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Interesting Story, An — James Williamson, 1905

This silent comedy, filmed by early film pioneer James Williamson, charts the mishaps of a man so involved in reading ‘an interesting story’ that he cannot concentrate on anything else.

At breakfast, he is so engrossed in his book that he pours coffee into his hat. As he leaves his house, still reading, he bumps into a maid cleaning steps, a girls’ skipping rope, a donkey and cart, the only other person on a quiet street and eventually walks into the path of a steam roller by which he is flattened. As he lies on the road, two cyclists appear and, using their bicycle pumps, re-inflate him. Dusting him off, they give the man his hat and, book in hand, seemingly unscathed, he resumes his journey.

Classroom Activities

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  • Using Freeze Frame and the Spot the Shots worksheet, identify the different shot types and angles used. What view does the camera show? Whose perspective is it? How does the camera change for each event?
  • This film is in black and white. Discuss what colours we might see if this film were filmed today.
  • Use Sound On/Vision Off. How would you describe this music? Are there any sound effects that represent an action or contribute to the drama?
  • Play the film (sound and vision) and ask your pupils to concentrate on the music soundtrack. Identify how the cymbals and other percussion instruments indicate when something bad is going to happen. Does the music change when something bad happens? Is the music a warning? Do you hear any sounds from people or any other noises in the music? Why? What types of instruments create different moods? Why does the drum beat louder when the man meets trouble? How are the cymbals symbolic? Why do you think there is silence when the man is squashed? How does the crescendo of music anticipate the climax of the story?
  • Replay the following scenes: the man sitting at his breakfast table; the sequence when he walks towards the steamroller and is squashed. How does the camera aid us in anticipating cause and effect throughout the narrative? Did you notice more than one way of moving between shots? What difference would it make if another type of transition were used? What roles do the other characters play in this narrative sequence? Do they add to the comic element?


  • Discuss the time setting of the film. What decade is the film set in? How do you know?
  • Look at the size of the roads. Can you tell whether it is a wealthy or poor area? How many different settings are there?
  • Introduce the concept of ‘slapstick’ comedy to your class. Perhaps show some clips of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Keystone Cops – focus on action, costume and movement. Ask the class to identify any scenes or elements in this film that can be classed as ‘slapstick’.
  • What modern film or films could this be compared to?
  • Ask the class to look at the portrayals of men and women in the film. Were there stereotypical gender roles and if so, why?
  • Show the film alongside ‘Little Pig is Flying’ or ‘The Lucky Dip’. Examine how the different stories work, looking at narrative development (focus on complication, crisis, cause-and-effect and resolution).
  • Have you ever found any book that engrossing? What made it so compelling to you?



  • Write about the events from the reading man’s point-of-view. How aware is he of everything that is going on? How does he feel about it? Are these just minor inconveniences, interrupting his reading?
  • Write a poem about the joys (or horrors) of reading.
  • Write a review of a book you have read that was so absorbing that you were oblivious to the world around you.


  • Storyboard some new sequences for the film showing some other disasters that the man could have on his journey.
  • Write a new dialogue and/or sound effects script for the film. Get the class to take on roles and perform their script. Record it and add to a downloaded version of the film to create a sound version of the film.


  • Write a series of stage directions to create a silent play for performance.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-111-C
Resource Rights Holder BFI Archival Footage Sales
Project Ref STSH2-03
Year of Production 1905
Genre Comedy
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Literacy and English, Social Studies
Director James Williamson
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content Live Action, Fiction, Black & White, Silent
Themes Danger / Fear, History / War, Culture / Society, Identity / Self
Clip Length 05:00
Clip Length 05:00
Age Group P1-P4, P5-P7, S1-S3, S4-S6