The title may suggest Thomas Edison in New York: the Lumière Brothers in Paris: even the Skladanowsky Brothers in Berlin. In fact the events in the film took place in Leeds in West Yorkshire. Here in 1888 Louis le Prince shot several short film sequences onto a paper-backed cellulose strip using a camera that he designed and constructed. Recent research has shown that Le Prince was also working on the use of celluloid for the film rolls and was developing a projection system.
The signs of this key pioneer filmmaker can seen around Leeds. The display at the Oakwood Clock shows the site of a Roundhay Garden where he filmed two sequences. There is a Blue Plaque on Leeds Bridge where he filmed another sequence. There is a second Blue Plaque alongside the old BBC Building by the University to mark the site of his workshop. And there is an unmarked house in Chapeltown where he resided for a time.
People who attended the 1988 Leeds International Film Festival will remember how this celebrated the centenary of Le Prince’s pioneering films, including a restaging of the filming on Leeds Bridge. The Metropolitan University Film School used to have copies of the individual frames mounted on the stairwell and you could examine these as you ascended.
Both the Armley Industrial Museum and the National Media Museum have displays and artefacts about Le Prince. And the Museum has a series of online pages on his career, his cameras and his films.
However you are less likely to come across Le Prince outside of the city and he is even not always credited in academic histories of early cinema. This is because the life of Le Prince involves not just a first but also a mystery. This new film, a labour of love over many years by filmmaker David Nicholas Wilkinson’s explores the life of the Pioneer, his film work and the unexplained events that meant that he failed to gain the recognition he deserved.
The screening at the Picture House is a Charity Premiere. There will be introductions, examples of Le Prince’s technology and in the film itself the audience will be able to see these creations from over a century ago.