Movies and Film

Employment History

Originally, the hundreds of jobs that now exist in filmmaking were done by one or two people. For the Lumières at first, the writers and directors were also the cinematographers; they also edited and exhibited their own films. Méliès performed some of his special effects "in the camera," while filming. Even later, some filmmakers retained a large measure of control over the creation of their own films. As we have discussed elsewhere (see "Film Directing"), even in the 1930s Charles Chaplin wrote, directed, produced, scored, and starred in his own films. Even today, some independent film directors have to do a large measure of the work themselves because there simply is not enough money for a full film crew.

But the tendency for greater diversification inevitably arose as a result of two influences. First, movies were invented and flourished in an industrial society very much committed to the idea of the assembly line: a series of people each of whom performs a specialized task that results in the production of an artifact or service with the greatest possible speed and efficiency. So the camera operator ultimately separates from the editor because it is more efficient for one person to know one job well. (Though more efficient is not always the same as more aesthetically desirable.)

Second, as film moved from the one-reeler to the feature, and as the technology of film became so complicated that it was almost impossible for a single person to understand the techniques of each category of work, more people were required to produce a movie. The job subcategories split again and again, until the camera crew could include literally dozens of people. New categories were created: dialogue coaches during the introduction of sound, for example.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Movies and Film © 2001 by Mark Winokur and Bruce Holsinger. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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