What I love most about film is the element of surprise it brings to storytelling. The places you are able to explore and the characters you get to meet are a big part of films that create experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
Although the characters and the worlds in a movie are what you most often remember about it, I’ve always been inspired by the people behind the camera; the ones creating the stories.
So, today, I’ll be going back and learning more about who started it all, what influences they have had on modern cinema, and why they matter.
Georges Méliès – The Early 20th Century
George Méliès was born on December 8, 1961 in Paris, France. Before becoming a monumental figure in the film industry, he was a professional magician who later became inspired by the Lumière Brothers and their work in the late 1800’s. Wanting to pursue his artistic dreams, Méliès purchased the necessities to create films of his own that would inspire the generations to come. He is known for his revolutionary work in the visionary aspect of film, and his discoveries included stop and slow motion, dissolve, fade-out, superimposition, and double exposure. His film Le Voyage dans la Lune (“A Trip to the Moon”) was made in 1902. The story was inspired by the novels of Jules Verne such as Around the Moon and From the Earth to the Moon. The international success of Méliès’ film was due to its distinguished character, narrative personality, and visual innovations. I was pretty curious of how this film compares to today’s, so I watched it. The detail of the set design was pretty impressive and the music quality was really good, too. I have a link down below and I recommend watching it if you’re interested in what film was like over a century ago.
“Fairy tales only happen in movies.” – George Méliès
Orson Welles – The 1940’s
Orson Welles was born on May 6, 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Welles had a difficult childhood; by the time he was thirteen, both his mother and father passed away due to jaundice and alcoholism. Maurice Bernstein took Orson in at the age of fifteen and enrolled him into the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois which allowed him to follow his passion of theater. The self-discovery of Welles led him to become present in the world of Broadway, guiding him to many opportunities in Hollywood, California. In 1941, Welles’ most prized film Citizen Kane was released. He not only starred in the film, but also directed it and co-wrote it. The film focused on a newspaperman’s rise and fall, and the dark elements of the film caused a low box office turnout, but was nominated for an impressive nine Academy Awards. The film was revolutionary; it was told from multiple perspectives and used new cinematographic techniques never previously seen in film-making, such as deep focus and low angle shots.
“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”– Orson Welles
Alfred Hitchcock – The 1960’s
Alfred Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899 in London, England. The harshness of Hitchcock’s childhood was reflected in several of his films. He described his childhood as being “sheltered” due to his obesity, and the punishments he faced as a child greatly influenced the kinds of messages and characters he portrayed in his works. Before creating movies of his own, he took art courses at the University of London and worked at various companies, such as the Famous-Player’s Lasky Company and Henley’s. Alfred Hitchcock directed his first film in 1925, and astounded the industry and audiences across the globe with his unique and thrilling version of storytelling. In the early 40’s, Hitchcock relocated from England to Hollywood. Turning heads, his first American film Rebecca (1940) won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Throughout his career, Hitchcock was dubbed the, “Master of Suspense” due to his psychological thrillers like The Birds (1963) and Psycho (1960). Hitchcock will go down for the iconic scenes in his film and for redefining a genre that continues to be appreciated today.
“For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.” – Alfred Hitchcock
Francis Ford Coppola – The 1970’s
Francis Ford Coppola was born on April 7, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan. As a child, Coppola had polio and was unable to do regular childhood activities and had to remain in bed. As a creative outlet, he put on his own puppet shows. Early in his life, Coppola knew he wanted to pursue film and went to Hofstra University in New York to study theater. In 1970, Coppola gained attention for his film Patton, even acquiring an Academy Award. Just a couple of years later, one of the most influential films, The Godfather, was released and widely praised for its accurate and realistic portrayal of the Mafia and its star-making performance by Al Pacino and Academy Award winning performance by Marlon Brando. In 1979, Coppola’s film about the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now, astounded audiences due to its gritty and negative portrayal of war, and also discussed the psychological effects war can have on soldiers.
“I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians.” – Francis Ford Coppola
Steven Spielberg – The 1980’s
Steven Spielberg was born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a child, Spielberg moved around frequently and spent some of his childhood in Arizona. He was also an amateur filmmaker and later became one of Universal’s youngest directors for television in the 60’s, and worked on a film for television called Duel (1972). Just three years later, Spielberg’s first grand-scale film, Jaws, hit theaters and became one of the most commercially successful films of all-time, grossing $470 million. Spielberg dominated the 1980’s, with films like Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and also produced timeless classics like The Goonies (1985) Back to the Future (1985). One of Spielberg’s most cherished films E.T. (1982) graced the big-screen with its magical qualities and sci-fi elements that forever changed the decade. His work continued through the 90’s, entering the dramatic scene with Jurassic Park (1993) and depictions of history and wartime in Schindler’s List (1993), which won him his first ever Academy Award for Directing, and Saving Private Ryan (1988). Even in the 21st century, Spielberg continues to attract audiences to theaters due to his legacy that continues to live on, with films like The Post (2017) and Ready Player One (2018).
“The public has an appetite for anything about imagination – anything that is as far away from reality as is creatively possible.” – Steven Spielberg
Quentin Tarantino – The 1990’s
Quentin Tarantino was born on March 27, 1963 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He discovered his love for film at a young age due to most of his childhood taking place in California. Tarantino dropped out of high school due to his preference to express creativity. Although he wasn’t too fond of school, he did enjoy the subject of history, saying “…history was cool and I did well there, because it was kind of like the movies.” Tarantino’s directorial debut Reservoir Dogs (1992) wowed audiences and allowed him to establish a name for himself in the industry. A couple years later, Quentin Tarantino’s most popular film Pulp Fiction gained recognition for its apparent portrayal of violence and interwoven storytelling, and at the age of 29, he took home the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Tarantino’s film helped shed light on independent films, and Pulp Fiction was not only a success among critics, but was the first indie to take home over $108 million. He continues telling stories that cause discussion, and even controversy, with films like Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012).
“Violence is one of the most fun things to watch.” – Quentin Tarantino
Christopher Nolan – The 21st Century
Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. From a young age, he enjoyed film-making, and at age 7 he made his first short film. Although he was born in England, Christopher’s mother was American, and he traveled between Chicago and London throughout his childhood. He attended the University College London and studied English literature. In 1998, Nolan’s directorial debut Following stunned audiences with its unconventional storytelling that is reflected in his first widely known film, Memento (2001). The film racked up two Academy Award nominations and prompted Nolan’s career to skyrocket. In the early 2000’s, Warner Brothers Studios approached Nolan about directing a new trilogy with the titular character being Batman. Nolan followed up the first installment of the trilogy with what is widely known as the greatest comic book movie of all time, The Dark Knight (2008). The Dark Knight was the first comic book adaptation to put an emphasis on the antagonist of the story, The Joker, iconically portrayed by Heath Ledger who won a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The movie differentiated itself from the comic book landscape. Rather than focusing on typical comic-book movie tropes, it separated itself by being a dark and gritty thriller. After The Dark Knight, Nolan baffled audiences with his mind-bending and non-linear narratives Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014), and recently Dunkirk (2017).
“Every film has its own world, a logic and feel to it that expands beyond the exact image that the audience is seeing.” – Christopher Nolan
“…and that’s a wrap!”
Today, I learned a lot. Some of the filmmakers I researched have inspired me to not only value film as mere entertainment, but as devices to communicate a bigger idea about life itself.
I hope this blog post taught you something new!