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The History of Short Films and the Film Industry

Films are a huge part of our society today with 19 percent of the US claiming to watch or stream movies
every day with an additional 26 percent say that they watch movies several times a week. However,
they weren’t always like they are now as technology has advanced over the years there have been many
changes which have shaped the industry into what we know it as today.
The first ever film made was “The horse in motion” in 1878, it was made by Eadweard Muybridge and
was only a 3 second loop of a horse running made with lots of individual pictures which moved past a
lense. The film was very jumpy and bad quality as they
didn’t have the technology back then to make the
pictures move fast enough and it was also very short as
pictures took too long to take back then that it would’ve
taken ages to make something even a minute long. 10
years later the next attempt at a film was made by Louis
Le Prince and was only 2 seconds long, however, it was
the first short film which involved consecutive motion
which means every frame is different and it is not just
played on a loop. They were able to do this as cameras
were becoming more advanced and so it didn’t take as long to take photos, this meant they were able
to include more frames in the film instead of just the same 3 over and over. 7 years after this “Arrival of
a train” was made by the Lumiere brothers, it involved a train stopping at a station and passengers
getting on and off of the train and had a running time of 49 seconds, a lot longer than any other made
around that time. This was because they were able to
take pictures a lot easier using the new and improved
cameras made by Kodak at the time. They were also able
to run the pictures through the lense faster meaning it
was a lot smoother and quicker than anything made
before and also involved a lot of consecutive action. The
Lumiere brothers would then go on to change the film
industry for good making many other films later on
such as “Workers leaving the Lumiere factory and “The
gardener” which both followed the same pattern of
being around 50 seconds long and consecutive films all
of the same quality.
After this came the pioneer era between 1895 and 1910, this is when films started becoming more
popular as technology advanced and it is also when films started to involved narratives and storylines
meaning the viewers actually had something to
pay attention to and film producers could start
to influence people more with their films. The
first film with a purposeful narrative was “A
trip to the moon” which was made by George
Melies in 1905. The story involved a group of
people planning to go to the moon and
eventually making the trip successfully, it was
only 5 minutes long but was a lot more popular
than any films made before because of its
narrative and these short films then became
very popular.
After this came the silent era from 1911 – 1926, this was when the very first sound effects were added to
films however there was still no dialogue. This allowed for film producers to have more of an effect on
their audience and also make it seem more realistic than usual as the sounds started to sound really
real and as if you were there. This was also the time when Charlie Chaplin came about with his world-
famous short films which people still watch to this day and look back on as one of the most
revolutionary pieces of work in the history of the film industry. The films around this time also started
to become a lot longer and feature length meaning they were around an hour long, they also involved
full consecutive motion meaning that there was an actual story involved and it wasn’t just looped over
and over so every scene in the film was different, the very first complex narratives also came about this
time and this allowed for a more interesting watch for the viewers. For example around during this era
on the 8th February 1915 “The birth of a nation” was released by D.W.
Griffiths who is now looked back on as one of the most influential
characters in the history of film. The film was just over 3 hours long
which was longer than any film ever made before this and even though
the storyline was very racist and wouldn’t be accepted in today’s
society it was a huge hit back then becoming arguably the most
popular film of its time. This was also because of technological
advancements that they were able to make longer films quicker
meaning that they could also add more complex story lines to the film.
According to the History.com editors Griffiths started with 150,000
feet of footage (36 hours of film) and eventually cut it down to 13,000
feet of film (just over 3 hours of film) which would have been a very
long process as he did it on his own, he also made $5.2 million from
the film in total which was a larger amount of many than any other
film of that time, it was also shown in the white house to the president
at the time Woodrow Wilson and he is said to have enjoyed the film
Next came the Talkies and the rise of the Hollywood studios from 1927 – 1940, this is when the Warner
bros came about as well and nowadays they are up there as one of the most famous film producers of
all time making films such as all of the “Harry Potter” films and all of the “Lord of the rings” films as
well which are two of the most famous film series of all time and are still watched a large amount after
their releases to this day. However, they started
off with very basic productions with their first
feature length movie being “the jazz singer”
which was released in 1927 which was very
popular in its time as it involved very popular
music from the time and also involved a very
complex narrative which went down very well
with the audience at the time as it was shown in
the very first cinemas to large audiences at the
time. During this time new genres also came
about such as horror and the first “movie stars” also came about and started becoming celebrities from
the film industry. Companies also started spending a lot more money on making films for the first time
and the first 5 Hollywood studios came about in the US and hosted the making of many popular films
from the time as they had all the equipment needed to do so.
After this came the golden era of film and the restructuring of Hollywood between 1941 and 1554, this
is when films really started to have extremely high production costs and started to take a lot longer to
make as a lot more effort was starting to be put into making them. Due to the Second World War
ending during this period of time there were a lot more story lines coming about as well such as war
stories and stories which soldiers came back from the war with. During this time a lot more famous
movies stars also came about such as Audrey Hepburn and others and Hollywood become a worldwide
phenomenon and started to branch outside of the US to the UK and other European countries as films
became popular across borders for the first time, Indian films started to come about as well and
Bollywood came about during this period of time.
Next was the era of changes from 1955 – 1976, this was when films started to become a normal part of
life as the invention of the television came about in family homes and was a very common piece of
technology at that time. This meant that films could be aired to people around the country for free and
from their own homes whereas before they would’ve had to go to a cinema and pay which was also a
very upper class and expensive thing to do back then. Cinemas also started to become more popular
and accessible to the public as they became cheaper and this meant that the biggest films being made
could make money from ticket sales and so they had more of an incentive to make films. During this
period of time “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock
was also made and this is largely talked about
as the best horror film of all time as it
revolutionised the industry. This was because
of the camera angles and suspenseful music
used which added tension and made the
audience actually scared whilst watching the
film, it was the first film to do this to an
audience. It was also film entirely in black and
white which was unusual back then as they
were perfectly capable of making films with
colour due to the new cameras being invented, this was done to allow them to use more realistic effects
without them looking fake and so the audience believed it more as well. They used fake blood and a
real knife to add realism top the film and this was seen as shocking to the audience back then as it had
never been seen before. The shower scene within the film where a girl is stabbed to death in the shower
is also talked about as one of the most infamous scenes in film history to this day, it took a whole week
to film (according to “Stephen Robb” from the BBC) even though the scene in the film was only 90n
seconds long compared to the full length of the film which was 1 hour and 49 minutes. Psycho was also
one of the first horror films to make you feel sympathy for the killer as you shown about how he is
trying to look after his mother so you almost don’t want him to get caught or she won’t have anyone to
look after her. This was very unusual back then as the killer had always been seen as the evil character
who everybody wanted to be killed in the film. Hitchcock also had a very good use of music in this film
as it was used throughout to build up tension for the murder scenes, he also used screechy violins which
were very unpleasing to the ear which made the audience feel very uneasy whilst watching it. Overall
the film has influenced a lot of horror films to this day and the techniques used in the film are still used
in modern horror films to give the exact same effect, it also made other producers more comfortable
with making more violent films and started a new genre in the “thriller”.
After this came the dawn of the modern film industry and
appearance of blockbusters during 1977 and late 1990’s, This was
when special effects were introduced into Hollywood as there
were many technological advancements around this time which
allowed this and it went down very well with the audience at
this time. Star wars was also released at this time and showed
the first sign of more complexity in films and left people wanting
a sequel for the first time. Star wars became one of the most
famous film series of all time and they are even still being made
to this day, they were the first films to include opening credits
as previously they had usually been placed at the end of the
movies, this has now become a more popular thing to do in films
today. It was also one of the first films to use the brand new camera tech of its time such as the motion
controlled camera which was used to film the star ship battle scenes and inspired other film producers
to see what they could do with them at this time. It redefined blockbusters as a whole and is still the
second highest grossing movie in the US to this day according to Toplinefilm and also launched the
science fiction film boom at the time and this genre started to become a lot more popular. Recently
short films have been becoming more popular as well since 2006 when the first animated short films
were made and this inspired people to make short films. They are perfect for people who don’t have a
large budget and wan to make something to have the same effect as a normal film meaning a lot of
smaller film producers have been making them to start of their careers. It has even got to a point where
in 2015 the world famous Oscars awards created a short film category which was won by James Lucas
and Mat Kirkby with their short film “The Phone Call” this is huge as small film makers now have a
cheaper and easier way of making it to the big stage with their productions. Another prestigious
awards ceremony is the Sundance festival which was
originally the US and Utah film ceremony. It takes place
in January of each year at the Sundance resort in Utah and
includes all of the film genres and documentaries as well.
It was founded in 1978 by John Earle and Sterling Van
Wagenen and started off just judging feature length films
until recently where they included a section for the short
films being made. Since it was made it has also grown
massively being shown on a bigger stage each year and
with more and more applicants each year as well.
Then we get to the point we are at today where films are a huge part of society and are more popular
than ever. Overall film has changed a huge amount over the last century back from the 15 second loops
to full length 2 – 3 hour films with 3 or 4 sequels and they have also affected our society a large amount
and the way we think and what we do.