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Fascinating documentary feature film on the forgotten inventor of motion pictures and his mysterious disappearance. Read more

Leeds, UK Documentary
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Funding Unsuccessful

This project's funding goal was not reached on July 25, 2013.

Fascinating documentary feature film on the forgotten inventor of motion pictures and his mysterious disappearance.

Leeds, UK Documentary
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About this project

The Story

In 1866 a young Frenchman, Louis Le Prince came to Leeds in Yorkshire, England and started experimenting with cinematography. In 1888 he shot the world’s first moving pictures on a single lens camera.

But Le Prince never received the acclaim he deserved. On 16th September 1890, just days before he was due to sail to New York to demonstrate his new camera to the public, he stepped onto the Dijon to Paris train and was never seen or heard of again. 

 We are in the middle of filming a feature length documentary for cinema release which hopes to bring the story of Le Prince to the world - in the 125th anniversary year of his first film. This film we hope will once and for all ensure that Louis Le Prince will at last go into the history books. 

My History With The Film

 I have wanted to make this film for over 30 years. I first learnt the story at school in Leeds in the 1970's. On visits to Hollywood, New York, Paris and the Cannes Film Festival, I have told the tale of the Frenchman Louis Le Prince inventing the moving image in Leeds but have consistently been met with disbelief. In Leeds, Le Prince has long been regarded as a local hero. In 1930 the then Lord Mayor unveiled a bronze memorial tablet where Le Prince’s workshop had stood. Although Leeds has fought to highlight Louis Le Prince’s pioneering work, his achievements have never been formally acknowledged by any official body and the story is little known outside Yorkshire.

 I have always fought for the underdog. In my 34 years as a producer and distributor I have always championed the difficult non-commerical films, the ones the other distribution companies thought were too challenging to take on. I have helped hundreds of directors, producers, editors, camera persons, actors, writers etc make their first films a reality, so many of whom had been ignored by the film establishment. And now, I’m championing the ultimate underdog – Louis Le Prince, the world’s very first filmmaker who endured debt and separation from his family to pursue his dream of capturing motion pictures. 

Over the years, my attempts to fund this project have been rejected by almost every financing outlet in the business. In 2007 I published Made in Yorkshire, a coffee table book which began with the tale of Le Prince, however I was unable to secure national reviews for it because of the ‘ludicrous claim’ that film had been invented in Yorkshire. Well, I intend to prove this claim with hard facts – patents, cameras, films – and hopefully right a great wrong. 

More than that - with your help, we aim to investigate Le Prince's mysterious disappearance in 1890 and assemble a group of suspects, each with motive and opportunity to harm the great inventor. 

The Team 

I have assembled a group of committed filmmakers from Yorkshire and we are already filming. Danny Lacey who was born and still lives in Leeds is directing and editing the film; co- producer Bill Lawrence (former Head of Film at the National Media Museum in Bradford and former board director of Screen Yorkshire, and now a board director of Creative England) lives in Halifax and co-writer and researcher Irfan Shah lives just four minutes away from Le Prince’s old house! Charlie Phillips born and educated in Leeds and now a senior member of Sheffield's world renowned Doc/Fest, is an associate producer. 

Why Is The Story Not Better Known ?

This has baffled me for years. I do get the feeling it is yet another conspiracy in a story full of them.  If Louis Le Prince had invented the moving image in London or Paris or New York then you can bet the story would have been known years ago. People just laugh at me when I say the moving image was invented in Leeds. Leeds, as I will prove was the Palo Alto of its day where anything was possible. In the late 1800's the North of England led the world in so many areas and was far richer than London. 

The Structure

The film will be made in two parts. The first will be exploring the facts and proving the Le Prince case. 

The second part will see me as I try to lobby within the UK to have the history books changed. I will screen a rough cut of the film to leading film industry figures in the UK, France and hopefully the USA. If we can raise funding here, we will see if I can convince them that Louis Le Prince has been cruelly treated by history. 

We will be helped in this endeavour by film historians Stephen Herbert, Mark Rance and Richard Howells. Tony Earnshaw who wrote the book MADE IN YORKSHIRE will appear in the film and Mark Cousins who is the one of the few leading film writers to mention Louis Le Prince’s contribution to film history will accompany me to find the exact spot where the first film was actually shot. Quentin Dowse a former senior detective in East Yorkshire will be examining the evidence to try to determine what happened to Le Prince. Louise Handley, one of Yorkshire’s leading lawyers will look at legal evidence for the Le Prince claim. (All the above people have agreed in principle to take part but their appearance is subject to contract/ availability). 

 In the second part we will lay out the case to leading names in the film industry to see if we can convince them that Louis Le Prince did invent the moving image in Leeds. Sir Tom Courtenay, arguably Yorkshire’s greatest actor, is already in the film. Sir Ronald Harwood, the Oscar winning screenwriter, has already agreed to watch the film and to be filmed giving his views. There will be others of equal stature. I am especially keen to see if I can talk to Danny Boyle, Clio Bernard, Terry Gilliam, Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Hazanavicius, Berenice Bejo, Amanda Nevill, Steven Spielberg, Claire Denis, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, Margaret Menegoz, Christopher Nolan, Harvey Weinstein CBE and most importantly Martin Scorsese (anyone who has seen HUGO will know why) and others. I want to find out if I can convince them that film was invented in Leeds by Le Prince. (The above list is a wish list at this stage. It is possible that I am unable to persuade any of these highly distinguished filmmakers to take part). 

As we delve further into this story we are already uncovering interesting elements that have not come to light before. Since the creation of the internet the Louis Le Prince story has featured, in part, on Wikipedia and IMDB but there are some aspects that are incorrect or not explored sufficiently.  We have already discovered one major revelation which, with your help, we intend to explore further. 

Why Make This As A Feature Length Documentary For The Cinema ?

As a documentary released in the cinema it means that within the UK the film will be reviewed by all the national press. Some of those papers and radio stations etc will also give the film editorial coverage. Thus the story of  this great wrong done to Le Prince's memory will have a greater prominance than it would if it were a TV documentary lost in the schedules. This we hope will be repeated in other countries especially America and France. Interestingly we already have our first cinema booking, not in Yorkshire as you might expect but at the Triskel Christchurch, Cork, Ireland. 

 With your help, the story of how the first film was invented in Leeds will get out into the wider world and at last the name Louis Le Prince will go into the history books – and maybe, we will discover at long last what happened to Louis Le Prince after he stepped onto the Dijon to Paris train all those years ago…… 

What Do We Need ?

We wish to raise £20,000 to pay to go to the USA to interview leading figures in the film world. At present we do not have the funds to cover this. Le Prince had the foresight to identify the importance of America as he chose to demonstrate his invention not in Paris or London but in New York. He was awarded American citizenship before he died and he realised, before anyone else in films, that the US would be very important to the advancement of the moving image. 

 Ideally, if we can raise as much as £40,000, which we would like, then we can afford a better post-production finish for the film and spend more time on the main shoot. This is not vital but it helps with telling the story effectively and we feel we owe it to the memory of Louis Le Prince to do the best we can to restore his place in the history of film. 

My Goal 

Even after the film is out I will not stop until a statue is erected in Leeds to Louis Le Prince. It is shameful that, apart from the internet where truth will always surface somewhere, he is left out of the history books. 

Our Inspiration 

 The film is dedicated to the late, great Bingham Ray who loved this story and who Mike Leigh best described as “that most radical and independent of American independent movie folk”. I am hoping he would have also loved the finished film.

Risks and challenges

We may have problems filming in the USA due to very strict restrictions on working in the country as we are all British. Should this prove an obstacle then we may have to employ Americans to film this section of the film for us. It would prove awkward if I were not allowed to present the film in the USA as it would alter the personal quest aspect of the film. We will be talking to the American Embassy in London within the coming months. The US section of the film will not take place until we have a rough cut of the first part of the film.

Most true independent filmmakers have to find distribution once completed. As I have spent the last 15 years distributing difficult British & Irish films I can absolutely guarantee the film will be released in the UK and Ireland in the cinema/ DVD/ online etc.

There might be problems in France regarding the shooting of the film. The Lumière Brothers are thought to be Gods within France and the inventors of film, even though Le Prince's work was 7 years ahead of them. This has never been properly acknowledged in France. We will try to find out why within the film. Wanting to change French history might be frowned upon in some quarters - even if it is the truth !

With any film there is always the worry that it will not be finished. With this one it is so personal to me it would be unthinkable not to complete it. I have too much time, money and emotion invested so far for the film to fall at the last hurdle.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    £5 reward

    1 backer

    CINEMA FOYER:

    A personalised email from producer, presenter and co-writer David Nicholas Wilkinson thanking you for your support.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    £10 reward

    8 backers Limited (492 left of 500)

    PREVIEW SCREENING: You will be able to stream the final rough cut of the film before it is graded and the credits are added. Few members of the public ever get to see a film in this state. It may be an eye opener !
    Perfect for film students and those of you interested in the film-making process.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    £15 reward

    3 backers Limited (97 left of 100)

    BAFTA SCREENING ROOM:
    Receive a rare special edition DVD made for BAFTA members only for the feature film MOTHER’S MILK (PAL only) which is Guerilla Films’ latest release. You will also get a personal thank you email from producer/ presenter David Nicholas Wilkinson.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £25 reward

    0 backers Limited (300 left of 300)

    MATINEE TICKET: Collect a copy of the 272 page coffee table picture book MADE IN YORKSHIRE ( RRP £25) which opens with the Louis Le Prince story ( and which also features many of the films shot in Yorkshire since 1888 ) at the Armley Industrial Museum (free entry for one worth £3) on 10th August 2013 and meet the presenter/ producer and director and other members of the crew and tour the museum. Hours 10am to 5:00pm. The Museum houses replicas of Louis Le Prince’s cameras.
    You will also have a thank you credit on the DVD and website. UK only. (Should you not be able to make that date then a copy of the book will be waiting there for you to collect. If you have not picked up the book by 1st November 2013 then it will be forfeited).

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    £30 reward

    4 backers Limited (96 left of 100)

    SCREEN ONE: A copy of MADE IN YORKSHIRE signed by David Nicholas Wilkinson and posted within the UK. You will also have a thank you credit on the DVD and website.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £40 reward

    0 backers Limited (100 left of 100)

    PUTTING UP THE POSTERS: You will be invited to view the shortlisted posters and give feedback which could help us in the selection process. You will then be sent a copy of the final quad poster signed by David Nicholas Wilkinson and possibly others if practical.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £50 reward

    2 backers Limited (498 left of 500)

    TEST SCREENING: You will be invited to view the rough cut of Part One of the film via a password protected site. You will then fill in a questionnaire for the filmmakers giving your reaction. You will also get a thank you credit on the DVD and website.

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  • You selected
    £75 reward

    0 backers Limited (40 left of 40)

    IN THE EDITING SUITE: Come and view a rough cut of the film with the team at Armley Mills Museum.The producer and director will be in attendance. A copy of MADE IN YORKSHIRE and a thank you credit on the DVD and website. Travel costs paid by you. This will be in the spring on 2014. There will be two different dates. Only 20 people per screening. Probably best suited to people living in the North of England.

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  • You selected
    £100 reward

    0 backers Limited (25 left of 25)

    PRESS CONFERENCE: You will join us (DNW, Danny Lacey and Irfan Shah) for 5 web chats; Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production of Part I, around the opening, approximately 6 months after the launch. These will take place at the weekend and in the late afternoon (UK time) to ensure that everyone can join us. You will also get a thank you credit on the DVD and website.

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  • You selected
    £100 reward

    0 backers Limited (200 left of 200)

    FILM CORNUCOPIA: Mixed box of 10 DVD’s (over £125 RRP) of films released by Guerilla Films on DVD. You will also have a thank you credit on the DVD and website. UK ONLY. These will be shipped out from Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United Kingdom
  • You selected
    £100 reward

    0 backers Limited (100 left of 100)

    WORLD PREMIERE: Receive 2 tickets to the first ever private première screening of the film in Leeds, joining the team who made the film. You will also receive a copy of MADE IN YORKSHIRE at the screening. You will also have a thank you credit on the DVD and website. You will also get a personal thank you email from producer/ presenter David Nicholas Wilkinson. The date of this is an approximation only. You will pay for all travel.

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  • You selected
    £250 reward

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    THE GOLDEN TICKET: One copy of the MADE IN YORKSHIRE book signed by everyone who appears in the film (we cannot be held responsible if anyone refuses to sign this. Some people just do not like giving autographs). This will be sent by DHL or similar to anywhere in the world.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £500 reward

    0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)

    PICK & MIX: You will get 10 copies of MADE IN YORKSHIRE (RRP £250) for Christmas presents. The Guerilla Films DVD collection (RRP over £125.00), 2 tickets for the world premiere, a poster and a thank you credit on the film. Gifts staggered over 12 months.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United Kingdom
  • You selected
    £1,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    PRIVATE SCREENING: David Nicholas Wilkinson and possibly others will come to your house or a venue paid for by you to show the film to your friends and to give a talk about the making of the film. You will also have 10 copies of the MADE IN YORKSHIRE book, the Guerilla DVD package, 2 tickets for the premiere and a thank you credit on the film itself. Dates of private screenings to be mutually agreed. UK only.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United Kingdom
  • You selected
    £2,500 reward

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    DEVELOPMENT HEAD: You will have an Associate Producer credit on everything- film, DVD sleeve, poster, imdb etc. You will get 10 posters, 10 copies of the MADE IN YORKSHIRE book (sent by sea if outside Europe). 4 free tickets for the world premiere. All travel and accommodation to be met by you.

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  • You selected
    £5,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    STUDIO HEAD: You will have an Executive Producer credit on everything- film, DVD sleeve, poster, imdb etc. You will appear in the film explaining why you felt this film was worth supporting. What was it that attracted you to this film? You will get 5 posters, 10 DVD's of the final film (PAL), 10 copies of the MADE IN YORKSHIRE book. 10 free tickets for the world premiere. All travel and accommodation to be met by you. (We cannot hold up the filming schedule to fit in with your availability. We may, if convenient and cost effective, come to you).

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (30 days)