Former CIMS member David Morton successfully defended PhD


On May 4, former CIMS member David Morton received his Ph.D. in Texts and Technology from the University of Central Florida. He successfully defended his viva: The Heralds of the Dawn: A History of the Motion Picture Industry in the State of Florida, 1908-2019 on April 19 and is currently in negotiations with the University of Florida Press for publication.


This study explores how the sometimes cooperative and often contentious dynamic between motion picture and television producers and Florida’s state and local politicians have influenced the history of film production in Florida. Through a series of interconnected case studies that apply place-based analysis, this work demonstrates how the Florida government and communities have historically interacted with the motion picture industry. While Florida never truly became an “Almost Hollywood” or “Hollywood East,” as historians have previously argued, film producers and state officials were at various times successful in turning the cities of Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, and Miami into important centers for film and television production. These moments of cooperation and conflict offer important insights into the specific environmental characteristics that inspired filmmakers to come to Florida, as well as the social-political circumstances that eventually pushed them from the state. With a close scrutiny of trade press sources, periodicals, local newspapers, and the personal papers of filmmakers and politicians, The Heralds of the Dawn explains the varied reasons behind the repeated rise, fall, and occasional exodus of the state’s motion picture industry.


David served as a visiting scholar at CIMS as a 2016-17 Fulbright scholar where he conducted research with Professor Daniel Biltereyst on the activities of American distributors in Belgium during the interwar period. He is currently an instructor in the History and Film Departments at the University of Central Florida. In March David co-organized Flickering Landscapes: The Image of Migration, held in Downtown Orlando, was an event that explored important ways in which visual media can be used as a tool for activism, social awareness, and support for displaced persons across the globe. He is also currently completing a documentary film: Heroes in the Half Shades: Explorations into West Bengali Cinema, which explores the rich history and cinematic legacy of film production in India’s West Bengal province.


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