Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 4Topic 6
Focusing On Early Filmmaking
Film Strip

When the moving picture camera was first invented in the late 1800s, it wasn't used to tell stories. That would come later. At first, filmmakers used it to capture scenes from everyday life. But that was enough for the first film audiences. They flocked to see what they had never seen before: moving images. Soon, of course, audiences got bored. They wanted stories, with real sets and real actors. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In this activity, you will have the chance to go back to the days before movie stars, big budgets, exotic locations, and special effects. All it takes is a movie or video camera...and the ability to imagine what it was like to make and watch the world's first movies. (If you don't have access to a movie or video camera, you can try this activity with a still camera or drawing pad.)

Making An Early Film
Film Strip
The first thing to do in this activity is forget. Forget everything you know about movies. Forget everything you have heard about movies. Forget every movie you have ever seen. In your imagination, go back 100 years to the very first days of filmmaking. Imagine your audience has never seen a film before. Anything moving on screen is interesting to them. What would you shoot? Most early filmmakers just took their camera outside and shot what seemed interesting: horses running, a man doing somersaults, a train crossing a bridge.

Now imagine film had never been invented...until now. What would you shoot? A plane landing at an airport. Cars on the freeway. Lions at your local zoo. How about making some of these movies and showing them to your classmates. And don't forget to tell them to forget--forget all the movies they've ever seen and imagine what it was like to be among the first film audiences.

(If you don't have a movie or video camera, you can take still photos to capture the same thing. Or, like other filmmakers, you can make a storyboard--that's a series of drawings that show what you want to film.)