Film Theory: Innovation–Theory and Practice; Select Biblio

Oct 20, 2022

How to study novelty and innovation in film?

James Baldwin has observed:

“The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way….people look at reality, then you can change it.”

One of the most influential books I have read as graduate student at Columbia was Gerald Holton. Thematic Origins of Scientific Thoughts.

The first edition of this work established Gerald Holton’s analysis of the ways scientific ideas evolve.

His concept of “themata,” induced from case studies with special attention to the work of Einstein, has become chief tool for understanding scientific progress.

It is one of the main approaches in the study of the initiation and acceptance of individual scientific insights.

Three principal consequences of this perspective extend beyond the history of science.

  1. It provides philosophers of science with the raw material on which some of the best work in their field is based.
  2. It helps intellectual historians to redefine the place of modern science in contemporary culture by identifying influences on the scientific imagination.
  3. It prompts educators to reexamine the conventional concepts of education in science.

In this new edition, Holton has reshaped the contents and widened the coverage. Significant new material has been added, including a penetrating account of the advent of quantum physics in the U.S., and broad consideration of the integrity of science, as exemplified in the work of Niels Bohr.

A revised introduction and a new postscript provide an updated perspective on the role of themata. The result is indispensable volume for scholars and students of scientific thought and intellectual history.

Innovation in Film

I am interested in movies that differ and deviate–thematically, stylistically, and ideologically–from the norms and conventions of mainstream cinema when they were made.

Most movies tend to reflect their times or to be behind them in terms of ideology, technology, mores and culture, and so on.

My new concern is various kinds of innovation in cinema, manifest in the production of new films that break new grounds in significant ways.

Innovation can be manifest in any number ways: technology, genre, theme, characterization, and style.

The historical, technological, ideological and socio-political conditions that facilitate discovery, invention, and innovation is the sciences and the arts.

Eileen Morley and Andrew Silver (in a 1977 article in Harvard Business Review) use the word “creativity” to mean technical as well as artistic creativity, realizing that it overlaps what others define as innovation.

The notion of creativity is important: there is a high correlation between temporariness and creativity, and between permanence and routine.

Most temporary organizations, such as film units or project teams, exist to develop an idea, a plan, a product, a service, or to make something happen such as a trip to the moon or a bicentennial celebration.

When groups or teams have completed their task, they dissolve. In contrast, permanent organizations exist to carry out a relatively repetitive manufacturing or service task for which there is a continuing need.

Select Biblio:

Barnett, H.G. Innovation: Basis of Cultural Change. McGraw-Hill, 1953.

Crombie, A. C. (ed). Scientific Change, 1963.

Gaston, Jerry C. Originality and Competition in Science. University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Munroe, Thomas. “What Causes Creative Epochs in the Arts,” Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism, 1962.

Rogers, Everett. Diffusion of Innovation, Free Press, 1962.