Silent film notes for 4/1/17

  • Silent film is an oxymoron;
  • The silent film  era is from 1895 to 1929;
  • Silent films were for the working class people, who were illiterate, saw this as ideal, easy-to-access entertainment;
  • In 1900, it approached being for the middle class, having the films based on novels, because they could read;
  • The films industry was evenly spread over Italy, France and the United States;
  • Due to the effect of the First World War, the US had the upper hand in  the industry, as the studios had been flattened in France and Italy by the bombing;
  • From 1907 to  1913, the US film industry moved from New York to LA, due the weather being sunny, therefore providing better lighting. this became known as Hollywood;
  •  Movements in this era include German Expressionism, which  came from Berlin, from  a mega studio called UFA;
  • Bold costumes, bold make-up, melodramatic, mise-en-scene that is psychologically expressive, clothes that tell you about a character, just by what they are wearing;
  • Soviet montages that use different shot types and dynamic juxtaposition for an intellectual and emotional response, changing the mind of the viewer and making them think;
  • French Avant-garde, which  is influenced by  surrealism and dadaism, in which there would likely be a non-native dreamscape, using symbolism (semiotics) to  externalise psychology of character.
  • Danced was used as another method as expression.



  • Starred in and created a short called “The Tramp”;
  • The costume featured baggy  trousers, bowler hat, oversized shoes, a suit, a cane and a cropped moustache;
  • Character was clear, courageous, ingenious, romantic, vulnerable, socially awkward;
  • Chaplin would criticise authority.


Buster Keaton

  • Vaudeville;
  • Philosophical humour, always being in grave danger, in which  catastrophic action  threatens life;
  • he performed his own  stunts, very precisely timed and rehearsed, being actually in danger in real life;
  • A famous film of his was “The General”, did well years after it was made, as it was a box office flop.


Harold Lloyd

  • Character wore round glasses, straw hat and an unkempt suit;
  • “Fool & Fox”;
  • Outsmart the bad guy just in time;
  • Once the Talkies arrived, he carried on and continued to be successful;
  • Used perspective in his films, for example in his film “Clock”;
  • Died 23 years after his last feature.


Silent films are shot at 16 fps, 25 fps being that of video, 24 fps being that of film.

Film can be shot at 24 fps and in  colour and be made into 16 fps and in monochrome.



  1. Watch Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Chaplin.
  2. watch film without sound, as we are telling a story with pictures alone.
  3. Use camera phone to capture stills.
  4. Look at some French mime.



  1. No dull shots.
  2. Instead use movement, gesture and dance, more physical forms of expression. dance would display an air of romance.
  3. Smaller movements are important, the subtle movement of eyebrow or a smile or the wrinkle of the nose.
  4. Actors with diverse look, using their body  and face.
  5. Location, noise is not an issue, so  it can be however loud as possible. But, it has to be interesting.
  6. Cinematography, black and white, tinting (sepia). Embrace the fantastic.
  7. Edit, titling, which  helps with the chronology  of the piece and the pace is also important.

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