George Melies and his contributions to cinema history The film industry encompasses technological and commercial organizations of filmmaking. The story of the Kelly Gang was the first feature film to be produced and its production was done in Australia. This film was produced and directed by Charles Tait and Dan Barry in 1906. By 1911, other countries were also beginning to show some interest in feature films. The modern film industry has evolved over the years and it is still evolving. Famous filmmakers such as George Melies made important contributions to the development of early cinema.
He is recognized as the pioneer of early cinema, special effects, and the invention of bizarre ideas about the big screen. Jim Glichrist of the Scotman describes him as “one of the greatest pioneers of the cinema” (Pantazi, 2005). There are special effects as well as the magic encompassed in the production thanks to his innovation. Pantazi (2005) notes that the foundation laid determines the developments of the phenomena in question, thus, Melies laid a good foundation for the cinema industry since his innovation provided room for more developments.
Mini biography George Melies a renowned filmmaker was born on the eighth day of December 1861.
He was born in a family of shoemakers but he was not interested in doing this kind of work. He schooled at the Lycee Imperial where he is alleged to get into trouble with his teachers since he used to fill his books with comic strips. He showed great interest in film work while still at school, at age 10 he built his sets for small marionette shows. His love for stage career was further heightened when he went to the theatre for the first time; he was perplexed by a performance made by Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin who was one of the most renowned magicians at that time.
After retiring from the family business, his father left the business under Melies and his two brothers, since Melies was not interested in the family business, he sold all his shares to his brothers. With the money that he acquired after selling the shares, he acquired Theatre Robert-Houdin, here; he performed severally and also invented illusory jokes. His was greatly inspired by the then Penn and Teller, and illusionists Maskelyne and Cooke. Later, he received an invitation of the cinematography display of Lumiero brothers. This gave him some exposure and from that day on, he become more nd more interested with film. He became interested in films in 1895 after attending the Lumiero brothers demonstrating their camera (Ezra, 2000). After this, he established a studio in Montreuil where actors performed with the aid of a painted set. Between 1896 and 1914, Melies directed a total of 531 films which ranged from 1-40 minutes. These films were in some way similar to the magic theaters shows that he has been doing. The special effects were used in plays that did not have a plot; they were used to emphasize on what was possible but not to improve the overall outlook of the film.
Two of his most famous films are ‘the impossible voyage’ and ‘a trip to the moon’ the plot of these films focus on strange voyages. His interest in films made him want to explore ways in which film can be made more interesting. He started off with simple raw materials where he recorded scenes focusing on everyday life. He began to present narratives and soon afterwards singing to enchant the audience. Somehow, he started to show interest in the study of stop-action photography, the need to know more made him to explore this aspect.
He is remembered for having made the first science fiction film, was the pioneer of split-screen technique, he is also recognized for trying out slow motions, fadeouts, and double exposure. In 1913, the French and American studios declared Melies’ film company bankrupt. His company was brought by Pathe Freres out of receivership. He did not therefore benefit much from his film company. Most of his stock was confiscated by the French Army during World War I. The rest were sold and later produced into new films after they were recycled.
Following this, most of his films do not exist today. After being forced to quit the film business, Melies decided to sell toys at the Montparnasse station. After sometime, he was acknowledge and honored for his contributions in the film industry and was then allowed to perform. The Cinema society awarded him a home in Chateau d’Orly. Louis Lumiere also awarded him with an award called Legion d’honneur. He later died on the twenty-first day of January 1938 in Paris and was buried there. Melies contribution to cinema history Melies is one of the most celebrated filmmakers in history.
His inventions and great imaginations are still reflected in the special effects and onscreen magic movies. Although the film industry has gone through tremendous changes over the years, his ideas are still being used today although in an advanced mode. This generally shows that his ideas were realistic hence they were a good starting point for those who wished to bring about changes in the film industry (Ezra, 2000). The discussion below attempts to look at his contributions to the film industry as a whole. At 10, Melies had started developing some ideas on stage performance.
He creatively constructed his own sets of marionettes which were small in size. This was an early sign that little Melies was interested in stage work. The fact that he was opposed to the idea of running the family business proved that he was equally interested in film work. Boughey (2010) notes that, the fact that Melies was in trouble in school because of filling his notebooks with comic drawings shows that he had a passion for film work. His interest grew with age because he was exposed to different stage performances.
This further gave him the impetus to want to establish his own film business as well as take part in stage performances. Melies’ work and talent had great influence on the European and American directors. He was a source of inspiration and someone they could look up for ideas. Edwin porter who was recognized for his film ‘Life as a fireman’ made ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ drawing his ideas from Melies’ version of the film ‘Bluebeard’ Another filmmaker who used Melies’ photography technique was Ferdinand Zecca who borrowed ideas to produce ‘Ali Baba et les 40 Voleurs’ and ‘Aladin’ in 1902.
Other people who claimed to owe their success of Melies include Charlie Chaplain and D. W. Griffith. Rene Clairs a French film director also praised Melies work, his tribute to Melies was titled ‘Le silence est d’or’ (silence is golden). These people looked up to Melies because he had proved to be an expert in film work. His films were successful that some people pirated them. His brother Gaston Melies stopped this pirating by registering Melies copies with the Library of Congress (Ezra, 2000). The work of Melies also included the creation of fantasy narratives. The films did not only focus on everyday life.
An example of such a scene is when heads that are detached from the human body are thrown into the air and let to land on telegraph wires. This synopsis is a work of art that is filled with fantasy since this is not evidenced in everyday life. Another scene show an Egyptian man who is happy after his dead wife resurrects through a magician, she later turns into a skeleton in his arms. The special effects added to this kind of work made it possible for the film to have great impact on the audience. The fantastical scenes in the films are his personal creations and they were used for entertainment.
He has been recognized as the pioneer of the first science fiction film. Before him, those who dealt with film work were mainly concentrating on social aspects of life. For Melies, it was not only about what we do in our everyday life, other aspects of life could also be put into film. Although other focused on science to a small extent, no fiction was involved, their films mostly presented real life scientific objects hence they failed to manipulate the objects like Melies did (Pantazi, 2005). One outstanding thing about Melies is that he was cautious when it came to producing his work hence they in most cases emerged successful.
A scene in the science fiction film was when a spaceship initiated by waving girls, lands in the eye of a man in the moon. This is a fictional scientific creation that perplexes the audience. Melies was ambitious in a creative way since he wanted to experiment with new ideas with the intention of improving film work. He was the first filmmaker to use the split –screen technique and experiment with slow motions, double exposure, and fadeouts. He therefore paved way for the usage of these techniques by other filmmakers. He could manipulate the ideas in a creative way.
He was therefore able to put ideas into practice instead of just visualizing them. His ideas were to be adopted later by other filmmakers some of whom have been in the industry for longer. His young innovative mind was a major source of positive changes in the film industry. Although he did not rise in a fortnight, he slowly invented ideas that helped shape the world of filmmaking (Boughey, 2010). He was also among the first directors to use film techniques such as dissolve, time-lapse photography, and artificial lighting. Conclusion
The film industry has been growing over the years in terms of the innovativeness and techniques used to produce films. George Melies is regarded as one of the fathers of filmmaking since he largely contributed to the early developments of film work. His interest in film work started at a tender age since he showed some potential at school. His interest in film work and the love for stage career was heightened after his first exposure when he attended the Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin show: Jean was one of the most renowned magicians at that time.
Melies was not interested in running the family business; he sold his shared to his brother and concentrated on his passion. He had important contributions to the film industry and he was later honored for that. References Boughey, D. (2010). The Film Industry. WA: BiblioLife. Ezra, E. (2000). Georges Melies: the birth of the auteuri. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Pantazi, M. (2008). Supernatural Horror in Film: George Melies. Retrieved from http://www. suite101. com/content/supernatural-horror-in-film-georges-melies-a73225
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