100 Ideas That Changed Film

From a book titled, “100 Ideas That Changed Film” — which is part of a series that takes look at different disciplines: film, art, architecture, fashion, design… and distills down 100 key ideas that have led up to the present day.

I find this particularly interesting because I think a lot about bottom-up design, and how small ideas over time can accumulate towards bigger ideas and a bigger-picture view of a discipline or individual project. Thus I am curious about these “100 Ideas” books in that by drawing a thread through the evolution of ideas within film or architecture, this may give a useful base from which one can explore new ideas and possibilities, and it may serve as a powerful example of bottom-up design.

#1: Magic lanterns
#2: Persistence of vision
#3: Kinetoscope
#4: The Cinématographe
#5: Projection
#6: Trick films:
#7: Close-ups
#8: Optical transitions
#9: Point-of-view shots
#10: Tracking shots: what if the camera followed the actor?
#11: Chase sequences
#12: Continuity editing
#13: Match shots: cutting between two similarly composed shots with different subject matter
#14: Nickelodeons
#15: Film d’art
#16: Feature films: imagine if films were 1 -2 hours rather than 10 minutes or so—imagine the kinds of stories you could tell with such a longer chunk of time to work with!
#17: Dream palaces
#18: Shooting scripts: what if you wrote a script before filming the movie?
#19: In-camera effects
#20: Serials
#21: Slapstick: bringing comedy and gags to the big-screen
#22: Stunts
#23: The star system
#24: Hollywood
#25: Movie moguls
#26: Block booking
#27: The studio system
#28: Genre
#29: Presold sources
#30: Child stars
#31: Fan magazines
#32: The Oscars
#33: Monochrome: even after the development of techniques to bring color to film, there is still an appeal to black-and-white
#34: Process shots
#35: Artificial lighting
#36: Expressionism
#37: The Narrative avante-garde
#38: Film schools
#39: Montage
#40: Typage
#41: Surrealism
#42: Experimental cinema
#43: Sound
#44: Musical scores
#45: Dubbing
#46: Subtitles
#47: Newsreels
#48: Censorship
#49: Propaganda
#50: Poetic realism
#51: Studio realism
#52: B movies
#53: Series
#54: Shorts
#55: Animation
#56: Models
#57: Neorealism
#58: Flashbacks
#59: Voice-over
#60: Film noir
#61: The blacklist
#62: Method acting
#63: Television
#64: The Academy ratio
#65: Color
#66: 3-D
#67: Coproduction
#68: Epics
#69: Exploitation
#70: Trailers
#71: Safety film
#72: The cinémathèque française
#73: Cannes
#74: Criticism
#75: Mise-en-scène
#76: Offscreen space
#77: Auteur theory
#78: Handheld camera
#79: Cinéma vérité
#80: Free cinema
#81: Third cinema
#82: Zoom
#83: Road movies
#84: Blaxploitation
#85: Pornography
#86: Feminist film theory
#87: Blockbusters
#88: Effects makeup
#89: Kidpics
#90: Teenpics
#91: Sequels
#92: Remakes
#93: Multiplexes
#94: Video
#95: Home entertainment
#96: US independent cinema
#97: Queer cinema
#98: Heritage films
#99: Digital video
#100: Computer-generated imagery

So many of these points are easy to simply take for granted, of course movies have sound and are in color—but there was a time when they were not. In general I feel this list to be woefully incomplete, but to construct a complete list of ideas that changed film you might easily be able to run into the thousands. This list completely glosses over many different types of transitions, shots, editing techniques, types of montage, and so on.

In a sense, coming up with a list of important ideas in any field or art is much like trying to measure a coastline: the smaller your measuring stick, the longer it appears to be. Just as it is difficult to accurately measure a coastline is likewise difficult to come up with a comprehensive list of ideas that have led and built upon each other to make up the present-day perspective in any particular field.