THE OBSTACLES ENCOUNTERED IN
Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)
The animated newspaperman is no respector of persons. Naturally, over in Europe, the greatest scoop he can secure is a rattling good picture of an event in which royalty has participated. It is no ordinary proposition, for barriers which are practically non-existent on other occasions soon begin to present themselves.
Royalties are like gold -- precious --and this being the case they have to be zealously guarded. How are the authorities to know that the motion picture camera and the man operating it from a prominent position are not a cloak for some outrage? False credentials have been used before now to gain some object.
British royalty probably enjoys more freedom than that of any other nation, though this is not to say that due precautions are not taken. When a royal procession or an event in which royalty takes part is held, the route they intend traversing is generally announced beforehand. This affords the cinematographer scope to select the best position. But other operators employed by other producers are doing the same thing, so he and the competition is keen. I have known instances -- and they are by no means rare -- in which crank turners have made a rough and ready sleeping place of the best position they have discovered and mounted guard over this all night with their trustworthy camera so as to be on the spot the next day. Then when the policeman comes around, they have to get an O.K. on their credentials.
When the King and Queen attended an important horse-race, it was rumored that the militant suffragettes would make an attack on the Royal automobile, so every suspicious character was kept out of the way. The police even forbade cinematographers to be in attendance. The latter fact got to the ears of King George, who forthwith had the ban removed, for he is an ardent admirer of the motion picture and realises that the camera men perform a public service. If questioned, he would no doubt figure it out in this way: "Only a few thousands of the millions of my countrymen throughout the world can see the part I play in this event, but a motion picture can convey it to all my loyal subjects, whether they reside in Scotland or Australia. It is, in fact, next to seeing the thing."
In Germany, red tape is a greater evil. The operators are asked the most searching questions by the authorities and have to make the best they can of the position, which is seldom satisfactory, allotted to them. They also have to promise not to export the film without submitting it to be deleted of military information of any value to a foreign power. These rules were in force before the war, but what they must be like now is something to conjecture.
The films taken under such conditions are not even allowed to be shown in their unaltered state in the Fatherland, for a certain film company unknowingly infringed the rule. The picture which caused all the trouble depicted the entry of the Emperor William's daugher and finance into Berlin. This was put on at the Berlin movie shows on the same evening and the police intervened and confiscated all the copies in circulation. It really makes me wonder whether some of our high and mighty censor boards are imitating the foolish German method.
Russia has long been recognised as a country where the iron rule is felt in all things. Such has proved the case with the motion picture. The Czar evidently values his dignity highly, for the masses of the nation have always been kept at a safe distance on his appearances in public.
Although the cinematographers are now more greatly restricted than was the case in the past, I do know that when a monument was erected to the memory of Alexander III in Moscow, a dauntless operator succeeded in filming the Imperial Family at as close a distance as three yards -- a feat which has never before been accomplished at a Russian official ceremony.
It has now been discovered that motion pictures of these events tend to place the Emperor on quite intimate terms with his subjects.
The Russian Ministry of the Interior has taken action by laying down new rules for the showing of films of this class. To begin with, each film must be seen by the Court Minister before it can be publicly displayed. If it passes him, the theaters running it are not permitted to play music, not even the National Anthem, while it occupies the screen. Next, it has to be announced on the program as a special item. Thirdly, to distinguish it from the other pictures, a curtain must be lowered beforehand and go up when the film comes on, the process being repeated at the conclusion. Rules like these would drive an American exhibitor -- or any American for that matter, with a positive dislike for formality -- to distraction.
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