"The Daily Alaska Dispatch"

December 8, 1910

                                                     MAKING MOTION FILMS

                                                                     FOR PICTURE SHOWS


               Los Angeles Moving Picture Headquarters for the Pacific Coast--Small

                    Army of Actors Employed


    Los Angeles, Cal., Nov. 28.--You pay 10 cents to see a moving picture show. But did it ever occur to you that the actors and actresses receive the highest salaries they ever drew in their lives?

   This is entirely true if they are actors of any prominence--and many of them are. It is an industry of great proportion, is full of interest and exceedingly profitable.

   I investigated the moving picture industry at the Pacific coast branch of the Selig Polyscope company in Edendale, near here. The studio is enclosed in staff walls which have the appearance of a fort. Passing the arched gate, I turned to the right and entered a long green building which contains airy dressing rooms and the offices of the manager, Francis Boggs, and the clerical forces. Actors and actresses stood about with light make up on their faces or came out of the dressing rooms freshly washed up, for it was late afternoon and the company was just finishing work for the day.

    I looked over the extensive grounds, took in the tent on one side of the enclosure, the automobiles standing about and the stage properties scattered here and there and delivered the result of my observations to Mr. Boggs.

   "This place is a regular village. You have everything but a menagerie and I suppose that is somewhere about?" The manager smiled.

    "The menagerie is in Chicago," he said. "We have an entire city block there and all sorts of animals. This studio is a comparatively small part of the business."

    "You have a lot of people."

    "We have many more than you see. We carry an extra list of over 100. This large extra list is necessary because this business is fertile in causes of sickness. I have several men laid up now from a recent trip up Mount Shasta."

     "So there are reasons for the big salaries?"

     "Yes, but there are other reasons than the dangers. The company is trying to get better talent and so raise the tone of the films. The work is new, and some actors are reluctant to take it up. We paid one prominent actor in Chicago $1,000 for four days' work."

     "And did you really kill a bear and a lion? There are films here showing these animals being killed."

     "The bear had become a nuisance in the Chicago plant, and the lion had been condemned by a circus, so the company bought him and did the execution. It did not hurt them any worse to be photographed as they were killed. People demand realism."

     Next morning I was on hand as the company trooped up a hill at the back of the plant. We passed a barn yard full of chickens and calves used in giving mild local color to the views, and stopped at the cottage which you have seen in so many moving pictures. The operator set the camera in an open space about 25 feet from the actors. A tendril of a grape vine was swinging in front of the camera and I asked if it should not be tied back as the papyrus plants had been.

     "No," said the operator, "it is more natural to have it moving across the path."

     The company was rehearsing the play, speaking the words just as if they were in a theatre. This is necessary in order to get the facial expressions true to life. Suddenly the operator called out:

     "All ready; action," and the scene went forward without a hitch.

     "That will be a good film, won't it?" I asked him.

     "Can't tell until we try it," he replied. "Here comes Boggs now to tell us to do yesterday's work over."

     "Humph," said the leading man. "This business is getting to be 'give us this day our daily make-over.'"

     I asked if many films were spoiled.

     "Quite a number," said the operator, "and when you remember that this company is responsible to the Chicago firm for 60 1,000-foot films a year the make-overs mean some work."

     "How many pictures to a foot?"

     "Sixteen," was the reply.

     As we passed into the tent to witness the production of an indoor scene a fat actor, who was sitting by the door resting, said:

     "Here they are letting all this nice warm weather go by and not making that Capt. Kidd picture, and I am scheduled to jump into the sea. I'll bet they wait until it is cold and cloudy, and then I'll catch my death."

     "You folks earn your salaries, don't you?" I asked.

     "You bet we do," said the fat actor. "I saw them break the ice on a tank in Chicago and a fellow had to jump in. This job is pleasant because it is out of doors mostly, but it isn't any holy picnic, by a darn sight."


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