Preeminent figure among early American filmmakers and one of the first to use techniques such as closeups and intercutting for narrative purposes. Porter was a projectionist, inventor and entrepreneur before starting work in 1900 for the Edison company, where he was soon promoted to head of film production. By 1901 he was making multi-shot films such as “The Execution of Czolgosz”, a drama about the execution of US President McKinley’s assassin which juxtaposed documentary footage of the prison with a staged dramatization of the execution itself.
Porter’s first major achievement was “The Life of an American Fireman” (1902), usually considered a landmark work thanks to its sophisticated editing techniques. The film cuts back and forth between the interior and exterior of a burning building in order to heighten dramatic effect, and is thus frequently cited as the first American use of editing in order to “drive” a narrative. (An alternative print of the film was recently discovered… read more