Chapter XXXIX


Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)

pp. 173-175

When a motion picture camera man is assigned for duty at the European firing line he knows well enough that adventures will figure prominently in his work.

But in spite of his romantic calling, he is constantly reminded of the practical side of his work.

He earns, it is true, considerably more than the war correspondent but he merits every bit of it, believe me.

He will, if he has common sense, trust himself to Shank's pony when moving to and from the firing line. On his arm he carries his trusty camera, and strapped to his back probably a sack which contains an extra supply of film and a few other necessaries to tide him over until he returns to more peaceful regions. On account of his equipment his presence does not arouse unnecessary suspicion and therefore the chances of his being arrested as a spy are minimized.

One cinematographer had daring enough to disguise himself as an army chaplain, in which capacity he passed many difficult points unchallenged.

The camera is different from that used for ordinary purposes in that bullet proof shields are attached so as to protect the operator from stray shells. It is positively remarkable how the enemy in hiding will mistake it for a machine gun.

The camera man is liable to be caught at any time and have his film and machine destroyed. Even if he gets it over to England for exhibition in that country it may be rejected by the censor appointed for that purpose or else his most exciting sections will be deleted. All this, as you can appreciate, means waste of perfectly good film, travelling expenses and the operator's time. Then should he have the greatest misfortune of all -- the loss of his camera -- his employers have to write down a loss of something like two hundred dollars.

One of our leading film producing companies received a consignment of film from their men in Europe. It was only two hundred feet in length, yet it incurred an expense of fourteen thousand perfectly good dollars. It was such a costly morsel of negative because it represented two weeks' work on the part of three operators.

But if fillers like these cost so much, it is certain that most or all of the outlay is recovered when a four reel motion picture made up of such items yields (as a certain one recently yielded) ten thousand dollars profit within a few weeks of its release.

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