I'm finishing off my book on British horror films 1998-2008 (112 of 113 films completed) and I'm in something of a quandary around the order/structure of the book. Comments/opinions welcome.
When writing about the film career of a single individual, or even a company, the order is generally fairly easy to spot, but life gets more complex when covering a wide field like this - and much more complex in a DTV/VOD world where there isn't a simple, easy, definitive 'release date' for a film.
In terms of production, each film has a start date and end date, separated by anything between a week and four years. For some films in the book, these are completely untraceable: there are no records anywhere and no-one involved with the film can be tracked down (yes, even at this short remove). So while some films have a clear 'year of production', others don't because they were produced over several years or we simply have no information. We can't even infer from release dates because some films are known to have sat on the shelf for two or three years before eventual release.
As for release, each film has one, several or many of the following:
1. First trade screening
2. Cast/crew screening
3. One-off public 'premiere'
4. First festival screening
5. UK theatrical release
6. UK VHS/DVD/VOD release (some have separate rental and sell-through dates)
7. US theatrical release
8. US VHS/DVD/VOD release
9. Theatrical/VHS/DVD release in foreign territory predating any UK/US release
Choosing any one of these would bar certain films from the book as there isn't a category which applies to all the films. The criterion I'm using to determine inclusion within my remit of 98-08 is 'date of first commercial release' (ie. the earliest date from categories 5-9) and that's how the checklist I've been using is ordered.
But... some films naturally fit together. For example, the company Four Horsemen was set up with much ballyhoo about making 24 films over 6 years but only ever made two (Octane aka Pulse, shot in 2002, premiered in 2003, UK cinema release in 2003, US DVD in 2004, UK DVD in 2006; and LD50 aka Lethal Dose, shot over new year 2002/03, premiered in 2003, US DVD in 2004, UK DVD in 2005). However I slice it, there's a dozen or so other films inbetween those two but it makes sense to me to fit them together and tell a single story there of the rise and fall of Four Horsemen Films. There are other instances like this throughout the book. Or what, for instance, do I do with something like The Gathering? Shot in 2001, premiered in 2003, first theatrical release in France in 2004 (although technically the German DVD slightly preceded that), US DVD in 2007, eventually released on UK DVD in 2011!
Previous comparable books like Ten Years of Terror and The Screaming Sixties have tended to subdivide the book into years and then list films alphabetically within each year which to me seems arbitrary and slightly misleading (plus, they have clearly defined release dates, as mentioned).
What I'm looking at, at the moment, is an 'approximate chronological order' so that the paths of people's careers or stylistic/technical developments can be loosely traced. The downside of this is that there's no way to subdivide the book into sections, though obviously it will be well indexed.
Anyone got suggestions? thoughts? preferences?