Up until around 1896 all films were recordings of real time events. Some may have told limited stories but ultimately they were the equivalent of sketches or stage acts.
The man credited with discovering the potential of film as a narrative device (and also it’s potential for trickery) was Georges Méliès. The story goes that Méliès while filming an actualitié, he was filming a bus coming out of a tunnel and the film jammed. When he got the film started again the bus had been replaced by a hearse. When the film was projected it seemed like the bus had transformed into a hearse. Nothing like having the first epiphany about the power of film editing.
As the father of special effects George Méliès made use of what he had learned.
He was the first to put editing to narrative use though, because he thought of his films in terms of theatre, as a series of tableaus which he edited together.
He also made extensive use of tinting. He had a shop full of ladies that hand tinted his films. He is probably best remembered for his masterpiece Le Voyage Dans La Lune (Voyage to the Moon). The first sci-fi film.
Unfortunately Méliès never quite went beyond the use of his discovery for trickery or scene changes. To discover a “shot” it would take a light bulb moment from a projectionist named Edwin S Porter who worked for Edison Corporation in New York.
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