“I think all great innovations are built on rejections”*…
Screenwriters sending scripts to Essanay Studios, a Chicago company that produced silent films between 1907 and 1917, received this form rejection letter in response to their submissions. Here Essanay identified several common problems with scripts; some (“Too difficult to produce”) were probably more helpful to aspiring writers than others (“Not interesting”).
Essanay, named after the initials of its founders George Spoor and Gilbert Anderson, made Westerns and comedies from its Uptown Chicago headquarters and in California. (Its specialty in the Western explains the use of a stereotyped “Indian chief” head as logo.) Charlie Chaplin was a contract player for the company between 1915–1916 and made The Tramp while he was there. Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Wilmington suggests that Chaplin’s departure for a more lucrative contract in 1916 “hastened Essanay’s demise,” causing “a fatal rupture” between the two founders struggling with a sudden loss in income…
More (from the always-fascinating Rebecca Onion) at “A Harsh, but Efficient, Form Rejection Letter for Silent Film Screenwriters.
* Louis-Ferdinand Celine
As we inoculate our egos, we might spare a thought for Abel Gance; he died on this date in 1981. While Essanay was developing the comedic form, Gance– a French film director, writer, producer, actor, and theorist– was working across the Atlantic to lay the foundation for cinema as we’ve come to know it. One of the first to employ close-ups and dolly shots, he was instrumental in developing both the theory and the practice of montage as it came to be employed in film editing. He is probably best remembered for three major silent films: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and the monumental Napoléon (1927).