S. Porter joined the Vitascope Marketing Company in 1895 where
his experience with electrical engineering was called into
Whilst at Vitascope, Porter was central in the
organisation of the first projected movie show in New York
on the 23rd April 1896. He continued to use his engineering
skills in the laboratory at Edisonís Manufacturing Company
but left to become a freelance projectionist at the Eden Musee
Theatre in 1898.
Whilst working as a projectionist, one of Porterís
many duties included the illegal duplication of Méliès
films. He would take apart one act reels and combine several
of these into a fifteen minute programme.
In addition, he attempted to create his own
camera and projector but his efforts were in vain and in 1900
he returned to Edisonís Company not in an engineering capacity
but as a producer and director at Edisonís East 21st Street
A fan of the films of Georges Méliès,
Porter tried to emulate the trick photography which Méliès
had introduced to the world and had proved incredibly successful,
in films such as 'The Finish of Bridget McKeen' (1901) and
'Jack and the Beanstalk' (1902). Porter was also one of the
first directors to shoot at night in his 'Pan-American Exposition
Porterís skill with editing and methods of projection
were used to great effect in some of his earliest films. He
combined documentary footage with his own footage in films
like 'The Execution of Czoyosz' (which he made with actor
and set painter George S. Fleming); in 'Life of an American
Fireman' he adopted a documentary style of filmmaking .
'Life of an American Fireman' combined stock
actuality footage of fires, firemen and fire engines with
dramatised scenes which Porter shot, this juxtaposition added
tension and release to the film making it truly dramatic in
contemporary setting, unlike Méliès whose filmatic
drama was derived from his filmsí fantasy settings.
Porter was convinced, from the audience reaction
that he had discovered a new way of telling stories and developed
his ideas the following year with the release of 'The Great
Train Robbery', perhaps the most influential film of that
'The Great Train Robbery' benefited from a strong
storyline, well composed, sophisticated camera work and an
excellent climax, joined together by Porterís excellent use
Although it was not the first 'Western', 'The
Great Train Robbery' was the first Epic Western, which boasted
a cast of forty actors working to an actual script.
During his time at Edison, he made many films
for the company, in fact he was the mainstay of their film
production for over five years. He left in 1909 and took senior
production posts with a number of new independent companies.
Six years later, In 1915 Porter returned to
his firs enthusiasm - projectors and remained involved with
projection for the rest of his working life.