SCMS is done for another year. This was my sixth time, and every year the conference seems a bit bigger, a bit more overwhelming (though still far from the madness of MLA). Happily, I was able to see just about everyone I was hoping to see. The scholarship is the reason to go, but the social connections are what I look forward to most.
I spoke on a panel on American Independent Cinema with Drew Morton, Lisa Dombrowski, and Brad Schauer. It was the most coherent group of papers I have ever seen in one conference panel. All of us were concerned with demystifying the label "independent." Drew did that by discussing Steven Soderbergh's career as a director merging studio and indie approaches to filmmaking. Lisa surveyed the history of independent filmmaking going back to the days of Edison and the MPPC and argued that independent production arises in response to specific industrial conditions, especially in times when film supply and demand are out of whack. Brad discussed the strategies of Dimension Pictures, the Miramax genre imprint, showing how a contemporary independent distributor merges studio and exploitation strategies. And my paper (pdf/pp) was about indie culture, arguing that it is contradictory insofar as it is both critical of the dominant social structure and a taste culture that promotes distinction. I was really pleased with the Q&A afterwards, which included the participation of two scholars who have recently published books on independent cinema: Geoff King (whose American Independent Cinema is an excellent survey of the terrain) and J.J. Murphy (whose new book, which I just bought yesterday, is called Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work, and who was my professor at UW-Madison for a very memorable and revelatory course on American avant-garde cinema). It was great to hear their responses to our ideas.
I was thrilled to meet some of my friends from the internet at the conference, including chutry, and it is always great to see grad school pals and teachers, many of whom were at a party Friday night for faculty and students of the University of Wisconsin Comm Arts department (see my Flickr for pics). It was also fun to have pizza and beer Saturday night with the SCMS TV studies group, who were hosted by (among others) Bruce DuMont, president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, which will soon be opening a new facility that looks really exciting.
For extensive reportage on the conference proceedings, check out Tim Anderson's blog. I'm also looking forward to seeing what people contribute to the Mabuse blog-a-thon. If you were there and have something to report, send it their way.