Dr. Rudmer Canjels

VU University Amsterdam

Rudmer Canjels is a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. He has also given courses for Comparative Arts & Media Studies at VU University Amsterdam and Arts & Culture Studies at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, on transmedia storytelling, paratexts, documentary films, and participatory fandom. He received his Ph.D at Utrecht University for a study on the international distribution and cultural transformation of silent film serials, and he has published various articles on silent film serials and seriality, as well as Distributing Silent Serials (Routledge, 2011). He has collaborated on the production of several documentaries for A History of Royal Dutch Shell (Oxford University Press, 2007) and done research on Shell and other industry-sponsored films.

Research Interests: 

For TEF, in collaboration with VU University and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Canjels researches the industrial films of the 1950s and 1960s, focusing on the construction of a collective imaginary of innovation, science and technology.

The project The Dynamics of Celluloid: Industrial Images and the Visualisation of Technology, Science and Innovation will research the dialogue that exists between film form and style, technology used, and the changing functions and contexts of the industrial films from the 1950s and 1960s. It will concentrate on the internationally distributed films by electronics companyPhilips, oil company Shell, and food corporation Unilever. These companies made hundreds of industrial films that demonstrated and explained important new technological processes and scientific developments to millions of people all over the world for purposes of teaching, study and promotion. They were frequently made by expert film production companies, using the latest filming techniques (such as special lenses, sensitive film stock, and sophisticated sound equipment). Industry sponsored films were distributed through many different exhibition types and methods, often in different versions for different local market or interests.

This project will investigate and explain how industrial films produced and made use of a collective imaginary of innovation, science and technology while contexts (e.g. classroom or fair), functions (e.g. education or promotion) and locality changed. Industrial films have contributed to the shaping of the image of science and this research project opens up important new views of how the visual language of film was used, adjusted, renewed and infused within this dynamic (cultural) exchange, made in a time that is often too easily considered as a period of normative documentary filmmaking that used reiterative film forms.




 Distributing Silent Serials. Local Practices, Changing Forms, Cultural Transformation. Routledge, New York 2011.

- Contributions to books:

 “Changing Views and Perspectives: Translating Pearl White’s American Adventures in Wartime France.” Exporting Pauline: Pearl White and the Serial Film Craze. Ed. Marina Dahlquist. University of Illinois, University of Illinois Press. Forthcoming 2013.

 “Vom Beiprogramm zum Hauptprogramm: Distribution und Transformation US-amerikanischer Stummfilmserials in den Niederlanden.” Serielle Formen. Eds. Robert Blanchet en Kristina Köhler. Schüren Verlag Marburgs, Marburg 2011. 319-336.

 “Films from Beyond the Well: Documenting the World of Shell.” Films that Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media. Eds. Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2009. 243-255.

 “Localizing Serials. Translating Daily Life in Les Mystères de New-York.” Early Cinema and the National. Ed. Richard Abel. John Libbey Publishing, Eastleigh 2008. 215-225.

 “From Oil to Celluloid: A History of Shell Films.”A History of Royal Dutch Shell, vol. 4. Ed. Jan Luiten van Zanden. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007. 6-33.

 “Monopolizing Episodic Adventures: Series and Seriality in Germany, 1914-1920.” Film Distribution from 1895 to the 1910s. Eds. Frank Kessler and Nanna Verhoeff. John Libbey Publishing, Eastleigh 2007. 180-190.

 “Featuring on Stage: American Prologues from the 1920s.” Film’s Thresholds. Eds. Veronica Innocenti and Valentina Re. Udine: Forum, 2004. 309-20.

 “Adapting Film Serials: Multiple Cultural Models for the Cliffhanger in the 1910s and 1920s.” Film and its Multiples. Ed. Anna Antonini. Udine: Forum, 2003. 269-82.

- Journal (refereed):

 “De serial in Nederland: 1915-1925: De unieke opkomst en ondergang van een aangepaste filmvorm.” Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis IV.1 (2001): 108-28.


● TV Series Redux: Recycling, Remaking, Resuming, 12-14 September 2012, Université de Rouen, France: ‘Vidding: Love, Hate, Memory and Appropriation on the Remixed Television Screen.’

● Other Cinemas, Screen Studies Conference, 29 June-1 July 2012, ‘Oil Rivers and Celluloid Awakenings: Imagining Technology, Science and Change in West Africa.’

● Screening the Sublime.
 The Technology, Exchange and Flow Expert Seminar, 21/01/2012, Plymouth University: ‘The Dynamics of Celluloid: Industrial Images and the Visualisation of Technology, Science and Innovation’

● Play and Prosume.
 The Technology, Exchange and Flow Expert Seminar, 13 July 2011, Vienna, Austria: ‘The Revealing Eye: Imagining Technologies and Progress in Science.’

 Offshore Media, the Norwegian Oil Museum, 16-17 December 2010, Stavanger, Norway: ‘Shell: Industrial Films and its History.’

 The Sponsored Film: From Celluloid to Magnetic Tape, to Bits and Bytes, symposium Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, 2-3 December 2010, Hilversum: ‘Viewing Industrial Images and Expanding Visions. Detection and Registration on Celluloid.’

 Fifth Amsterdam Workshop, Netherlands Filmmuseum: The Images that Changed Your Life: Advertising Films, 19-21 November 2009, Amsterdam: ‘Oil, Celluloid, and Societal Goals: Filming Shell.’

 Lecture for the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society (KNCV), 16 January 2008, Utrecht University: ‘From Oil to Celluloid: A History of Shell Films.’

● Domitor conference, 29 May-2 June 2006, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan: ‘Localizing Serials: Translating Spectacle and Daily Life in Les Mystères de New-York.’

 Cinema in Context – Sharing Histories of Moviegoing, 20-21 April 2006, Amsterdam: ‘Taking the Mistress around the World: Distributing Silent Serials.’

 Domitor conference, 18-21 June 2004, Utrecht University: ‘Distributing Films in Parts: Series and Seriality in Germany, 1914-1919.’

 X International Film Studies Conference: Limina, Film’s Thresholds, 16-23 March 2003, Udine, Italy: ‘Featuring on Stage: American Prologues from the 1920’s.’


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