All but forgotten today, American director Edwin S. Porter was an instrumental force in the development of motion pictures. Though not the father of the narrative film per se (that title could be claimed by Georges Melies, Walter Booth, and/or James Williamson, from whom Porter copied many concepts and storylines), Porter's importance should not be underestimated.
Holding down several jobs during his first three decades, the industrious Porter was most attracted to machine work, notably electric-equipment installation; in collaboration with US Navy Admiral Bradley Allan Fiske, Porter developed the Fiske electric range-finder. In the late 1890s, Porter became part of a regional management team that handled the Vitascope, an early motion picture projector, though he didn't stay with this team for long. After a failed business venture involving a rival projection device called the Projectorscope, Porter invented a vastly improved projector, delivering a brighter and steadier picture, known as the Beadnell (in honor of his partner). Production of this commodity ended when Porter's factory burned down in 1900. Meanwhile, Porter joined Thomas Edison as a machinist, and began submitting films to Edison's company as a journeyman exhibitor; by 1901, he became involved in full-fledged motion picture production in tandem with Edison.