Chapter III


Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)

pp. 12-14

The present method of producing motion pictures opens up a new and serious problem. Much has been written and said in regard to the effects of the photoplayer's work on health, but in every case the one harmful effect has been overlooked.

It is not my intention to deny that most exteriors are taken against nature's backgrounds with daylight as the perfectly natural illumination -- that would be foolish, for such is the fact. But nine plays out of every ten contain a number of interior scenes which have perforce to be put on in an artificially lighted studio in broad daylight.

Banks of long powerful mercury tubes line the sets in which the players have to act. Go where you may, you will find few, if any, photographic operations that require so much light as do motion pictures. It is well to remember that all this extremely brilliant streak of light is concentrated over a limited area of a few feet, and when the player is before the camera he receives it full in the eyes. His face looks like a huckleberry pie and the heat is almost unbearable.

I have known what it is to step under the glow of one modest arc lamp for an instant; it affects the eyes so much that you want instant relief; and you hold your hands up to your eyes when you go back to a less powerful light. When you realise that the photoplayer, save for brief intervals, is compelled by the nature of his work to work for hours under dozens of such lights, then you can appreciate the strain on his eyes.

Only the other week Muriel Ostriche had been working under such conditions from early in the morning until late at night in order to complete a certain production on time. All of a sudden she found herself struck blind. She was speedily taken home and put in charge of a trained optician. Af first it was feared that the affliction would be permanent, but twelve hours later she recovered her sight. And she went back to work without a rest.

This is not the only case that has come under my notice, for I well remember, a few years ago, that a prominent movie actor had to have an operation performed on his eyes and take a lengthy vacation. I have also personally met some photoplayers on whom I detected at a glance the malady of their profession. The face round the eyes is all drawn up and the actor experiences considerable difficulty in looking at you while talking without continually blinking or shifting his eyes. Sometimes a player will betray the blinking in his work.

Out in California, however, the climate is so perfect that many of the producing concerns have open air stages on which they stage interiors with only the sky as the roof. This not only saves the expense of having to resort to artificial light but also protects the actors from injury. But even here for emergencies -- particularly during the rainy season -- an artificially lighted studio is at their command.

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