81 years ago, at the age of 77, Georges Méliès - the father of narrative and fantastical film - hand-wrote his autobiography; the story of the creation of cinema from not only a firsthand witness but also its greatest innovator. It has been completely unavailable since 1945 and has never been translated into English. This is one of the great unseen texts of cinema history.
I've had it translated. And it's GREAT! Reading it blew my film-loving mind. A voice from history telling me in his own words about how cinema began and his role in it. Now I need your help to rescue this important, illuminating and fascinating testimony, to get it back into print and where it truly belongs - in our hands and on our bookshelves.
Georges Méliès (1861-1938) is arguably the most important figure in narrative cinema history. He pioneered the Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror genres, created special effects concepts which are still used today and gave the cinema its first iconic image - the moon with a rocket in his eye.
"[Méliès] discovered the means of placing poetry within the reach of the man in the street." - Walt Disney
"I owe him everything" - D.W. Griffith
"The alchemist of light" - Charlie Chaplin
"He invented everything, basically, he invented it all." - Martin Scorsese
In 1937, a year before he died, he wrote longhand a 32 page autobiography detailing his life, his work and his observations on both. He sent it to a film historian who was writing a book about him. The first 500 copies of this book were packaged with a facsimile of the manuscript. What remains of that print run exists now only in the jealously guarded collections of film enthusiasts who have been lucky or wealthy enough to secure one.
This memoir is an enthralling story in which Méliès guides us from his childhood into his early career, explaining how all of the elements fell into place to put him in the perfect position to become a pioneer of cinema. He talks about becoming one of the first people in the world to see a projected moving image at a private demonstration by the Lumiére brothers and the international mission this inspired him to take to become a part of the new medium. He explains how and why he became the first impressario of cinema, how he built France's first film studio and how he invented special effects techniques and helped define the very format of cinematic film. More than this, it's a human story; at times braggadocios, joyous, humble and bitter. We learn how times and the industry changed, how he became the first victim of film piracy and how he ended up in his old age, forgotten, broke and selling toys and sweets in a tiny stall in Montparnasse train station. Most interesting to me was discovering that he was a man already aware of his legacy and surprisingly unhappy about how he could see he was going to be remembered. His memoir crackles with life and is a vivid account of the dawn of movies from its most colourful participant.
73 years later, Méliès's autobiography is lost. Never translated into English, it is a footnote to a very rare book which has been out of print for over half of cinema's entire history. With your help, I want to put this incredible testimony back into print and create a beautiful first edition of it.
For the first time, Méliès's autobiography will be front and centre in a gorgeous hardback publication filled with supplementary material to create a definitive book to honour his work. The manuscript has been translated by a cine-literate translator, meaning the technical details Méliès refers to are soundly expressed.
This is a hugely important - and wonderfully characterful - piece of writing from a man who was present at the actual birth of cinema and single-handedly discovered, developed and created technical processes we still use to this day. Don't you want to have a copy of that?
This is a beautiful HARDBACK edition bound in BLACK CLOTH coverboards, with the cover art and spine hot-foil stamped to shimmer and sparkle. The front page will be hand-numbered and in the back of the book will be a list of all Kickstarter backers who brought this project to fruition.
The book will contain:
- MÉLIÈS' UNABRIDGED AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FULL, IN ENGLISH
- COMPREHENSIVE FOOTNOTE ANNOTATION, PROVIDING GREAT DEPTH AND FURTHER INSIGHT INTO HIS STORY.
- INTERVIEWS WITH FILM ACADEMICS AND FILMMAKERS ON MÉLIÈS' LEGACY AND INFLUENCE
- ILLUSTRATIONS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
- A GUIDE TO MÉLIÈS' FILMOGRAPHY
- TRANSCRIPTION OF MÉLIÈS' ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT IN FRENCH
Packaged in a bespoke wooden box sporting the logo of Méliès Star Film company, along with your book, you will receive:
- STRICTLY LIMITED TO 1896 NUMBERED COPIES WORLDWIDE.
This is a photo of me at 17 years old. If you look closely, you'll see the T-shirt I'm wearing is of Méliès's moon.
I don't remember exactly when I first discovered the work of Méliès, but I was familiar with, and adored his work by the time I was a teenager and hungered to see more than the famous 'A Trip To The Moon' and the occasional clips that would be shown in documentaries. However, I knew that most of his work was missing or unavailable.
There was plenty more cinema history to go around, though. My childhood, then teenage film obsession lead to film school and onto a career in and around film.
Whilst visiting Barcelona in 2013, I started noticing a lot of posters on the streets sporting Méliès's moon. My traveling companion told me they were advertising a Méliès exhibition. My jaw dropped and we turned on our heels, sprinting across town to the Caixa Forum. What I saw there blew my mind, I had no idea so much of Méliès's work survived - original artwork, sketches on the backs of dockets, original and incredible props and costumes from his films. I was in heaven. I learned that day that far more of his work survived and had been restored than I had previously realised. I bought an exhibition poster on my way out which has remained framed on my living room wall ever since.
I was now fully charged to find and watch as many of Méliès's films as I could and thanks to the wonderful DVD label Flicker Alley, I've been able to do just that. Méliès has remained a minor obsession of mine ever since.
Recently, I found my holy grail - the facsimile of his hand-written autobiography manuscript and I realised that it wasn't right that this document just languish in private collections. Méliès's thoughts deserve to be published and widely available.
Having delivered two successful film-based book campaigns on Kickstarter last year, I have the passion, the knowledge and the experience to do this but I need your support. Please back this project and/or let people know about it.
Risks and challenges
This will be my third book published and delivered through Kickstarter, so I'm confident in delivering this project on, if not ahead, of schedule.
There are certain bespoke elements involved but I don't foresee any real problems.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)