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Lecture Library

The Edison and Lumiére Assignment
by Kate Fortmueller

Each student must make a 30 sec. - 1 min. film inspired by the films of Edison or the Lumiére Brothers. This lecture provides assignment details as well as clips and questions to inspire Lumiére or Edison updates.

Your task is to make a 30 second to 1-minute film inspired by the films of the Lumiére brothers or Edison. That inspiration can be formal (how you compose your shots), thematic (the types of activities depicted), or conceptual (for example in engaging some aspect of modern life).


We encourage you to stretch yourself when selecting your subject.  Rather than simply reproducing the activities of the Edison and Lumiére subjects, consider why Edison and Lumiére may have thought that their subjects were worthy of filming and what they might choose to film today.

For example: Eugen Sandow's body was considered a spectacle in 1894, but what kinds of bodies are spectacles in the 2010s? Consider who and what you see in magazines (for example, the ESPN Body issue)

Consider taking an Edison or Lumiére title as a provocation and come up with your own contemporary interpretation or think of an entirely new subject, but one that has resonance with the preoccupations and concerns of filmmakers at the turn of the twentieth century.


A two-page written justification that articulates how your project was influenced by or dialogues with the early filmmaking traditions we have studied must accompany your video.  In this paper you should discuss your film in relation to the films we screened in class, lecture, and the assigned readings on early cinema.


Please note, that your film does not have to be nostalgic in look or tone. You may visually alter your film if you like, but any alterations must be explained and justified in your paper.  Edison and the Lumiére brothers did not try to make their films “look old” – they wanted to use their new technology.  This means that if you alter the film you should be considering how your aesthetic decisions relate to the technology you are using and the overall subject of your film.


  • You must use a Flip camera, your cell phone camera, iPad camera, or the camera on a digital still camera.  No exceptions.  The goal is to work with the types of technological constraints that early filmmakers had to work with.
  • In-camera editing only.
  • Natural or existing light only.
  • Everyone must make his or her own film.  You may share a camera, but this is not a collaborative assignment.