Penning a Screenplay:
A Review Activity on Cinema in Quebec
Silent Cinema in Quebec, 1896-1930
PENNING A SCREENPLAY
A REVIEW ACTIVITY ON CINEMA IN QUEBEC
Through the use of movie stills taken from Pirate Gold, have students produce a screenplay that respects early cinema’s historical context and censorship rules.
This activity builds on students’ knowledge gained from previous activities and is an interactive return to the extraordinary adventure of cinema in Quebec between 1896 and 1930.
Fourteen stills drawn from Pirate Gold are provided in PowerPoint form (option: download stills in PDF format). Produced by Biograph in New York and shot in the Quebec City region in September 1912, Pirate Gold was released for theatrical exhibition in January 1913. Unfortunately, no complete version of the film exists today. Only the raw negative footage has survived. From this raw material, fourteen stills have been drawn.
The version of Pirate Gold distributed at the time was in the standard format for the period. The entire film was on one reel, running from 12 to 15 minutes. About a hundred prints were made, distributed and exhibited in theatres. These prints were then destroyed. At the time, few people imagined these films would become important historical documents for both studies in film history and North American culture. The problem of their preservation was further compounded by the fact films at the time were made of nitrate celluloid, an unstable, highly flammable material that decomposed relatively quickly. Approximately 80% of films made during the silent era have vanished.
In this activity, students will play the role of the budding screenwriter. Their goal will be to recreate film history by crafting a screenplay for this film that is appropriate to for the conditions of the period.
Clips from “animated views” of the period should be shown.
QUIET ON THE SET, ROLLING!
Provide information on censorship and historical context (see attached sheets).
GROUP REVIEW OF ACTIVITY
1. Share the different screenplays.
2. Was the historical context respected?
3. Does the script take into account censorship restrictions?
4. Who won the Oscar for best screenplay?
Censored themes and subject matters: immoral scenes, vulgarity, lewdness, improper behaviour, armed robbery, violence, murder, fighting, ridiculing religion or its ministers, anti‐patriotism, excessive display of the American flag.