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The Creation of Narrative Films: History and Factors Research Paper


Movies are regarded as one of the most distinct form of art. Movies emerged in the 1890s and became a full industry starting from 1910 (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, 2013). One of the earliest forms of films created were those that revolved around people and places. These films were quite entertaining despite their simple story lines. During this era, films grew from documentaries to telling stories about the culture. However, narrative films began in the early 1900s. Prior to this, there were only moving images showing occurrences and people (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, 2013). According to Bordwell and Thompson, narrative films ‘contain the events we see and hear including those assumed to have occurred, arranged in chronological order, causal relations, frequency and spatial locations’ (1993).

Overview of the film industry

Prior to 1908, the cinema industry was popularly referred to as the ‘era of cinema attractions’. Before the narrative films began, cinema was very primitive as it lacked motion pictures. However, the emergence of narrative films greatly transformed the cinema industry to what it is today. However, before this could be achieved, the entire cinema industry had to undergo a complete overhaul in terms of its social, cultural, and economic dimensions, in effect making it one of the most dynamic industries in the world.

Economic reasons for the development of narrative films

One of the major factors that sparked the revolution in narrative films was money. Even at this time, film makers were concerned about the money that they hoped to make in the industry. As such, the growing need and the desire to make more money led to the creation of longer films with dynamic content to attract a diverse audience. In the previous eras of film making, films were made just to show the effects. Movie makers were not really concerned about the monetary value of the film industry. It was not until the narrative films came into being that they realized the need to be really creative in their work. As a result, this saw them generate more money than was the case previously. This also means that filmmakers capitalized on mass production in order to reach out to a bigger audience, as opposed to targeting individual film consumers.

Technological factors that led to the development of narrative films

One of the characteristics of the early films was that the audience could only see but not hear the audio content in the film. In short, most of the films were technologically aligned, as opposed to content aligned. One of the biggest factors that contributed to the growth of narrative films was the need to use the element of sound (Fulton, 2005). Initially, film makers often relied on interpreters as sound was absent. What made this task even more challenging is that in case of long films a lot of interpreters were needed as one interpreter would get tired before the film ended. The sound used in the dialogues could be easily synchronized with the people meant to carry out the translation and this would translate into impeccable sound features of the film.

There was also the need to ensure that the transmitted sound could be synchronized with the actions of the actors. Initially, for the audience in the theatres to have an idea of what is going on in the plays, it was necessary that the messages and the content of the actors were relayed on the screen as subtitle shots. It is through the need to eliminate the subjective nature of the films that narrative form of films had to be created. It was necessary to highlight the key dialogue between the actors and at times, interject the dialogues with use of their own comments for the audience.

To resolve this, filmmakers had to incorporate the use of illustrations and graphics that would aid in the decoration of abstracts relayed by the actors. This way, the actors and the actions relayed could be commentated upon and understood by the audience. At the same time, it was necessary to create films that would grant the audience a sense of their own judgment to interpret the film, without necessary having to subject it to someone else’s view.

Most of the technological knowhow that was used in the execution of these films revolved around the use of framed space. In order to understand the cinema experience, it was necessary that the audience concentrated on both the bodily and the spatial experiences being relayed. However, once David Wark Griffith had created his narrative films, this led to the development of film cohesion.

As a result, filmmakers were now in a position to ensure that their films were coherent in regards to both time, space, as well as other dissonant. In addition, filmmakers also got an assurance that no form of disruption would take place. During this time, a new classical film culture also emerged. This film culture revolved around the establishment of a cause and effect structure through which a clear subject vis-à-vis object relationship was created. This form of film is cognizant of both visual and audio perceptions with the aim of developing the story being to ensure that it has a meaning to it.

Cultural reasons for the development of narrative films

Narrative films were developed in order to cater for the cultural and aesthetic needs of viewers. This was the case even at the advent of the silent era. One of the things that silent films are known for was their lack of both verbal expression and a coherent narrative structure. This meant that most of the events being relayed by the film writer could not be put together to string an event or a desired effect. Among one of the major reasons why narrative films were developed was to create a flow and a clear story line that would intrigue the audience and fascinate them to want to know more. People had gotten tired of the silent era and other forms of films and for this reason, filmmakers felt the need to create a new sense of entertainment.

This meant that the film makers had to exercise a clear sense of creativity that would captivate the people and alleviate their boredom status (Ryan 2005). Through this form of stories and narration, the audience is able to relate to the plot of the film maker and the writer of the film. This is because in most cases, the plot identifies with and relates to their daily lives. For instance the film Titanic is an example of a narrative film. One of the reasons why the film became so popular is due to the prominent story line that was used in the execution of the film. As such, the audience can easily relate to the plot of romance.

The need to establish a culture that encouraged the audience to view the film in an institutionalized venue spans the desire to create narrative films. Even though this was a secondary aim to the economic motive in use of institutionalized venues, the culture motive was also accomplished. Most of the film distributors and producers at the time were able to come to the realization that long films that also had a story about them generated more revenue as opposed to when the audience wase simply watching a short spectacle (Ryan 2005). This is what led to the development of the Nickelodeon. The Nickelodeon came after filmmakers realised that one film copy for a mass audience would generate a lot of money. Through this social transformation of watching a film together, a new cultural phenomenon came into being. At the same time, the need to create both economic gains and a new film culture led to the development and growth of the narrative films in movie theatres (Ryan 2005).

Another cultural need that led to the rise of narrative films is the need to depict the true state of the people at the time and their cultural alignment. This is because movie producers noted that people were more intrigued in what directly affected them and what they could identify with as opposed to far-fetched issues. A film such as The Lone Dale Operator tried in many angles to depict the culture of the people at the time (Ryan 2005).

It is through this form of transformation and plot that the audience were fascinated by what they saw. Initially, other forms of early cinema did not portray true life cultural issues like love yet in reality, these things exist. So, through the power of narrative films, the producers and distributors were able to capture this aspect. Unlike most of the early forms of cinema, narrative films were developed to ensure the more life issues were captured and that films were not only centered around the camera on tricks (Ryan 2005).

Ideological and artistic factor that led to the development of narrative films

The need to create ideologies of past events led to the development of narrative films. For example, films of World War II were created by narrating what actually took place during the war. By depicting scenes on screen of what is presumably known to have happened led even to the development of films that depict how the future events will be. For example, new technology can already be showed in a film before it even becomes a reality based on the growth of the current trends (Parks, 2004).

A factor that may have prompted both the distributors and the producers of film to come up with the narrative form of films is the issue of continuity in editing. Among one of the greatest examples of narrative films is “The Lonedale Operator” (Grodal, 2005). To further emphasize the issue of continuity in editing, a major comparison can be drawn from the film ‘Cinema of Attractions’. In this particular film, one can tell the presence of continuity in editing by the fact that the film is considerably longer. Also, effort has been made to develop characters. When audiences watch “The Lonedale Operator”, they are provided with an exceptional viewing experience one that is not exhibited in the film “Cinema of attractions”. This is the effect caused by narration as a feature of narrative films.

The film industry had for a long time used human actors as the medium to entertain audiences. The actors were meant to rehearse the scripts given to them. Artists on the other hand, used canvas to tell their stories. This then led to the desire to create animated films. Animated characters that were previously published in magazines were now transformed to films. These animated characters told both realistic and fictional storylines. An example of is the Mickey Mouse cartoon which is now available on film instead of paper (American Movie Classics, 2013).


It is important to appreciate the key factors that contributed to growth of narrative stills. By creative longer and more creative films through advanced film technology, the filmmakers were able to generate bigger profits for their industry. This is because they could maximize on the mass production and in movie theatres as well. Culture was also apparent as one of the motivators, by creating a story line that the viewers could identify with. Sound was incorporated to the films and transformed the industry. The future of the film industry is bright having been facilitated by the continuous growth in technology.

Currently, the release of 3-D movies has changed the tastes of those who prefer to watch films from movie theatres. This is not the only factor, but also the use of digital cameras which have facilitated the production of films. Another factor that has definitely changed the way films are distributed is the availability of portable technology gadgets such as tablets and smart phones. The audience now wants portability and films which they can watch on the go.

Reference List

American Movie Classics (2013). Web.

Bordwell, D., & Thompson, K. (1993). Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Fulton, H. ( 2005). Narrative and Media. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Grodal, T. ( 2005). Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. London: Routledge.

Parks, E. (2004). The formation of ideologies in narrative film: understanding war through three kings and black hawk down. Washington, D. C: Georgetown University.

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (2013). Web.

Ryan, M. (2005). Narratology beyond Literary Criticism. Mediality, Disciplinarity. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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