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Paul Merton’s Birth of Hollywood

BBC2 MAY 27, JUNE 3 & 11

AT 9.30PM

Tune into your small screen to discover the story of the big screen. Starring Paul Merton, co-written and assistant directed by me.

In just two tumultuous decades between 1910 and 1930 Hollywood became the greatest entertainment machine the world has ever known: Hollywood a byword for fame, glamour and wealth.

In 1895 the Lumiere brothers projected moving images onto a bed sheet in Paris; an event that kick started the sensational rise of today’s multimillion-dollar film industry. For a short period the European movie industry was the largest in the world, producing some incredible early cinematic masterpieces. Across the Atlantic in New York small studios sprung up on rooftops to utilise the daylight. Then by 1910 a handful of film pioneers had trekked 3000 miles west to California. Here the sun shone 360 days of the year. But the glorious sunshine is not the whole story.

These early independent filmmakers were also escaping the clutches of one man: Thomas Alva Edison. Edison’s company had invented 35mm film with sprocket holes. So this respected entrepreneur tried to charge his competitors money for every foot of film run through a camera or projector. Edison even hired gun-slinging goons to go and shoot holes in the camera equipment of non-compliant filmmakers.

So to escape the threat of violence and avoid the harsh winters in New York filmmakers traveled 3000 miles away to Los Angeles. There they discovered a small rural backwater of orange groves: A little place called Hollywood.

In an astonishing spurt of creative growth Hollywood became the epicenter of films, the maker of dreams. Unknown stage actors became huge stars: silent monochrome icons flickering onto screens in pools of silver light in darken rooms across the globe.

Tune in to find out who were the geniuses, visionaries and eccentrics that created this weird alchemy of art and industry. And discover the truth behind Hollywood’s biggest ever scandal that threatened the Industry’s very existence.