DECLARES CECIL B. DeMILLE
from MOTOGRAPHY January 29, 1916.
AS a result of experiments which he has carried on for more than a year and principles which he has applied in many important productions, Cecil B. De Mille, director general of the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, makes the interesting announcement that he believes it is a scientific possibility to heighten dramatic effects by the employment of different shading in lighting effects.
Mr. De Mille’s recent production, “The Golden Chance,” in which Wallace Reid and Cleo Ridgley appeared as the stars, is cited by him as an instance where he successfully used these new principles of photoplay production which he has discovered and which he is making public for the first time.
That the next important step in the development of the motion picture is to come through an extraordinary advance in the mechanical process of making motion pictures has frequently been declared by persons within the motion picture industry. Since the great vogue of the motion picture, its various features have been the subject of constant study and laboratory analysis. Mr. De Mille, almost from the beginning of his association as director general with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, started to work on an entirely new track.
“When I first entered the photodramatic field,” said Mr. De Mille, “I was greatly interested in socalled artistic photography, but was not sure that it could be applied to motion picture work. It was possible to secure certain effects on a highly sensitive plate, all conditions being favorable, but I was very much in doubt if the same result could be obtained on the infinitesimal negative of the motion picture camera. I began experimenting, however.
“My desire was to create certain psychological impressions by the use of what I now call ‘artistic’ photography. I felt that it must be possible to photograph .an artistic background with the background moving instead of motionless. I spent many months experimenting. Finally, I produced ‘The Rose of the Rancho,’ using the impressionistic school of art in many of the scenes. I made this production with much
misgiving because I knew that an effect gone wrong was worse than no effect at all. When the negatives of this production reached the commercial firm that did our printing, they were at a loss what to do. They were accustomed to printing so that every detail would show and when they saw only half a man’s face, they did not know how to set their lights to get the proper effects, and, consequently, some of the prints, were quite a mess.
“While ‘The Rose of the Rancho’ attracted a great deal of interest, I believe we have now taken a great step forward in the further application. As a result of further experiments and almost endless work, I have come to the conclusion that lighting effects as applied to motion pictures have the definite characteristics of music; that artistic lighting in the motion picture assumes precisely the same value in the photodrama that music assumes in the spoken drama. I have found that emphasizing or softening certain dramatic points in the motion picture, can be realized by the discriminating use of light effects, in just the same way that the dramatic climax in a play can be helped or impaired by the music accompanying it, and working on this principle I came to feel that the theme of the picture should be carried in its photography.
“In our production of ‘The Cheat,’ one of the principal characters is a Japanese. In photographing this I endeavored to carry out the Japanese school of art by making my backgrounds sinister and using abrupt, bold light effects. In fact, the lighting of this picture definitely suggests the ‘clang’ and smash of Japanese music. In ‘Carmen,’ however, the Rembrandt idea was followed. The lighting and grouping of the characters in the soft shadows were all worked out in keeping with the ‘school’ of that famous master.
“As a general thing, light effects are out of place in comedy. There you will notice our lighting is clear and brilliant, corresponding to the faster light comedy theme in music, except in the melodramatic scenes, where we carry our audience into thrills, not only by the action of the artists, but by a change in the mood of our photography.”