It was Fred’s big day.
He was always known as a joker. Always ready with a gag. Today, his antics would make him a star.
In the restroom of the small Black Maria movie studio in West Orange, New Jersey, he prepared himself. Standing before a full length mirror, he practiced his role - a very simple routine, a basic plot, starring just himself, but he had to get it just right.
He rubbed his eyes and twitched his nose from side to side several times and then all of a sudden, he reared back and let out a terrific sneeze.
“Oh, that won’t do,” he said to himself silently. Straightening his tie, he began again.
During his next attempt, he sneezed again.
He repeated his performance over and over until at last, he thought he had nailed it.
The director stuck his head into the lavatory, “Ready Freddy?”
“I’d say so. I’m starting to get dizzy. We’d better do this before I fall over! Just let me clean up.”
“Yeah, you got a little thing on your lip there ...” the director said and ducked back out.
Fred wiped his reddening eyes with a handkerchief and smoothed his thick brown moustache with water from the sink. He considered for a moment, twirling it into a handlebar but there wasn’t the time. So he buttoned his vest, his lucky vest that he chose especially for today’s performance, and straightened his tie that was pulled into a fat knot high on his neck, and he walked out of the bathroom and into history.
Fred Ott’s five second documentary performance was captured by Kinetograph on Eastman Kodak film for the Edison Manufacturing Company. On January 9th, 1894, it was filed at the Library of Congress and became the first copyrighted motion picture.