Motion Pictures


Motion pictures – also called movies or films – belong to the most popular forms of entertainment today. Millions of people all over the world go to cinemas to enjoy an entertaining story and to see their favorite movie stars. The film industry is also a big business. Movies cost a lot of money and the people who make them hope to make a lot of profit and achieve worldwide fame.



A movie camera operates like a normal camera but it takes 24 pictures a second. The lens focuses on a certain spot. Then a shutter opens and closes and an image is recorded on film.

The film itself is a roll of long thin flexible plastic that has layers of light-sensitive chemicals. Most films are 35 mm wide, which is the common size for motion pictures. A film has holes on both sides which the camera uses to move the roll forward.

A projector shows a finished film on a screen. It moves the film forward at 24 frames per second so that our eyes register moving images and not still ones. A light bulb at the back of the projector projects the image onto the screen, an area of white plastic that is covered with tiny glass beads that make it bright.

Film sound is recorded by a machine and mixed together with the film so that when actors open and close their mouths the words are heard at the right time.


People who make movies

A film made for entertainment involves many people, sometimes hundreds of them.

The producer is the overall manager of a film. He must decide if a movie is made or not, raise money and hire the whole team of workers and actors. He also has to make plans to show and distribute the finished film in cinemas around the world.

Before a film is made, a story or idea has to exist. A screenwriter writes the screenplay - the story, the words that the actors speak and instructions on how the action takes place. Sometimes it is based on a book, a play, a real event, or an old movie; sometimes on the original ideas of the screenwriter.

If a producer wants to make a successful movie he has to hire a good director. A famous director can get good actors and actresses to work with him. He is the most important person on the set and in charge of everything. He tells the actors what to do and decides how the scenes are filmed.

There are many other people a director must work with. The director of photography is a person who knows everything about cameras, lenses and lighting and uses them to create the mood and atmosphere of scenes. Costume designers choose clothes and decide what the actors wear.

A successful movie often depends on how good the actors are . They are the only people the audience gets into contact with. They must not only learn the words that characters speak in the screenplay but must also understand how to move and speak in a natural way.

Music is also an important element of most films. A composer writes music to create mood. Sound editors and producers put the right music into the correct place of the film.



Filming the movie


Some scenes are made on a sound stage of a movie studio with scenery that must look as real a possible. The production team builds the set exactly the way they want it to be shown in the film, but this costs a lot of extra money. Other scenes are made on location or in a place that looks like the one in the story, like in front of a skyscraper or at the beach or the top of a mountain.

Special effects are often important parts of action movies. Explosions are done on the set or in special places; sometimes smaller models of objects are built and then enlarged in the film. Modern effects specialists often do their work on computers and then transfer the effects to the film.

Scenes are not always shot in the order that they appear in the film. The film editor looks closely at all the shots that are made in the film. A scene may have been filmed from many different angles and distances. When a character speaks the film editor must decide whether to take the total view or a close-up of his or her face. Film editing is so important that the director works closely together with the film editor.

Finally the pieces of the original film are put together in the right order. They are copied to one single piece of film. Then sound and effects are added.

When a film is completed and ready to be shown a company is hired to promote the film and bring it to the attention of the people. Ads are put in magazines and newspapers, commercials are run on TV. The company hopes that it can bring as many viewers as possible into the cinemas. When the film is not shown in cinemas any more it is recorded on a DVD together with extras like interviews, unfinished scenes etc. and sold in shops. The production and sales of DVDs often bring film companies a lot of extra money.



History of motion pictures


In the late 1800s many inventors in England, France and the United States worked on ways to make motion pictures. Thomas Edison , an American inventor, made the first motion picture viewer in 1893 .The films were very short and had to be watched through a peephole.

Early movies were black and white and had no sound. In the 1920s sound was added to movies, the first colour movies were produced in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Movie became a big business. Hollywood, California became the centre of the American film industry because people could produce films the whole year round in a place where the weather never got too cold.

Later on the film industry in other countries developed. Great Britain, France and Italy became major film producing nations in Europe. In the past few decades India has become the biggest film producer in the world. Centre of the movie industry is Mumbai, which was originally called Bombay. The Indian film industry is often called Bollywood, a mixture of Bombay and Hollywood.

There are many festivals and awards for motion pictures. The largest festival is held in Cannes, France each year. Other important festivals take place in Berlin, Venice and London. The best known awards are the Academy Awards or Oscars. Each year the best films, actors, foreign films etc. receive the most famous statuette in the film industry.


Famous Directors

Steven Spielberg has made Hollywood’s most successful films and is regarded as one of the most successful directors. Most of his films are actions movies. His success started with Jaws (1975) , a movie about dangerous sharks attacking swimmers at a beach. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) are science fiction films about alien life. Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequel, The Lost World (1997) are about dinosaurs that have come back to live on a small island.

Spielberg has also created more serious works. Schindler’s List (1993) is a powerful drama about a man who helped Jews during the Holocaust . Spielberg won an Oscar as the best director for the film, which also received an Academy Award as the best picture. Saving Private Ryan (1998) is a realistic story of battle during World War II.

Clint Eastwood started his career as an actor and gained fame in Italian westerns . Later on he played a police detective in Dirty Harry (1971). In In the Line of Fire (1993) he plays an American secret serviceman who must protect the president. Although he started directing films in the 1970s his breakthrough as a director came in 2004 with Million Dollar Baby, a story of a poor young female boxer, who becomes paralysed in her last fight. The film won the Oscar as best picture. In 2006 Eastwood received the prize for the best director in Letters from Ivo Jima.

Peter Jackson is a New Zealand film director who gained international fame for directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy , based on a fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Critics praised the powerful storytelling and spectacular special effects. Jackson won the Academy Award as the best director for the last part The Return of the King, which won 11 Oscars including best picture.

Martin Scorsese is an American motion picture director who taught filmmaking at New York University before becoming a director. Many of his films are very realistic and often show violence. Taxi Driver (1976) shows the world of a violent war veteran. Gangs of New York (2002) explores gang violence in New York during the 1860s. The Aviator (2004) tells the story of Howard Hughes, a famous American aircraft designer. Scorsese received an Academy Award for best director in the Mafia film The Departed (2006)

George Lucas wrote and directed the science fiction fantasy Star Wars (1977), one of the most popular films in movie history. The film became an international success because of special effects that were used in film for the first time. Lucas also produced two sequels to the trilogy and twenty years later produced three more Star Wars movies.


The most successful films in history



Money Earned Worldwide

in US Dollars

Titanic (1997)

1 800 000 000

The Lord of the Rings:
Return of the King (2003)

1 120 000 000

Pirates of the Caribbean :
Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

1 060 000 000

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

968 000 000

Pirates of the Caribbean :
At World’s End (2007)

954 000 000

Star Wars Episode 1 :
The Phantom Menace (1999)

922 000 000

The Lord of the Rings :
The Two Towers (2002)

921 000 000

Jurassic Park (1993)

919 000 000

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

892 000 000

Spider Man 3 (2007)

885 000 000




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Related Topics


  • Academy Award =also called „Oscar“ ; is a prize given each year in the USA for the best film, actor, director of the industry
  • achieve = to get something that you really want
  • ad = something that tells you about a product and shows how good it is
  • add =put in
  • aircraft designer = person who plans and makes airplanes
  • alien = living things from another world
  • although =while
  • angle = position from which you look at something
  • appear = happen, are shown
  • attention =the interest that you show
  • audience = the people who go to a cinema and watch a film
  • award = a prize that someone gets for doing something special
  • based on =to use something from which something else is developed
  • battle = a fight between armies in a war
  • bead =one of a set of small round pieces of glass, wood or plastic that you where around your neck or arm
  • breakthrough = here: a film that made him successful for the first time
  • bright = full of light
  • business = here: industry
  • certain = special
  • choose =select, pick
  • close-up = picture that is taken very close to someone or something so that you can see a lot of details
  • commercial = an ad on radio or TV
  • common = something that you can see very often
  • complete = finish
  • costume designer = person who makes special clothes that actors wear
  • cover =put over
  • create = make
  • critic = a person who writes down what he thinks about a book or a film
  • decade = ten years
  • decide =make up your mind about something
  • depend on =to be affected by something else
  • develop = grow
  • direct = to be in control of a film
  • distance =space from one place to another
  • distribute = to send to places so that it can be shown
  • editor = person who prepares something so that it can be used
  • encounter = to meet someone for the first time
  • enjoy = to be happy about something and like it
  • enlarge = to make bigger
  • entertainment =things such a films, television, music performances etc.. that people watch or go to
  • equipment =the tools or objects you need to do a job
  • explore = to find out about something
  • fame =if you are known by many people because you are successful
  • female =about women or gils
  • finally = in the end
  • focus on = to see clearly
  • foreign = from another country
  • forward =further on
  • frame = a single photo of a film
  • gain = get
  • gang = group of young people who spend a lot of time together and do bad or violent things. They also fight against other groups
  • hire = to give someone a job
  • Holocaust = the killing of millions of Jews by the Nazis during World War II
  • image = picture
  • in charge = to have control over something
  • instruction = information on how to do something
  • inventor = a person who makes something that has not existed before
  • involve = to take part in something
  • layer =a material that is between two other things
  • lens = a curved piece of glass that makes things look bigger or clearer when you look through it
  • light bulb = the glass part of a lamp that gives off light when it is turned on
  • lighting =the lights that light up a room or a building
  • light-sensitive =something that reacts easily if there is light
  • major = big
  • mixture = two things that make one
  • mood = how you feel about something
  • motion picture viewer = a machine that shows a film
  • on location = place outside the film studio where scenes are shot
  • operate = work
  • order =the way things are arranged ; it shows if something is first, second, third etc..
  • originally = at first
  • overall =generally, on the whole
  • paralyzed = if you cannot feel or move parts of your body
  • peephole = a small hole or opening which you can look through
  • piece = part
  • popular = well known
  • praise = to say good things about something or someone
  • produce = make
  • production team = people responsible for making the film
  • profit = money
  • project = to show a picture on a screen
  • promote = to make something popular or to get people to buy something
  • raise = to collect from people
  • real =not false
  • real event = something that has really happened
  • realistic = very real
  • receive = get
  • record = to make a copy of something on tape, CD or DVD
  • regard = to think about something in a special way
  • register = here: see
  • right = correct
  • run = here: to show
  • sales = the selling of something
  • scenery = the background of a film that is made by people
  • screen = large area on which films are shown
  • secret serviceman = a man that works for the government and protects it and especially the president
  • sequel = a book or film that continues the story of an earlier one
  • serious = not silly, not humorous
  • set = place where part of the movie is filmed
  • shoot - shot = here: make, film
  • shot = scene that is filmed without stopping the camera
  • shutter = part of a camera that opens to let light through the lens
  • single =only one
  • size = how big something is
  • skyscraper = very tall building in a city
  • spectacular = very impressive
  • spot = place
  • statuette = small statue
  • still = not moving
  • success =when you have done or finished something that you really wanted to do
  • successful = to become popular and to make a lot of money
  • take place = happen
  • total view = the whole scene , everything that is in the film
  • transfer = to put into another place
  • trilogy = a group of three books or movies that have the same characters
  • viewer = person who watches a film in the cinema
  • violence =behavior that makes you hurt or kill someone
  • war veteran = a person who has been a soldier in a war
  • whether = if
  • whole = all of
  • wide = from one side of something to the other
  • works = here: films