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In the beginning of film, there were no directors; there were only cameramen. The first movies had no plot, only the real-life silent spectacles of 1890s street traffic, ballerinas dancing coquettishly, armies on parade, and most famously, in 1895, a locomotive that seemed to be bearing down on the thrilled, frightened audiences of the fairgrounds.
By the turn of the century, two new elements would give lasting shape to what we came to call “the movies”: scripts and actors. They’d been together in the theater practically forever, of course, and now those masks of comedy and tragedy had a technician with a cine camera to record them for distant audiences. Well into the first decades of silent, ten-minute films, their production was loosely supervised, usually by the main actors.