Cecil Hepworth came to moving pictures from a background of Magic Lanterns. His father was a popular magic lantern entertainer and it was here that a young Hepworth developed an interest in projecting pictures.
His childhood was spent assisting his father with his lantern shows and toured the country attending many lectures. His interest in the projection of both still and moving picture continued when in 1896 he began touring with his own mixed slide and film show.
His technical knowledge of photography equipment and the art of moving pictures, built up from the many lectures he attended as a child, led Hepworth to publish the first handbook on the medium of film entitled 'Animated Photography' and it was in 1898 when he began making films for Charles Urban, who had recently arrived in London as manager of what would eventually become the Warwick Trading Company.
Hepworth set up a laboratory in 1899 and by 1900 he was releasing a hundred films a year. He was primarily a producer more than an actual film-maker but did on occasion, write, direct, edit, photograph and star in many films, however many of the films credited to him were in fact the work of his associated Percy Slow and Lewin Fitzhamon, the latter co-directed perhaps Hepworth’s most celebrated work 'Rescued by Rover' (1905) as well as other inventive comic films such as 'The Other Side of the Hedge'(1905) and 'That Fatal Sneeze' (1907).
Hepworth was a dedicated film pioneer and the driving force, many believe, behind the origins of the British Film Industry.
Hepworth’s skill with publicity and his ability to charm his stars to appear in many of his films made his company the only British Film Company to compete well with the wealth of foreign imported films.
He returned to directing in 1914 and continued into the 1920’s where he began to fall behind the times in terms of film techniques - it was this that contributed to his bankruptcy in 1924. He ended his film career directing trailers and advertisements.
Hepworth died in 1953 aged 79.