Filming Florida’s First Locations

Kalem was the first to identify their actors by name, creating the first fanbase for the films they produced and distributed. Click to enlarge.

“When completed the film would be shipped express to New York to be developed and printed, and then sent back to use to be cut. A long enclosed gallery at the back of the house had been converted into a projection room, and here we would gather after supper, pencil and notebooks in hands, our number augmented by any outsiders who had worked in the film, as well as by friends. And as the film flashed by on the screen, a running comment of criticism and praise could be heard.

“That’s a great make-up, Jim.” “You were rotten there, Ben. I told you that business didn’t get over.” “Too many whiskers, Tommie. You look like an ape.” “Your side lines were off there, Max. You’d better see if your finder is right.” “Good Lord! The factory has murdered that scene. It’ll have to be done over.” And afterward came a discussion in Mr. Olcott’s room covering every little detail, praise and blame given where due, and last, final judgment was passed on the entire picture.

Gene Gauntier, center at Roseland with Kalem executives from NY. Click to enlarge.

From the office came letters of commendation or criticism which would be duly read to the “bunch.” They were astute, were Messrs. Marion and Long. We would work our heads off and take any risks for the honor of being singled out in one of Mr. Marion’s buoyant letters.

We needed praise and appreciation to carry us through those strenuous days. We had none of the conveniences and the luxuries of the modern studio.

We had no property men, no carpenters, no wardrobe facilities. Each of the actors took upon himself certain tasks, and lent a hand in an emergency. But the director’s duties were hardest and most nerve-racking, as upon him fell the entire management and responsibility, the bookkeeping as welt as the directing, planning, selecting casts, enforcing discipline, and, when possible, making social contacts with the hospitable Floridians. For it was not money, but pleasing personality and friendship that procured for us the various locations. Every night Olcott’s light would burn till all hours is he sat at his desk working over plans and directions for the morrow, or getting up his weekly accounts and writing long daily letters to the firm in New York. In time I took over the letterwriting.”  Gene Gauntier

Film Story Tellers was created by Third Act Films, who produce video biography and commissioned documentary productions.

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