The first films were produced in Leeds in October 1888, on cameras patented both in America and the UK. Once his projection machine had been fine tuned, Le Prince planned to demonstrate the discoveries he had made to the public in America, and then the world.
On the 16th September 1890, weeks before Louis Aime Augustine Le Prince was due to sail to New York, he was to step onboard the Dijon to Paris train, never to be seen again. No body was ever found, therefore legally no-one could fight the fact that Le Prince had claimed to have invented the camera to record the first moving image. As a consequence, years later, Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers basked in what should have been his glory, winning the prize Le Prince should himself have rightfully received.
Distributor, producer and actor David Wilkinson remained baffled by the story of Le Prince, a fellow resident of Leeds, and so takes it upon himself to set about convincing the world of film the mark in history he had made – and not only that, as we delve into the history of Leeds, a city that paved the way for new infrastructure, welcoming the first commercial train in 1812. Also known for being the founding place of Burmantofts Pottery; as well as a place who was the least prejudice towards immigration, in fact embracing the very fusion when different cultures are brought together.
Meanwhile, Tom Courtenay, arguably Yorkshire’s greatest living actor with films like Billy Liar, Doctor Zhivago and Quartet under his belt, as well the up and coming Dad’s Army, is one of few interviewed by Wilkinson in the film, who wasn’t aware of the existence of Le Prince.
Before Le Prince established a niche market in film, his popularity was more widespread as an Artist, and more particularly, copying photographic images onto ceramics, an example of which is of two monks in fits of laughter, where he has managed to capture a moment in time.
Le Prince’s achievements can be summed up in the following way; in 1850-1890 the period of invention was witnessed, then, in 1890-1900, after the death of Le Prince, the emergence of film companies began. Le Prince aesthetically interpreted through invention; taking advantage of technology, and making good use of the cameras subtle positioning. In essence, he captured film for his “own means”, there was no other agenda.
Wilkinson has covered an interesting topic with this endeavour, which raised points about cinematic history before it began. Le Prince, for example, could have been rejected, as he was thought ‘to belong more to the frame-by-frame era of Muybridge and the Zoetrope optical display’, than cinema on its own. There is even an argument that Le Prince acts as more of a “missing link” – however, Wilkinson manages to make a clear case that Le Prince was a ‘prototypical film artist, as well as a genuine pioneer.’