The term was coined by P. Adams Sitney who noted that film artists such as Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, George Landow (a.k.a. Owen Land), Paul Sharits, Tony Conrad, Joyce Wieland, Ernie Gehr, Birgit and Wilhelm Hein, Kurt Kren, and Peter Kubelka had moved away from the complex and condensed forms of cinema practiced by such artists as Sidney Peterson and Stan Brakhage. "Structural film" artists pursued instead a more simplified, sometimes even predetermined art. The shape of the film was crucial, the content peripheral. This term should not be confused with the literary and philosophical term structuralism.
Sitney identified four formal characteristics common in Structural films, but all four characteristics are not usually present in any single film:
- fixed camera position (an apparently fixed framing)
- flicker effect (strobing due to the intermittent nature of film)
- loop printing
- rephotography (off the screen)
- Scratching the Surface: The Birth of Structural/Materialist Film
- Ways of Seeing: Yoel Meranda's Web Site-Structural Film
- Excerpt on YouTube-REVOIRVIDEO
- Fluxus Film: George Maciunas Manifesto, Avant-Garde, and Anti-Art
- Paul Sharits: Expanding Cinema to the Beyond-Offscreen
- George Landow obituary-The Guardian
- Gidal, Peter. Materialist Film Routledge; First Edition, Second Impression edition (Mar. 1989).
- de Lauretis, Teresa and Stephen Heath (eds). The Cinematic Apparatus. Macmillan, 1980.
- Heath, Stephen. Questions of Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1981.
- Maciunas, George. "Some Comments on Structural Film by P. Adams Sitney." Film Culture, No. 47, 1969.
- O'Pray, Michael. The British Avant-Garde Film 1926 to 1995: An Anthology of Writings. Indiana University Press, 2003.
- Sitney, P. Adams. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943-1978. Second Edition, Oxford University Press 1979