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Die Filmprimadonna (The Film Primadonna, 1913): A case study of the fiction of a screenplay and the process of filmmaking in German early cinema

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A case study on Urban Gad’s German shooting script for Die Filmprimadonna (The Film Primadonna, 1913) reviews the screenplay in the production process shortly after the emergence of multiple-reel feature films. In the dramatic story of the rise and fall of a film prima donna, a fictitious screenplay plays an idiosyncratic function in filmmaking that sketches, for the cinematic audience of that time, a specific idea of how and why an appropriate script has to be made. The article offers an analysis of Gad’s preserved script and demonstrates that this screen-idea contrasts with the value and agency of screenplays in the historic mode of production in 1913. Inasmuch as the plot of the movie simply highlights the function of acting, Die Filmprimadonna as a script itself functions as a complex and highly composed agent in the process of filmmaking ‐ as both a narrative and, equally, a production schedule for the film.

Keywords: Asta Nielsen; German screenplay; Urban Gad; early cinema screenwriting; fiction of a writer; mode of production; star system in early cinema

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000123592414University of Erfurt

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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