About Dan North

Until August 2012 I was Senior Lecturer in Film  in the Department of English at the University of Exeter. I have recently relocated to the Netherlands, where I teach in the Depart of Media Communications at Webster University, Leiden.

I started this blog in 2008, partly to store my responses to films I was teaching, researching or watching for fun. I also wrote for my students, in the hope that they might find these articles useful in getting through my classes. It was also a more casual way to write about films than the long process of researching, writing, re-drafting and re-writing an academic essay.

Most of my work has been concerned with issues raised by special effects technologies in film. My PhD thesis ‘Special Effects and the Aesthetics of Illusion’ (2003) connects discourses around 19th-century magic theatre and the reception of early cinema to the development of sophisticated mechanisms for the production of visual illusions up to the present day. This research has led to the publication of a monograph about special effects, Performing Illusions: Cinema, Special Effects and the Virtual Actor (Wallflower Press, 2008), and a number of articles on related subjects. Some of these are listed below, but you can find a complete list of publications, an updated c.v. and copies of many of my published articles on my page at Academia.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Prior to my appointment as a lecturer in film at the University of Exeter, I was employed by the School of English as a research fellow working with papers donated to the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture by the British film-maker Don Boyd. This extensive archival project produced a preservational space and online database for several thousand items of interest to scholars of British cinema. Inspired by this archival work, I have put together a collection of essays by leading British cinema scholars, Sights Unseen: Unfinished British Films (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008). This project foregrounds the role of archival materials in recovering incomplete film texts and rendering them valuable to historians as cultural moments.

Aside from these academic pursuits, my interest in cinema can be diverted in almost any direction. I have a fondness for martial arts films, East Asian (un)popular cinema, animation, Godard, Ozu, Tarr, Chaplin, Keaton and more. Though I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I’ve dabbled in studies of early film, which still fascinates me. All of these sideline interests seep into my teaching from time to time.

59 thoughts on “About Dan North

  1. Pingback: How to watch Béla Tarr’s Werkmeister Harmonies « fear of death is intransitive

  2. Hello my name is Francisco Calvelo and I directed the short film “Vampire Prison” (Santiago de sangre) produced by Perro Verde Films (Zombie Western, Going Nuts, the Missing Lynx) and starring Eloy Azorín (All about my mother). I would like to invite you to see it. http://www.santiagodesangre.com

    Now that the vampires are in craze, I think many people will be surprised to see a different vision of the myth. Besides I’am writing what would be a feature film adaptation.

    Nothing more, I hope you enjoy the short.

    Best
    Fran
    http://www.videoclubmisterio.com

  3. Dan,

    I just came across your blog. It’s very exciting to find someone on the Internet writing about film in an eloquent manner. I don’t have a lot of time right now as I am in the middle of a term paper, but your pieces on Bazin are exceptional. Your students are lucky to have a lecturer like you. I look forward to having more time to spend on your blog.

    Andrei Burke

    • Thanks, Andrei. I’m glad you found something useful here. There’s plenty of good stuff on the internet these days (sounds like an obvious statement!), so if you know where to look, you’ll find plenty of academics trying out their ideas in accessible ways. Hopefully I’m practicing to join them…

  4. Pingback: ECIS Hamburg 2009 « kloza on learning & technology

  5. Hi Mr Dan North,

    We’ve browsed through your reviews and thought that they are really original and interesting! We would like to invite you to publish your reviews on 7tavern.com, which provides an alternative platform for promising movie reviewers to showcase their talents. In addition, you’ll find a growing community of bloggers who share the same passion for excellent movies! Based on the merit of your reviews, we intend to offer you exclusive publishing privileges on our website!

    Please feel free to contact us to discuss our proposal. =)

    Cheers,
    7tavern Team
    admin@7tavern.com

    P.S. We’re university students from Singapore and UK! =) nice!

    • Thanks, 7tavern. It looks like a very interesting site. I tend to just post on this one site (except for comments on other sites), but I’ll take a closer around at your place and see what I think. You’re welcome to link to any of these articles, of course.

  6. Hi Dan
    Thank you so much for your article on the Introduction Of Ohayo! I am writing a comparative essay on a Matter Of Life And Death and Ohayo and have found it so hard to get my head around the 360 degree rule. But you’ve explained it clearly! I kinda wish u were my teacher! Because my current one doesn’t explain things too well.

    • You’re welcome, Vicky. I also benefit from reading blogs and seeing how other people interpret things, and my Ohayo post is really pieced together from reading around the subject. The Bordwell and Thompson article about Ozu is relatively clear and helpful, I find.

  7. Hi Dan, I am stuck on my next question. I don’t know where to begin. It is about the 1947 film, Out of the Past and we have to explain how mise-en-scene contributes to the film meaning. Now I am aware that the film is part of Film Noir but I don’t know how to link mise-en-scene with it. Do you know of anything that can help?

    Thanks!

    • Hello again, Vicky. It’s years since I’ve seen Out of the Past, so I can’t comment on it closely, but I suggest watching the film again, and picking out key scenes to watch more in more detail. Think about how the composition of various shots (including things like lighting, costume, set design etc.) might be arranged in such a way as to reflect some of the themes of the film. There may not be a “correct” answer to what the film means, so you can make your own argument about what you think it tries to convey to its viewers. If you can demonstrate for instance that the relationships between the characters might be explained not just by what they say and what they do, but by where they stand in relation to each other, or how each of them is lit differently, that sort of thing. It shouldn’t be your job to find a meaning that might be hidden somewhere in the film, but think instead about how it tells its story visually.

      I don’t know what level you’re at, but there’s a nice introduction to mise-en-scene via this link: http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache%3AVmW4zYZaFZoJ%3Apeople.virginia.edu%2F~jrw3k%2Fmediamatters%2Ffilms%2Fhow_to_read_film.pdf+how+to+read+a+film+mise-en-scene&hl=en&gl=uk&sig=AHIEtbQEqj6aBW4567RVBZoF4xh6WJHN3Q

      • That’s great advice for any kind of art!

        Although I am more focused on writing, I became aware of these symbolic representations and had great fun with it when I was studying The Great Gatsby and then watched the film. After that, I never looked at film the same way again. Some symbols, colors, or positions in a scene may very well be “purposeful” in the process of the film-making, but there are times where they are not–those may actually be the best. When that’s the case, the message seeps out so well on screen; it signals the viewers with symbols and hints that are practically glistening with meaning.

        Sorry for saying so much. I only read three posts of yours and I’m already a fan. I am not even a huge film buff, but art in its many forms are addictive. Film is no exception. I enjoy reading critiques like yours from time to time. There’s an academic vibe to your blog that is relaxed and not too dry and boring. Makes for a great read!

        Thanks for sharing.

    • I should also suggest that you be wary of the “film noir” tag. Even though the film may have been given that label afterwards, it wouldn’t have been imagined and made under those terms (i.e. they didn’t set out to make something noirish), so saying that it is “film noir” doesn’t really explain much about it. Even if you find interesting use of shadows, etc., you can say what that means for the film on its own terms, not necessarily how it references a genre.

  8. Thanks. I’ve now been told I can do Texas Chainsaw Massacre as I think it will be slightly easier. Can you give any advice on this? It is the same question.

    Vicky x

  9. Thank you Professor Dan North. My name is Tania Prates, I’m from Portugal and I much appreciate the article on the movie 2001 Space Odyssey. I’ll start work on this film and would like to ask if you have some more study material that I can provide. My personal thanks. Abraço de Portugal.
    My email is: taniasofiaprates@hotmail.com.
    My Address is as follows:
    Street Agolada de Cima
    Vale Mansos
    2100-049 Coruche
    Portugal

  10. Dear Prof. North:

    Your website is Exemplary. May I share with you this:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    “MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN — THE FANTASTIC CINEMA OF ISHIRO HONDA” by Peter H. Brothers.

    For the first time in America, a book has been published on Japan’s foremost director of Fantasy Films: MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN – The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda.

    Known primarily for directing such classic Japanese monster movies as Rodan, Mothra, Attack of the Mushroom People and the original Godzilla, Honda has been a much-overlooked figure in mainstream international cinema.

    MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN is the first book to cover in English print Honda’s life as well comprehensively evaluates all 25 of his fantasy films. It is also gives objective and critical analysis of Honda’s filmmaking methods, themes and relationships with actors and technicians.

    Making use of extensive interviews from Honda’s colleagues, as well as a wealth of original source material never before gathered into one volume (including unpublished essays), MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN is an affectionate tribute to arguably the most-prolific and influential director in the history of fantasy films.

    MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN (ISBN No.: 978-1-4490-2771-1) is available online and at AuthorHouse.com at: http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=65692.

    Thank you for your kind attention!

    • Hey, this looks a lot like advertising! Someone is using my blog to sell stuff!

      Well, since it’s a book about Ishiro Honda, and Ishiro Honda was, like, totally awesome, I suggest that everybody reading this buys MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN immediately. Thanks for stopping by, Peter. Come back soon!

  11. I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident, and will definitely be back – it’s brilliant!

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on silent film, since it’s a major passion of mine.

    Best,
    Jennifer Redmond

    Silent Stanzas: poetry, photos, and anecdotes on silent film
    silentstanzas.blogspot.com

    Flappers and Flickers: not-so-serious reviews of silent and pre-Code films
    avalon76.blogspot.com

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I’ve been on a hiatus for a while when I was away in Scotland recently, but I just got back and I’m ready to get sort the blog out and get it going again. Good to know that people have still been visiting.

  12. Hi Dan. My name is azahar from Malaysia. I find your analysis of Georges Méliès, Trip to the moon very interesting and meaningful. FYI I’m doing a research on “Anthropomorphic Visualization in context of Malaysian cartoon animation from 1970-2000″. I was wondering if I could use your analysis method in my research. If I’m not mistaken, the last part of your analysis is a content analysis? Thanks

    • Hi, Azahar. Thanks for visiting. Your project sounds fascinating – I don’t think I know a single thing about Malaysian cartoons, so I’d be very interested to learn more. You’re welcome to use any ideas that you find here – if you’re quoting, cite this blog as the original source, but otherwise I’m very happy just to know you been inspired by something I wrote. Are you referring to the graph that I use at the end, or the scene-by-scene breakdown of the film, or something else you’d like advice on?

      • Hi, Dan. Thanks for your reply. In regard to your question, I’d like to learn how to use the scene-by-scene analysis and the graph to establish understanding regarding Malaysian cartoon animation. Actually as of now, I’m thinking of using content analysis and narrative analysis as the method for my study. For the content analysis, I’m looking at the frequency of anthropomorphic visuals in relation to shot length whereas the narrative analysis will act as a compliment to the data. Will this method appropriate or sufficient enough? I’d be delighted if you could advice me on this matter. Thanks.

      • Hi, Azahar. If it’s relevant, there’s no substitute for taking an average shot length for your films. That can tell you things such as how fast cut it might be, but for more specific information you’ll need to time individual shots. That’s not so hard to do in short films, more time-consuming for features. The CInemetrics website and database (http://www.cinemetrics.lv/) is committed to this kind of analysis of films. If I understand you correctly, you want to quantify anthropomorphic images in a particular cartoon, how often they occur? I’m sure that’ll yield interesting results, but it’s all down to what you use that data to say about your cartoons, and how you analyse that connection between shot length and anthropomorphism.

  13. Hi Dan!!

    Great blog! Thanks for collecting all of this stuff in one resource! I’m planning to start working on short-films with my girlfriend soon using Maya, 3Dmax and Addobe aftereffects so I guess I will be a frequent guest here! :)

    Can I add your link to my blog? I think this site is worth of popularizing!

    Bless,
    D.

  14. Hi Dan!

    I gotta say, your blog is a breath of fresh air! I love perusing your blog and reminiscing about great films. I, too, have a film blog. I try and focus on films that are under-appreciated or forgotten. I would love to hear what you think. As a professor, I can totally understand if you are too busy. But I would love it if you could just look over my blog and tell me what you think. Leave a comment on one of the articles.

    Thanks in advance!

    Nathanael Hood

  15. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your link to my comments on Air Doll–I enjoyed your review (it’s odd that even though I really didn’t like the movie, I’m very interested in all the conversations going on around it). Air Doll also immediately made me think of Splash! (mostly mute, wide-eyed girl wanders smilingly through urban landscape). A movie just came out here in Tokyo called Torso, which is a bit of a twist on the guy-falls-in-love-with-doll motif and is about a woman who falls in love with a mannequin (which appears to be limbless and headless, I haven’t seen the film; interestingly, it’s directed by Koreeda’s longtime cinematographer).

    From my perspective, Bae Doona didn’t do much more than smile and frolic for two hours, though she did have a few moments of introspection or a slight change in demeanor. I think my extremely negative reaction might be a result of living in Japan off and on for ten years, where it seems like so many women in film and TV are forced into the exact same mold of “charming” childlike affect (large eyes, tiny bodies, perfectly made-up hair and face, cultivated air of naivete). So I was a bit frustrated when it seemed to me that Koreeda (whose past female characters I’ve always found interesting) was buying into this whole aesthetic of childishness as erotic. At the same time, the film’s complicated, and there’s a lot going on with his choices that I probably need to look at more carefully in a second viewing.

  16. Hi, Gradland. Thanks for your comments. Air Doll is definitely troubling in the respect you mention, though we could generously interpret it as the slow awakening of a woman from such a position of infantilised passivity – she gets less childish as the film progresses, so Kore-eda is at least advocating a move away from that stereotype, even if he benefits from it in some ways. He undermines that stereotype, too, by showing its extreme exploitation and objecthood. That said, I fully understand your objections, so I had to link to your counterposing argument. Thematically, I’d agree it’s a step back for the director. He may be aiming for a melancholy fantasy in the style of Afterlife (which I really must re-watch), but it’s a bit too simplistic.

    It sounds like Torso is an interesting riposte to Air Doll, and I’ll look out for it soon. There was a French short film called Berni’s Doll a couple of years ago, in which a man mail-orders a female torso (yes, just a torso) and treats it like a partner. Gradually, and a bit reluctantly, he buys her arms, legs … Finally, when he gives her a head, eyes and a brain, she becomes self-aware and it all ends badly as she comprehends her treatment.

    • Wow, Berni’s Doll was really amazing–I think that’s almost exactly what I was wanting from Air Doll, something a bit darker and more minimalist.

    • Hi, Bug. Thanks for stopping by, and I’m so glad you like it. I’ve never made it to that side of the USA at all, I’m afraid. Hoping to get out to California this summer. Don’t know dates yet, but if it’s around July I hear there may be some silent film stuff going on.

      • Yep! The SFSFF is July 14-17, although the actual films haven’t been announced yet. The website is http://www.silentfilm.org. I hope your dates work out so you can be in San Francisco. I got to meet Kevin Brownlow last summer at the festival, and William Wellman, Jr. The films were great, too.

  17. Hi Dan,

    I am conducting a research project (2nd year Film BA) about the correlation between science-fiction cinema and the ‘end of the world’, noting particularly the importance of viral film marketing. I was hoping to site your essay ‘Cloverfield’s Obstructed Spectacle’, but was also wondering if I might be able to ask you one or two more specific questions via e-mail which I can use as a resource. I wasn’t sure if you had an e-mail contact line so that’s why I posted here, hope that’s ok.

    Thanks, Jack

  18. Ok Dan, thanks for replying.

    I’ve sent an e-mail to your exeter address. The message was quite long so I’m not sure if it would fit as a response to your article.

    Thanks,
    Jack

    • Thanks, Edward – I linked to your post, too. And thanks for extracting the Melies footage from From the Earth to the Moon and uploading it to YouTube.

  19. Dan Zukovic’s “THE LAST BIG THING”, called the “best unknown American film of the 1990’s” in the film book “Defining Moments in Movies” (Editor: Chris Fujiwara), was finally released on DVD by Vanguard Cinema. (www.vanguardcinema.com/thelastbigthing/thelastbigthing) Featuring an important early role by 2011 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nominee Mark Ruffalo (“Shutter Island”, “Zodiac”, “The Kids Are Alright”), “THE LAST BIG THING” had a US theatrical release in 1998, and gained a cult following over several years of screenings on the Showtime Networks.

    “A distinctly brilliant and original work.” Kevin Thomas – Los Angeles Times
    “A satire whose best moments echo the tone of a Nathanial West novel…Nasty Fun!”
    Stephen Holden – New York Times
    “One of the cleverest recent satires on contemporary Los Angeles…a very funny sleeper!” Michael Wilmington – Chicago Tribune
    “One of the few truly original low budget comedies of recent years.” John Hartl – Seattle Times
    “‘The Last Big Thing’ is freakin’ hilarious! The most important and overlooked
    indie film of the 1990’s. ” Chris Gore – Film Threat

  20. Hello! So, over here in the US, the CEO of our biggest DVD rental company, Netflix, just sent out a letter to all its subscribers. It included this sentence: “Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD.” I can’t even begin to wrap my head around this kind of ignorance, but I’d love to read a response from you here, if you were moved to blog about it.

    • Hi, Bug,

      I’ve never used Netflix, but I was signed up to one of the first rental-by-post companies in the UK. They had quite a large collection, but I could rarely get the films at the top of my queue, and many of the discs were damaged. I later joined LoveFilm for a while, which is the biggest rental company in the UK. Same problem: lots of the discs looked like the previous renter had used them as coasters. I’ve just moved to a new place, and there’s a rental shop within 100 metres. I might return to old-school rental for a while.

      I wonder what the actual percentage of films made are available on DVD. That simple statistic would be the best and pithiest rebuttal of Netflix’s claim. If it’s more than 5%, I’ll eat a Werner Herzog boxset.

      • The US Postal Service is in crisis and threatening to end Saturday delivery or shut down altogether. Netflix is scrambling to focus on streaming content. Fine for some, but a nightmare for those with older equipment and bad DSL.

        Like you, I’d love to know that statistic. I know films buffs can write long lists of movies they’d love to watch but can’t access. It’s wicked, but I’d love to see someone tackle old Herzog with a knife and fork. Think it should be that CEO guy, though.

  21. Hi Dan,

    Just a quick note to say hello. I wrote an article in TV and New Media Journal a while ago called ‘The Cinemas of Transactions’ that I am now turning into a book. It covers many of the topics you are clearly working in. I just came across your site and liked it. I will definitely be getting hold of your book for my rewrite. I’d be interested to chat to you if you happen to be heading over to SCMS, Crossroads or any of the other conferences we might both be at in the next few years.

    Kind regards,

    Leon

    • Hi, Leon. I’m not going to SCMS this year, but would love to go in the future. Things are a little busy at the moment – I’ve been moving, and becoming a parent, and it’s a little hectic for conferences. I’d be happy to talk via Skype or email, and if you need a reader for your manuscript, either informally or through your publisher I’d gladly take a look. I’ll look out for the article.

  22. Dear Prof Dan North

    My name is Azahar Harun and I’m a Phd student from Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. I ‘ve been following your blog since 2008.The reason I’m writing to you is to know whether you are interested to become an international examiner for my viva. For your information, I’ve just completed my thesis which entitled “AN ASSESMENT ON CINEMATIC COMPOSITION, NARRATIVE STRUCTURE AND SEMIOTIC IN ANIMATED FILM: CASE STUDY OF FILEM NEGARA MALAYSIA ANTHROPOMORPHIC ANIMAL FOLKTALES (SANG KANCIL: THE ANIMATED SERIES)”. I’ve also informed my supervisor Assoc. Prof Dr Russlan Abd Rahim from UiTM Malaysia about your field of expertise. He will contact you personally (via email) to discuss about the matter.

    Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Kind Regards
    Azahar Harun
    UiTM Malaysia

  23. Dear Prof Dan North
    Thank you for your message. I’m so glad to hear that you would be interested to become my external examiner. FYI my supervisor, Assoc Prof Dr Russlan Abd Rahim (rusr2001@yahoo.com) is bringing this matter to the Faculty of Art & Design, UiTM Malaysia. I will definitely forward your email to him.

    Thank you again.
    Note: I hope you don’t mind me asking, could you give a tentative date that you are available.

    Kind regards
    Azahar Harun

  24. Hello,

    Recently we visited your blog (https://drnorth.wordpress.com/) and found it very relevant. We would like to do a guest post on your blog. This would offer a very informative content to the visitors of your blog and will have one link pointing to our website. The guest blog will be written by one of our faculty members.

    About our school, we are one of nation’s top film schools and offer various film related courses from our NY and LA locations.

    We look forward to your reply and the opportunity to work with you.

    Thank you,
    Anjum Bhardwaj

    New York Film Academy

  25. This Dan North fellow — fine looking chap though he may be — appears to inadvertently to over-looked the importance, significance, and influence of a young woman by the name of Judy Garland in the Hollywood cinema … musicals are not his strongest interest (plasticine monsters, perhaps?). I thought, Dr. North, you might wish to rectify this omission by perhaps including a link to the Judy Garland database with your other links? (http://www.jgdb.com/). You will also, I am certain, wish to add a link to the astounding resources now available at and through the Walt Disney Family Museum (http://www.waltdisney.org). Such minor quibbles aside, Dan (if I may) is obviously doing the world a great service …

  26. Dear Prof. Dan North,
    For a filmmaker it is tremendous to see that a film you shot over 12 years ago is still alive and people want to discuss about. My name is Grzegorz Kedzierski and I am a DoP of Mamoru’s “Avalon”. When a couple of years ago I was writing my doctoral thesis concerning my photography of “Avalon” I learned how popular it on Film Studies Departments on Universities all over the world. I enclosed your essay in bibliography of my thesis in very decent companion. In Poland the picture had not a big success at Box Office, much more popular in France, shown in Canes, London, Amsterdam and some other festivals, finally brought me the Awards for the Best Cinematography on FF in Sitges 2001 and next year in Durban. I met Mamoru twice after the shooting and he assured me that he will come to Poland to shoot his next life action movie as soon as he collects money.
    My Best Regards,
    Prof. Grzegorz Kedzierski

  27. Hi Dr North,

    I have tried to contact you by email, but I’m not sure if your email address has changed.
    Myself and a few friends have set up our own impartial horror film review site called Love Horror.
    We’re currently looking for some fresh ideas to make things more interesting.

    If you have the time, it would be great if you could pass by our site and it would be much appreciated if you could offer any feedback.

    Thanks,

    Tom

  28. Hi Dan,
    Following your blog as its quite interesting. I am working at the Maastricht University (NL), and interested in Design-prototyping methods (e.g. http://slidesha.re/106dhG8). And have been thinking of special effects and other media creation processes that can be used to make more experiential prototypes (for products, interfaces, spaces or services). There are plenty of eaxmples of prototyping inspired by film making e.g. the wizard of Oz prototyping technique. But i am very interested to see how this can be taken to the next level.
    Within experiential-design-prototyping, i am collecting information on how best to simulate a future-scenario (involving emerging technologies and their predicted use). Would you have any literature or resources related to ‘special effects/ film’ that could possibly be considered for this purpose ?

    Thanks and regards
    Aditya (a.pawar@maastrichtuniversity.nl))

  29. Dear Dan,

    Could you please contact me? I would like to send you a CFP for a special issue I co-edit (on Czech puppet theatre in global contexts) — the one I told you about last year.

    Best wishes,
    Pavel

  30. Hi Dan,

    Could you get in touch regarding Fragment 24 The Invention of Godzilla from May 15, 2011? I have a question regarding the photographs.

    Best, Eileen

  31. Hey Dan!! Check my improvised Live Music for the Méliès film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ !

    Thank you

    Charlie Mancini
    Portugal

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