Filmmaking from the First Directors

Filmmaking from the First Directors

(5 customer reviews)


Takes students through a unique journey starting in the late 19th-century when film was invented, then guides them through the steps first directors took in creating the modern language of film. The goal of the class is to teach students how to make films one step at a time.


Filmmaking from the First Directors teaches the basics of filmmaking and early film history. It takes students through a unique journey starting in the late 19th century when film was invented, then guides them through the steps first directors took in creating the modern language of film.

Each lesson includes watching a series of lectures on history and production basics then viewing original films. Assignments will include making a variety of short films which will be uploaded for class comments and review. The goal of the class is to teach students how to make films one step at a time.

This class is taught by Thomas Purifoy, Jr., producer, director and writer of Is Genesis History?, Modern Parables, and Economics for Everybody. He has produced a variety of dramatic and documentary shorts, and is a student of film history. He believes merging these two areas is the perfect way to learn how to make films.

A few things to note:

  • This class requires a lot of work. After the first lesson, the lessons progressively become more difficult and take much more time to complete. The average time for students to complete a lesson is about 3 weeks.
  • There are no grades in this class. It is simply pass/fail based on completing all the work. (It’s more like real life where no one gives you a grade for the films you make.)
  • This is a class for people wanting to learn how to make films. It is not a film appreciation class. It is about the practical basics of filmmaking.

Thomas will not be reviewing assignments in this class.  Instead students will have the opportunity to share their video assignments with the class for group feedback and critique. The class is about making sure students understand the technical and artistic basics of filmmaking. That is best accomplished by studying the great filmmakers and attempting to do what they did.

Format: The class is available via an online classroom and includes pre-recorded lectures, complete films online, and things to read. This class is not tied to a certain weekly day or time, but can be taken at the student’s speed.

Equipment required: Digital Video Camera (a smart phone or simple digital camera is fine), Tripod, Computer with Editing Software (iMovie, or any free editing software is fine), Internet Connection.

License: This product is licensed for use by one family. For group, co-op, or school use, each family will need to purchase a copy or purchase licenses for each student. For more information, visit our group license page.

Additional information




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Thomas Purifoy Jr.




  1. Introduction
  2. Lesson 1 – Documenting Life: Edison & Lumiere
  3. Lesson 2 – A Magical Story: George Melies
  4. Lesson 3 – Editing Action: Edwin S. Porter
  5. Lesson 4 – Multi-Shot Narrative: D.W. Griffith
  6. Lesson 5 – Parallel Editing & More: D.W. Griffith
  7. Lesson 6 – Mise-en-scene – Framing, Depth, and Setting: D.W. Griffith
  8. Lesson 7 – The First Epics – Introduction of the Feature Film
  9. Lesson 8 – Feature Films & Auteur Theory: Maurice Tourneur
  10. Lesson 9 – The Character of Comedy: Charlie Chaplin
  11. Lesson 10 – Comedy as Complex Sequence: Buster Keaton
  12. Lesson 11 – Documenting life: Robert Flaherty
  13. Lesson 12 – Realism and the Classical Cinema: Douglas Fairbanks and John Ford
  14. Lesson 13 – Formalism and Montage: Sergei Eisenstein

5 reviews for Filmmaking from the First Directors

  1. Brandy

    Even with only completing the first few lessons of this course, our son has learned a significant amount that has carried into other projects. From his perspective, it has been extraordinarily useful to learn scriptwriting without using dialogue as a crutch. And… not only has he learned technical aspects such a camera angle and lighting, but he can also better recognize and appreciate a good story told well via film.

    If you’re interested, you can take a look at his first films at

  2. Corlia J

    My son loved every aspect of it. Great content and challenging assignments. It’s amazing to see how his creativity grew throughout this course.

  3. Linda N

    A good in-depth history of the early filmmaking industry. The projects assigned are very engaging. The film examples provided are inspiring and entertaining.

  4. Theresa (verified owner)

    A great way to start out a young filming career. It would be helpful if other material was recommended for further study though.

  5. Henry

    I’ve really been enjoying the class. It is more challenging than I thought it would be, but it is my favorite subject this year. I am learning a ton and having just as much fun filming.

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