Films that Work
Films that Work
Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media
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Contents - 6 Introduction - 10 I Navigating the Archive - 18 Archives and Archaeologies - 20 Record, Rhetoric, Rationalization - 36 Vernacular Archiving - 52 II Visuality and Efficiency - 64 Early Industrial Moving Pictures in Germany - 66 Layers of Cheese - 76 Images of Efficiency - 86 “What Hollywood Is to America, the Corporate Film Is to Switzerland” - 102 Poussières - 120 Thermodynamic Kitsch - 128 III Films and Factories - 152 Touring as a Cultural Technique - 154 Corporate Films of IndustrialWork - 168 Filming Work on Behalf of the Automobile Firm - 188 Eccentricity, Education and the Evolution of Corporate Speech - 212 Centron, an Industrial/Educational Film Studio, 1947-1981 - 222 Films from Beyond the Well - 244 IV See, Learn, Control - 258 The Personnel Is Political - 260 Behaviorism, Animation, and Effective Cinema - 284 Technologies of Organizational Learning - 304 The Central Film Library of Vocational Education - 316 “Reality Is There, but It’s Manipulated” - 330 V Urbanity, Industry, Film - 348 Modernism, Industry, Film - 350 A Modern Medium for a Modern Message - 378 Harbor, Architecture, Film - 392 Industrial Films - 406 The Desiderata of Business-Film Research1 - 464 Contributors - 472 Index of Names - 477 Index of Film Titles - 481 Index of Subjects - 486

Reviews and Features

‘Industrials’ and ‘educations’, promotional and corporate films and videos, like amateur film, have in recent decades begun to receive attention, but barely a dozen books can be cited which seek to place these films in a broad context. FILMS THAT WORK offers, for the first time, a distinct theoretical framework in which to consider this archive of non-canonical non-fiction film. More than that, it makes a rare contribution to bridging the chasm between English language and continental European film studies -- not just the Shell Film Unit but the Dutch side of its activities; not just sponsorship in the US but film as vocational training in France; not just film and Taylorism but also European uses of film to propagandise it. In short, this is one of the few books to give equal – if not additional -- weight to non-fiction film activity in continental Western Europe. And FILMS THAT WORK achieves this in no dry and inaccessible manner. On the contrary, fascinating nuggets are to be found throughout: 150 copies of newsreels made pre-WW II by the Czech Bat‘a shoe company and sent out to its 800 shops, Switzerland as corporate films' 'Hollywood', transvestite Krupps employees at a works-party filmed in 1936. FILMS THAT WORK marks a step-change in the study of non-fiction cinema outside the documentary canon. Professor Brian Winston Lincoln Professor of Communications University of Lincoln |Industrial films have been around since the first decades of the Twentieth Century, but until recently they have largely been ignored in cinema scholarship. Films that Work is a masterful contribution to the growing literature in this area, and it does more than fill in the gap. Sensitive to both aesthetic practice and social context, its essays offer a comprehensive introduction to the sponsored film’s international history. This brilliantly researched and engagingly written collection is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the vital place of the moving image in industrial relations. Anna McCarthy Associate Professor and Associate Chair Department of Cinema Studies, NYU Coeditor, Social Text |Films That Work represents the leading edge of a new era in media research. The history of nontheatrical films - productions that greatly outnumbered the commercial features we have long studied - is now being written in scholarly form. Hediger and Vonderau‘s anthology of new essays sets a high standard, demonstrating how significant this research can be and how much we have yet to learn about the thousands of such films awaiting rediscovery in archives and private collections. -- Dan Streible, New York University

Patrick Vonderau, Vinzenz Hediger (eds)

Films that Work

Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media

Only available in hardback: ISBN 978 90 8964 012 3

The history of industrial films – an orphan
genre of twentieth-century cinema
composed of government-produced and
industrially sponsored movies that sought
to achieve the goals of their sponsors,
rather than the creative artists involved –
seems to have left no trace in filmic cultural
discourse. At its height the industrial film
industry employed thousands, produced
several trade journals and festival circuits,
engaged with giants of twentieth-century
industry like Shell and AT & T, and featured
the talents of iconic actors and directors such as Buster Keaton, John Grierson
and Alain Resnais. This is the first
full-length book, anthology, and annotated
bibliography to analyse the industrial film
and its remarkable history. Exploring the
potential of the industrial film to uncover
renewed and unexplored areas of media
studies, this remarkable volume brings
together renowned scholars such as
Rick Prelinger and Thomas Elsaesser in a
discussion of the radical potential and new
possibilities in considering the history of
this unexplored corporate medium.

Patrick Vonderau

Patrick Vonderau is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Halle, Germany.

Vinzenz Hediger

Vinzenz Hediger is professor of cinema studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, where he directs the Graduate Research Training Program Configurations of film ( His publications include Films that Work. Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media (Amsterdam University Press 2009, with Patrick Vonderau) and Essays zur Filmphilosophie (Fink 2015, with Lorenz Engell, Oliver Fahle and Christiane Voss). He is a co-founder of NECS – European Network of Cinema and Media Studies ( and the founding editor of Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft (