Introduction to Film Cinema and Literature

Table of Content

In 1873, Leland Stanford, a former California Governor, enlisted Eadweard Muybridge to help him win a bet regarding a horse’s gallop. Stanford firmly believed that all four feet of a galloping horse were off the ground and was determined to prove it. To confirm this belief, Muybridge placed stationary cameras along a section of the race track in 1877. Each camera captured an image as the horse raced by during this four-year endeavor.

The photographs proved Leland Stanford’s correctness and secured his victory in the bet. However, rather than dismissing the event, Muybridge had a brilliant idea sparked by the horse images. Thus, he began taking photos of different human and animal activities. These pictures were displayed using Muybridge’s Zoopraxiscope, a device designed to project slides onto a far surface. When the sequential slides were rapidly projected, viewers saw the pictures as if they were moving.

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This phenomenon is called persistence of vision, which means that the brain can retain images seen by our eyes for about 1/24 of a second. Therefore, when photographic frames are shown at a rate of 24 frames per second, it gives the illusion of motion to viewers. In 1888, Muybridge met Thomas Edison, an inventor who saw both the scientific and economic potential in Muybridge’s Zoopraxiscope. As a result, Edison tasked his leading scientist, William Dickson, with enhancing the projector.

Dickson recognized the Zoopraxiscope’s constraints, which involved capturing multiple still photos, arranging them in a specific sequence, and subsequently reproducing them on slides. Consequently, he merged Hannibal Goodwin’s recently created celluloid roll film with George Eastman’s user-friendly Kodak camera to create a motion picture camera known as Kinetograph. This inventive camera was capable of taking 40 photographs per second. Dickson employed this device to record various theatrical performances.

When discussing the evolution of film, it is crucial to acknowledge the progress of photography, as film is derived from it. One individual who played a significant role in advancing photography was Joseph Nicephore Niepce, a French inventor. Niepce pioneered photography around 1816, capturing images of natural subjects and creating color prints. However, his photographs had a limited lifespan. Inspired by Niepce’s achievements, Louis Daguerre joined forces with him to refine the photographic process.

The production of the Daguerreotype in 1839 resulted from the partnership between Niepce and another inventor along this line, William Henry Fox Talbot, who introduced the paper film process in 1850. Hannibal Goodwin championed the final stage of development for true motion pictures in 1887, followed by Eastman in 1889. These inventions were later adapted to motion pictures by Edison scientist Dickson.

Thomas Edison constructed the inaugural motion picture studio in close proximity to his laboratory in New Jersey and christened it Black Maria. Instead of projecting the finished films onto a surface, he opted to run them through a Kinetoscope, a type of peep show apparatus. This device gained immense popularity and was embraced by numerous entrepreneurs. In contrast, the Lumiere brothers had a vision of substantial wealth by expanding the audience capacity for movie-viewing. They sought to accomplish this by having individuals sit in a dimly lit chamber to witness motion pictures projected onto a screen.

In 1895, the invention of Cinematography revolutionized the film industry. Both Edison and Lumiere contributed to this breakthrough. Their movies, usually a few minutes long, showcased various subjects such as celebrities, weight lifters, and jugglers. These films were shot with fixed frames as the cameras remained stationary, resulting in unedited content. However, in 1896, Georges Melies pioneered the creation of narrative motion pictures by incorporating storytelling into his films.

Melies, often referred to as the “first cinema artist,” brought innovation to filmmaking by infusing his work with creativity. This was accomplished through various methods such as employing diverse frames, altering sets, and highlighting storytelling. As time passed, the film industry experienced substantial changes that ultimately led to its present state.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, film is a medium that captures images with a camera and, when projected onto a screen, creates the illusion of continuous motion. Film can be classified into different genres.

COMEDY: Comedies are narratives that have joyful conclusions and distinct appearances and storylines. They intentionally organize these storylines to evoke humor and influence the audience’s emotions.

The comedy typically presents comical characters with distinct fixations, frequently displaying qualities like naivety, avarice, overindulgence, or desire. These characters amusingly demonstrate their relentless quest for absurd aspirations, emphasizing their shortcomings and lack of wisdom. Importantly, they remain oblivious to the potential mental or physical consequences of their behavior, which enhances the comedic impact.

TRAGDY: In this genre, the protagonist faces overwhelming dilemmas and participates in their own downfall. Tragedy showcases a human being who endures the worst without surrendering to self-defeat, but ultimately is subdued and suffers complete loss. Tragic characters often possess admirable traits such as ambition, patience, fortitude, self-confidence, intelligence, etc., which garner audience affection.

However, their shortcomings catch up with them eventually. They are often caught off guard and made aware that they have overestimated themselves. Typically, their misguided confidence includes a flaw that they have managed to conceal, but now must face the consequences of. The consequences of their downfall impact those around them. It is important to note that tragedies like these are not frequently depicted in popular forms of entertainment like movies. This is because audiences prefer to not see situations as hopeless or be burdened with misfortune. Nevertheless, these tragedies still exist.

MELODRAMA: Melodrama encompasses most films and focuses on intense emotions, thrilling adventures, and selfless acts for a noble purpose. It typically presents a clash between good and evil, with goodness ultimately prevailing. Melodramatic characters are defined by their dedication to a moral or social cause.

ADVENTURE: Adventure films and melodramas share similar traits, such as action, physical conflict, the clash between good and evil, first-hand experiences, and determination.

Adventure movies can either have classic fairy tale structures or follow traditional plots like those featuring a hero who starts off helpless but ultimately triumphs over a villain. These heroes are typically virtuous. The action in adventure films often unfolds in exotic locations like jungles or unfamiliar, hard-to-reach parts of cities. Thrillers, which are not a genre themselves but a characteristic found in many adventure and other films, focus on creating suspense and instilling fearful anticipation.

HORROR FILMS: Horror films are movies that elicit terrifying experiences that are perplexing and hard to comprehend. They evoke the sensation of encountering unfamiliar situations in familiar environments, where an unidentified threat disrupts the established safety. The use of low-key lighting is a significant technique employed in horror films to heighten the contrast between visible and invisible elements, as well as known and unknown aspects. Furthermore, dissonant music is utilized to create a feeling of disharmony. Horror films exploit the hidden fears residing within viewers’ subconscious minds, giving substance to their nameless dread.

SCIENCE FICTION: “Sc fi”, also known as films in this category, specialize in providing strange and mysterious experiences. They can be considered as sub-genres of horror or can stand alone. Their main characteristic is the portrayal of a future where current cultural trends have become dominant, often involving machines taking over human lives or a technological invasion by advanced cultures (usually aliens).

MUSIC VIDEO: A music video, also referred to as a musical, is a film primarily focused on music that frequently includes dance or movement. It highlights the skills of both the artist and composer through singing and dancing, delivering an immensely pleasurable musical encounter. Currently, music videos have gained significant popularity. Numerous ones are shot in a manner resembling short feature films, while certain ones are even as intricate and costly as full-length feature films, like R Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet”.

DOCUMENTARY: A documentary film captures different stages of existence or the process of accomplishing something, aiming to educate and enlighten viewers with factual information. Documentaries rely on research, making their content reliable. Examples include wildlife, historical developments, and political events.

BIOGRAPHY: Biographical films rely on real-life experiences to depict qualities like virtue, bravery, perseverance, and commitment. Through these movies, audiences are able to connect with famous individuals by witnessing their struggles and accomplishments.

The Purpose of Films

Film has countless functions that cannot all be addressed in this discussion. It is crucial to acknowledge that many of these functions are subjective, as they rely on the personal judgment of the person involved.

Film is known to perform several functions.

  • Entertainment: Film serves as a means of interesting and amusing people. This is one of the major functions that film performs. It gives people the opportunity to explore the lighter side of life which may or may not be realistic. It has been acknowledged that majority of movie audiences are aware that film is a make-believe. This simply shows their readiness to take part in a fantasy purely for the sake of entertainment.
  • Relaxation: This function is very similar to the previous one. In this case, film serves as a means of easing tension. After the tasking day’s or week’s work, some people love to watch film so as to ease the tension generated by the formal environment of their place of work.
  • Catharsis: Film has a catharsis function because it helps to purge people of negative emotions. It is believed that when people see characters in films undergo a dilemma similar to theirs, by weeping, they release their own pent up emotions.
  • Psychological Escape: In this case, film serves as a temporary anesthetic by helping to stop the feeling of pain (emotional or mental stress mostly). By being lost in the world created by film, people are able to temporarily forget about their problems and see that life can still be beautiful.
  • Creation of Heroes and Role Models: Whether deliberately or not, film creates role models. It has been observed particularly among children and also some adults that they try to imitate their favorite film heroes. This includes attempting to look, talk or even behave like them.
  • Mirroring the Society: Some films can serve as agents of change by mirroring the ills in the society and thereby call attention of their audiences to them. This creates general awareness and makes people conscious of such issues.
  • Education: Even though this is the least function of most films, it must still be noted that some films educate along with entertainment function. This is particularly true in the cases of biographies and true life stories.


Film is a collection of photos captured by a camera, depicting the movement of objects. When these images are projected on a screen, they give the impression of seamless motion.

Television is a technology that converts optical images into electrical signals and displays them on a distant screen. The visuals and sound are transmitted using radio waves or cable, received by an antenna, and transformed back into images on a television set. On the other hand, film functions as both a distinct medium and an art form in comparison to television.

In the current stage, our main objective is not to prove which one holds more importance, but rather to emphasize their major distinctions. These two significant forms of media vary in the following manners:

The development of film began in 1873, while television started about eleven years later in 1884.

Movies are bigger than life and movie stars are more glamorous than television stars.

  • Film is always pre-recorded while television had only live transmissions until 1951. Pre-recorded programs were introduced when Lucille Ball introduced syndication in 1951 and thereby making rerun possible.
  • Films are largely independent, but networks control what appears on the vast majority of local television stations.
  • Film has cinema audience while television has home audience.
  • Film is more expensive to produce while television production is cheaper.
  • Film contains only one type of program while television offers variety of programs to choose from.
  • Film is simply rated through the office box while television was initially rated through a rather complex process of an audiometer, and later changed to the use of people-meter.  Neither the audiometer nor the people-meter accurately served the purpose.

Well-known individuals in the field of film production

Film production involves multiple individuals and requires their cooperation. It is important to note that the following list does not encompass all involved parties, as there are many others who contribute. This discussion will focus on the primary participants in film production.

  • The Producer: The producer is the person who initiates the idea of production. This person may continue with his idea himself and become the actual producer or he may collaborate with someone who is a recognized producer. The producer provides for the financing of the project and therefore has the power over the production. He is also the chief business executive who is responsible for the film’s corporate management which includes business planning, insurance, contracting, hiring etc. Since his money is at stake, a producer most of the time gets involved with the casting process of the film.
  • The Director: The Director, who is also known as the artistic director, is in charge of all the film production. He is the film’s primary creative authority and is ultimately responsible for virtually everything that appears on the screen. The responsibilities of the director includes; casting (alongside the casting director; if any), coaching actors, arranging blockings, deciding camera shots, overseeing editing etc.
  • Production Manager: The production manager has the responsibility of running or managing the entire production. This means that he must ensure that all the materials that are needed for the production are available. He secures locations whether special or common, set props, and he makes sure that everybody needed is at the right place at the right time and doing the right thing. The production manager bears the weight of the whole production since he must effectively manage money, materials, equipments and people.
  • Script Writer: This is the person that creates the screenplay. He may be the originator of the story and wants to either market it or produce it himself. He may also be hired to write a screenplay based on a concept (story idea), a treatment (story outline of several pages or more, with character description), or an adaptation of a novel, play or short story.
  • Cast: This includes the players and walk-ons who make up the dramatic characters, that is, the stars that most people want to see, and the supporting players that people see whether they notice them or not. It also includes “extras”, who are ordinarily- people and are hired to fill out a street scene, hotel lobby or crowd. There are also the “stunts doubles” for lead players and other “stunts men” and “women” who crash the cars and take the falls, all being coordinated by a stunts coordinator. Dancers and martial artists are also part of the cast and their movements are designed by a choreographer. Camera doubles” stand in place of stars while cameras are focused and the set lit.
  • Director of Photography: Or the cinematographer is the artist and technician that is responsible for the photographic look of the film. He is also responsible for the film’s lighting, color values, visual texture and framing. Since all the filming processes cumulate in the final outlook, a bad cinematographer can destroy the whole process. The cinematographer has three principal assistants and they are: the camera operator (who actually operates the camera), the focus- puller and the clapper loader.
  • Production designer: This artist is also known as the set designer or the art director. Though he, along with the director and the cinematographer are responsible for the look of the film, he is primarily responsible for designing and creating each set according to the budget and expected strategies for each shot. The job of the production designer also includes drawing or commissioning of sketches and architectural drawings of rooms, buildings, facades, huge flat paintings used as backdrops, or even streets; all of these being subjected to the mood, period, and even dramatic necessity. He also supervises the construction of these sets or the selection and preparation of the “real” location if actual buildings and places are being used.
  • Costume Designer: This artist selects all the clothing worn by the players in different parts of the film. It is also the responsibility of the designer to design special clothing with due regard for the required action e. g. rough fighting, comic tearing or vigorous dancing. The costumes can be “day-to-day costumes”, “special costumes” or “periodic costumes”.
  • Make-up Artist: this is the artist that is concerned with the look of the natural body of the actors. Make-up is applied to the natural body of actors so as to either enhance their looks or transform them into the character they are playing. The make-up effect can be straight, character or fantastic.
  • Composer: the composer, who is also known as the music director composes or selects music to be heard during the film. The music can be classical or popular, symphonic or guitar, traditional or modern. If an existing sound track is needed, the composer makes the arrangement for obtaining the copyright for the music. On the other hand, if a fresh music is needed, he composes the music and arranges for the performance.
  • Sound Director: this artist has the responsibility of ensuring quality sound output of the film. He works with other professionals such as the sound recorder, boom operator, sound editor, mixer, balancer, dubber, e. t. c. 12. Editor: the editor handles the editing of the production. He selects good ‘shots’ and ‘takes’ from among the numerous ones taken on location, and arranges them together. He also arranges the shots not according to the sequence by which they were taken, but according to scene in the script.


Film production relies on various crucial equipment. These include the pen used by scriptwriters to write scripts and the camera operated by cameramen to shoot scenes. While all film production equipment is essential, this analysis will concentrate solely on the main ones. To do this, we will explore them within the four key departments of film technical activities: visual, audio, lighting, and editing.

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Introduction to Film Cinema and Literature. (2018, Mar 08). Retrieved from

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