Filmmaking can be one of the most complicated art form today in the way its technical, creative, financial, and social aspects are tightly interwoven. When you understand all of these aspects of creating a movie, you will be better prepared to handle the work involved in completing a film and having it distributed to an audience. The quality of movies can vary, with production ranging from the multi-million dollar Hollywood film with hundreds of crew members to a small high school film involving a few students. Even though movie productions can be different in production quality, they all go through the same processes of preproduction, production, and post-production phases. Preproduction is the phase where the filmmaker plans and prepares his film before filming it. Usually he starts with a treatment, then a completed script. Usually a writer teams up with a producer who organizes a budget for the movie and arranges financing by shopping it around to movie studios, distributors, investors, or even applying for grants.

The medium of cinema appeared in the mid 1890s, an era when the United States was still expanding into one of the world’s major colonialist powers.  The Spanish American War of 1898 resulted in the United States’ gaining control of Puerto Rico, The Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, and part of Samoa.  The United States itself was still in the process of formation.  Idaho, Montana, and North and South Dakota had become states in 1889, and Arizona and New Mexico would not enter the Union until 1912.  During the late nineteenth century, railroading, oil, tobacco, and other industries were expanding rapidly, and in 1890, the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed in an attempt to limit the growth of monopolies.

Due to hard times in southern and eastern Europe, a new wave of immigrants arrived on American shores after 1890.  Living mostly in ethnic communities within large cities, these non-English speakers would form a sizabl audience for the largely visual entertainment  medium of silent cinema.

The first decade of the new century saw a progressivist impulse in America, under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.  There were movements to give women the vote, to prohibit child labor, to enforce antitrust laws, and in general to institute government regulations to protect consumers. This era was also one of virulent racism, scarred by many lynchings.  African-American progressives formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.