 to 1993, with full or short records for films from 1994-2015. New records are added each year by the AFI's editorial team.

Film Index International (1900+) 

Film Index International is produced in collaboration with the British Film Institute (BFI) and provides in-depth indexing of over 125,000 films from the first silent movies to the latest blockbusters and biographical information for more than 900,000 personalities. It includes records on films from over 170 countries and has extensive coverage of international film awards and prizes. Its rich content also includes searchable plot summaries, full cast and crew lists as well as references to periodical articles on film and film-makers.

When searching in online databases or publications for film titles or directors, place quotation marks at both ends of the title or name. Using quotation marks instructs many databases to  search solely for particular words that are in that exact order, but be careful of spelling.

e.g., "Within Our Gates" AND "Oscar Micheaux"

Film Reviews can be found in newspapers, scholarly journals, popular magazines and industry or trade magazines.

  • Use the Publication Date filter to narrow your search result to the time period you are examining
  • Some databases have a Document Type filter that allows you to select "Reviews". 
  • Be care with film adaptions and exclude book reviews with the same title by adding the name of the director or an actor to your search. 
     

Have any questions or aren't able to find resourcescontact Cinema Studies Librarian Kate Johnson

Film Industry (business docs, Production Code, Gov docs)

Picture house interior

  • Government / Legal
  • Production Code
  • Audience / Spectators
  • Exhibitors (promotion, movie theatres displays & posters) 
  • Film Studios / Production (financial documents, distribution plans) 
  • National Cinemas
  • Marketing
  • Professional Associations
  • Trade Publications

 

 

 

 

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Also see CineFiles (UC Berkeley) tab for more marketing materials, including press kits, exhibitor manuals, distributors materials. CineFiles (UC Berkeley) CineFiles is an ongoing project of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)'s Film Library and Study Center.

 

Explore the digitized records belonging to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):  

Film-focused content can be found in various special and archival collections.

  • Start with more generic searches to see the range of materials that are available in the collections 
    •  "motion picture" OR film OR movie OR film OR cinema OR "moving picture"

Cinefile online database contains scanned images of reviews, press kits, film festival and repertory theater program notes, newspaper articles, and other ephemera.  Some documents are restricted due to copyright and require a free account for access. In the top right corner of the page, a login link will allow you to connect (or set up) your free Cinefile account. Read about CineFiles accounts, our privacy policy, and more.  

Cinefile Search Tips

  • Submit a keywords search using the search toolbar or click on "Advanced Search" 
  • Search filters can be found on the left side of the page, definitely explore "Document Type" to see the range of BAMPFA's digitized materials. 
  • Be sure to limit the date range. Click on Document: publication year and enter the beginning and end date. 

Search collections based on "Item Type"

  • press kits (limited to date range 1924-1968, filtered in chronological order)
  • exhibitor manual (limited to date range 1924-1968, filtered in chronological order)
  • distributors materials (limited to date range 1924-1968, filtered in chronological order)
  • exhibitor manuals (limited to date range 1920-1968 but more results for 1940s onward, filtered in chronological order)
  • program notes  (limited to date range 1924-1968 but more results for 1950s-1960s, filtered in chronological order)
  • booklet (limited to date range 1924-1968 but more results for 1950s-1960s, filtered in alphabetical order)

 

Screenshot of bampfa's cinefiles website highlighting search filters on left side, search field in top middle of page, link to Advanced Search and Login link in the top right corner of the website

 

Technology

Early motion picture camera illustration

Check out the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers's SMPTE journals (see next tab)

Newspapers can also be great source for news on technology: Proquest Historical Newspapers 

Media History Digital Library's Technical Journals Collection (1916-1965) covers "... improvements in film stocks, sound recording, color reproduction, cameras, lenses, lighting and other hardware." 

 

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The following engineering journals were published by professional association for Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Use them to find the cutting edge research on technology for your time period,  but remember to identify keywords from that time period, not current terminology or brand names. 

Browse by Year 

These articles are accessed through IEEE database which can provide citations and an individual PDF. Browse by year using the links below.

Some of this content can be found via Media History Digital Library if you prefer browsing through the journals pages. 

Use IEEE Advanced for Keyword Searches 

Access IEEE's Advanced Search

To limit your search to Moving Image Engineering journals, combine two methods: 

  • Search By Publisher
  • Limit + Date Range

This will pull in search results from all the journals published by SMPTE within a time span

  1. Enter SMPTE in the search field. 
  2. Use the dropdown menu in that row, select Publisher
  3. In the next row(s), add keyword(s) for your search (e.g., sound, "film projector", Vitascope, flammable)
  4. Under Publication Date, choose Specify Date Range to 1895-1968 (or time period applicable for your topic) and enter the date range by typing or using the slider. 

screen shot of IEE search interface with publisher search for SMPTE with a limited date range

 

National Cinemas

Latin America

North America 

Europe

Newspapers

Don't forget that you can explore newspapers from different countries, regions, and cities. Newspapers have a long history of being the first place where people could find out what was going on in the world or their local community. 

  • Different Types of Articles
    • Cover / Front page articles
    • Feature articles
    • Film reviews
    • Gossip or industry news columns
    • Editorials (written by the editor of the publication), opinon pieces
  • Letters to the editor
  • Advertisements, classifieds
  • Cartoons, Photographs
  • Listings of events or screenings 
  • National Audiences

Specific Newspapers

Magazines

Early logo of Billboard magazine

  • Fan magazine
  • Popular culture and general society
  • Trade magazine
  • Images
  • Articles
  • Quizzes
  • Opinion pieces

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Audiovisuals

Still of a movie monster carrying a woman

  • Film / Video 
  • Audio
  • Photographs
  • Marketing materials

 

 

 

 

 

 

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