1890s But filmmaking has always been a mobile industry…

The film industry had international interests almost from the start.  By the late 1890s, for example, American and French filmmakers were already shooting in Canada at Niagara Falls (Gasher 1995).  The American movie industry has, since its inception, relied on a wide range of international talent and locations. For example, in the early years, “motion picture production” often meant the theft of a foreign product.[1] This production method saved the Americans from the costs of actors and other crew, the problem of coming up with a story, and almost all the difficulties involved in the process.


[1] Fred Balshofer, who later became one of the largest early independent producers, got his start in Philadelphia in 1905 at Siegmund Lubin’s company. Gold letters on the plate glass on the front of Lubin’s store read, “Manufacturer of Moving Pictures.”  Balshofer’s job was to make duplicates of French films from Pathé Frères and Mèliés.  Part of his work was to paint over the French companies’ trademarks on the celluloid.  Once, while he was screening a film for a prospective customer, the man yelled, “Stop the machine!”  In a rage, the man thumped on his chest and bellowed, “I made that picture.  I am Georges Mèliés from Paris.” Lubin walked in and complained to Mèliés how hard it had been for Balshofer to paint over the trademark and left the room laughing.  Speechless, Mèliés, “stamped out of the room” (Balshofer & Miller 1967:6-9).   (International intellectual property rights were not at that time as well-defined as they are today.)

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