Local films were especially popular during the Silent Era and were in some ways precursors to home movies. A film is called “local” when the men, women and children appearing on screen are from the same community as the spectators.
Travelling projectionists were the most prolific producers of local films. In fact many of them had their own cameras, enabling them to produce short views in the communities where they presented shows. It was a sound business practice since people were more willing to spend five or ten cents in admission knowing they would have the chance to see themselves briefly on screen. However, local films were not very popular outside of the communities where they were shot; as a result these films were rarely distributed.
Shoots for local films typically centred on places and events where the most people could be captured, since their producers could only afford short strips of film (just a few minutes in length). Cameras were consequently placed on vehicles (a tramway in the case of St. Catherine Street Panorama, a view shot for Proctor’s theatre in 1901) or in front of an active group of people (such as in Montreal on Skates). A number of local films were also shot as people left school or church or marched in parades.