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Secret New York: The Filmmaker Who Saw the Future

What makes a lasting legacy? How are stories embedded in the fabric of New York City? What happens when we remain curious about details? 

In 1902, Georges Méliès imagined the moon. In one of the earliest science fiction films, a group of astronomers (an ensemble of highly-theatrical French actors) travel from earth to the moon in a rocket released from a cannon. The capsule rocket lands right in the eye of the moon, which is shown with exaggerated human-like facial features. An exciting adventure story is told in this 12-minute, silent, black-and-white film, and the stakes are high, simply due tot he artist’s ability to imagine. The Village Voice named this 1902 masterpiece on of the 20th Century’s 100 greatest films.

In the early 1900s, George Méliès was praised for his innovative storytelling, his use of cutting-edge special effects, and the sheer creativity that went into writing, directing, starring in, and producing this film. After his retirement from the entertainment industry, Le Voyage dans la Lune (“A Trip to the Moon”) was forgotten, overshadowed by progressing technology and newer science fiction cinema. In the 1930s, film scholars rediscovered Méliès’ work and praised its profound influence on the genre.

The more you explore New York City, the more you will find homage paid to the artists, scientists, and imaginations that shaped the world we live in. Take a walking tour in Chelsea and pause at the gate on West 21st Street between 8th and 9th avenues. Look up. The iron fence (directly across from The Clinton School) shows a moon face with a rocket landing in its eye, a classic image from the film made 117 years ago. You might see people looking at the peculiar moon face with curiosity–perhaps take that opportunity to tell them about A Trip to the Moon and the influence it had on American cinema. At Inside Out Tours, we use stories to draw connections, and we hope you are inspired to do that too.

As you walk around New York City today, keep your eyes open for little nuances that spark curiosity. What stands out and makes you wonder? Do some research and learn the history. How does the person behind the details change your experience of what you’re looking at? What would happen if everybody knew the story?