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Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 12 years, 7 months ago


From the beginnings of film, filmmakers have wanted to re-create the vision of life as the peoples of this world view it and project it before an audiences' eyes. Now whether or not that vision of life truly reflects the world as it is or one interpretation of the world is another issue. But most view of life, i.e. art forms begin with the basic reflection of the surrounding world. The actuality is such a reflection of the surrounding world and one of the earliest forms of cinema.


Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope Actuality  

Lost to us as a viable film genre, the actuality differs from all the other forms of film to follow it because of its complete lack of a narrative. But a form remains with documentaries that use “actuality footage” as the basis for their narrative (Wikipedia: Actuality). The actuality film pre-dates even the modern camera and projector, having been experimented with by Thomas A. Edison. 1891, Edison played around with with a machine he named the kinetoscope, by shooting strongmen, dancers and even Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He was the first to film Native American dances such as the Sioux Ghost Dance and the Buffalo Dance. Using his kinetoscope, Edison filmed “noteworthy persons, places and events of interest” (Edison Motion Pictures: Actualities). These film became a huge sensation with the public but Edison wasn't stisfied and continued to experiment with the technology. Edison gives us the first attempts at editing film. In the actuality of the dancer, we see him splice one film reel to another. But true to the esthectic of the Actuality, the shift in the film held no conscious effort to create a story. It is clear that each piece of film was shot individually and then put together after the fact. The dye of the film is different, the dancers costumes and dances do not match up, like a play seen at different times. All of these films were placed on a tiny screen for everyone to see for only a quarter. But as he continued to experiment and sell his invention, Edison began to shift away from Actualities as seen in his film the Barber shop. The entire "actuality" is staged, from the men, the barber shop set piece, to finally the consistant lighting from Edison's turning stage the Black Maria. Edison finally stopped producing them all together in 1906.  But the techniques of the actuality would not die with Edison's disinterest, others from Europe with the invention of the camera and projector took the genre to a completely other level.



Edison made this short film in 1902, some time after the shocking L'Arrivee d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat by the Lumiere Brothers in 1895, who the first film makers to mess around with depth of field. Looking at this short film it becomes apparent that Edison has planned the film to be shocking to his audience He set his steady camera up in the middle of the street to capture the carts to their fullest extent. He builds the drama of the horses running at the screen with the smallest fire engines coming first then continuing the fill the screen with ever increasing horses, engines and smoke.



Lumiere Brothers: The Beginning of Projected Film 

Most of the early film making was done with out any conscious motive, the edits and cuts were arbitrary and break any attempt at narrative. Tom Gunning expresses this form of unconscious shooting as “the cinema of attraction”, where cinema itself and its processes were the main attraction rather than any form of story attempted by the early film makers. The best to produce the "narrative-less" actuality, were the Lumiere brothers. The Lumiere brothers were the first to truly show a film in a way that we would be familiar with today; projected photos on a screen.



La Sortie de l'Usine Lumiere a Lyon and L'Arrivee d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat, they showed the power of the projected moving picture. La Sortie de l'Usine Lumiere a Lyon is a sublime example of the Lumiere Actuality. The workers barely even notice the camera staged at the doors, they meander through with only a passing glance. The brothers have captured the tinest moment of the workers lives but they have depicted that moment in its truest sense. The workers are going home, thats it. The brothers provide us with no story, no background, we will never know who these people are, where they are going; it is just us and the projected film.The Lumiere brothers depict their actualities in a way that is in more ways authentic to people's actual lives. They avoid staging the events on the screen as much as possible. The only planning and organizing the brothers seem to do is to find the most aesthetically pleasing pose to shoot and placing the camera there and letting the film roll for 30 seconds or so.The Lumiere brothers give us the spectacle of the film, no more and what a spectacle it turned out to be.




"Overview of Edison Motion Pictures by Genre". Edison Motion Pictures. n.d. Web. September 7, 2009.

"Auguste and Louis Lumiere"Wikipedia.com September 7, 2009. Web. September 7, 2009.

"Actuality Film"Wikipedia.com August 31, 2007. Web. September 6, 2009.

Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 10:11 am on Oct 13, 2009

* Needs the attention of Sam or some other grammar expert--see the first 2 paragraphs of the Edison bit, for example
* More work on Edison film? You suggest that it's influenced by the Lumieres. How?
* Organization. Seems to equate editing with narrative, for example, in the Lumiere section
* Newsreel?
* Link to William's Lumiere films page

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