A History of Screenwriting – 10 in a series – Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)

I teach several classes for the Stephens College Low-Residency MFA in Screenwriting, including History of Screenwriting. In fact, I created the curriculum for that course from scratch and customized it to this particular MFA in that it covers ‘Screenwriting’ (not directors) and even more specifically, the class has a female-centric focus.  As part History of Screenwriting I, the first course in the four-class series, we focus on the early women screenwriters of the silent film era  who male historians have, for the most part, quietly forgotten in their books. In this series, I share with you some of the screenwriters and films that should be part of any screenwriters education. I believe that in order  to become a great screenwriter, you need to understand the deep history of screenwriting and the amazing people who created the career. — Dr. Rosanne Welch

Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)

Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)

The earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture, the Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze is a short film made by W. K. L. Dickson in January 1894 for advertising purposes. Often referred to as “Fred Ott’s Sneeze,” this is is one of the world’s earliest motion pictures and America’s best known early film production. The star is Fred Ott, an Edison employee known to his fellow workers in the laboratory for his comic sneezing and other gags. This item was received in the Library of Congress on January 9, 1894, as a copyright deposit from Dickson.

Two other Edison experimental films on the Library’s YouTube site – DICKSON GREETING (May 1891) and NEWARK ATHLETE (May or June 1891), predate The Sneeze. The Sneeze was submitted for copyright as 45 frames from the motion picture printed as positive prints on paper rather than as a reel of film. The prints were mounted on cardboard and submitted to the Copyright Office in this form. The video of the Sneeze on loc.gov and YouTube was later rephotographed and turned into a moving image from these mounted frames.

Film made for publicity purposes, as a series of still photographs to accompany an article in Harper’s weekly.

Fred Ott’s sneeze 

United States : Edison Manufacturing Co., 1894.

Copyright: W. K. L. Dickson; 9Jan1894; 2887. 

Performer: Fred Ott. 

Camera, William Heise. 

Filmed ca. January 2-7, 1894, in Edison’s Black Maria studio. 

Motion picture industry–Public relations–United States.

Dickson, W. K.-L. (William Kennedy-Laurie), 1860-1935, production.
Ott, Frederic P., performer.
Heise, William, camera.
Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 
Hendricks (Gordon) Collection (Library of Congress) 
Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) 

edmp.0026A http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mbrsmi/edmp.0026A

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