Chapter VI


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

pp. 23-26

If you happened to be an employer, wouldn't you be in the seventh heaven of delight if you could hire labor without having to pay for it? It cannot be done in real life, but the motion picture producer, who thrives on reel life, has acquired the knack of obtaining players for free. Not feasible, you may say. Just wait, however, until I have cited a few cases which have come under my personal notice and I think you will agree with me.

One of my English friends engaged in the film industry was recently invited to attend the opening of the Regent film studio in London. Noting on the invitation card that a ball was going to be held in connection with the opening, he dressed for the occasion.

The preliminary ceremonies were soon over and all made a beeline for the portion of the studio set apart as a ballroom. The dancing proceeded with a nice spring, but all the merry couples were interrupted by a business-like operator and a smiling director, who asked all present if they would mind imparting the necessary realism to the drawing room scenes of a society drama. No one, of course, was impolite enough to object, so the camera clicked away to their actions for the rest of the evening. This was combining business with pleasure with a vengeance.

At the time the Imp production of "Ivanhoe" was put on at Chepstow Castle, Wales, newspapermen were invited to witness its production. The director, Herbert Brenon, was short of extras to fight in the Norman Army, so it occurred to him to have some of the reporters don armour and sword. After doing this they were able to turn out some unusually interesting copy of their experiences.

Coming closer home, I am told that the Edison Company but a short time ago had occasion to conduct filming operations in New York's Chinatown. The director could have hired a few supers at five dollars a day and fixed them up as passable celestials, but he was on the trail of realism.

The superstitious Chinaman imagines all sorts of things are going to occur if he is caught by a camera of any kind, so it is like asking him to kill himself to persuade him to pose before one.

A way out of the difficulty was discovered by hiring a wagon and filling it with dummy merchandise. While the driver stopped to make an apparent delivery, the camera man poked the lens of the motion picture machine through a hole in the wagon and snapped the yellow skinned men who were within range of it.

When the Lubin Company had to represent a scenario editor's room in a photoplay, instead of employing ordinary extras they commanded the services of all the men who write plays appearing under the Liberty Bell brand. Apart from the advantage of expense saved, there was that of realism gained; there could be no loophole for criticism against the actions of the pro tem actors.

The Kalem Company took advantage of a Motion Picture Exposition held in New York City by arranging for exhibitors to visit their plant out in New Jersey. When they were shown over they were asked to "dress in" a post election scene in a political drama.

The director, however, is not always successful. Especially is this the case when he wants prominent persons to pose before the clicking camera.

The Edison Company furnished an example of this when they despatched a troupe of players to Washington recently. A poverty-stricken girl approached Bryan in a pleading manner as he was leaving one of the government buildings. She began unfolding a tale of woe, but instead of listening kindly, Bryan thrust her aside and walked indignantly to his automobile. The reason for his attitude was that he had caught sight of the camera.

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