Professor Andy Erish has some news that he hates to break to you: everything you know about Hollywood is wrong.

For over 100 years, the story of Hollywood has been muddled with half-truths and fabrications, with a single name being replaced in the history books time and time again by individuals looking to get their own names in the limelight. And what was that name, you may ask? None other than Colonel William N. Selig.

Image of Professor Andy Erish's book cover "Col. William N. Selig: the man Who Invented Hollywood"

But just who was Colonel Selig, and why is he so important to the history of Tinsel Town? In a lot of ways, he was responsible for the invention of Hollywood itself. Selig was an early pioneer in filmmaking, and laid the foundation for the movie industry that we know today. During his time in the industry, Selig was responsible for being the first person to do many things we are used to in Hollywood today: he created the first two-hour narrative film, the first horror film, the first American newsreel, the first serial with cliffhanger endings, and the first permanent film studio in Los Angeles.

However, over the years, Selig’s name had all but been erased from history. That’s where Erish and his book,
Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood
, come in.

“I’ve been working on this book for over ten years,” said Erish. “And I have to thank Dodge College for helping me complete it.”

Grayson Stone (BFA/Film Production '14) and Tansu Philip (BA/Television and Broadcast Journalism '16) working on Erish's documentary in the control booth of the TV stage.

Grayson Stone (BFA/Film Production ’14) and Tansu Philip (BA/Television and Broadcast Journalism ’16) working on Erish’s documentary.

Erish was working on earning his Master’s Degree, and opted to come to Dodge College because of our great reputation. It also allowed him to be close to the Selig archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library, where he could continue his research on the book.

“After earning my Master’s, I grew tired of the grind of production, and started lecturing about film. It wasn’t long after that that I became an adjunct professor here at Dodge, to help share my love of movies with students,” Erish continued.

When the book was nearing completion, Erish got the idea to also do a documentary on the subject. He began to work on it as soon as the book was released. It took two years to compile a rough cut together, but it was well worth it.

“The rough cut got some interested parties looking at it, but I wanted to make it even better. To do that, I needed to find a narrator who could really help tell the story of Selig the way it was meant to be told,” Erish said.

Image of professor Andy Erish directing Robert Wagner.

Andy Erish directing Robert Wagner.

Erish turned to veteran actor Robert Wagner, whom Erish had met through his mentor, the late Tom Mankiewicz. Wagner was all too happy to help tell the fascinating story of this unjustly forgotten film pioneer. This past Monday, Wagner came to Dodge College to help Erish finish his project. Erish filmed some live action sequences with Wagner on the TV Stage, and then moved over to the Foley Studio to complete some voice over narration. The production was manned by many Dodge students. Erish wanted his students to get real world, hands-on experience, and they helped immensely during the process.

“I’m extremely grateful to Chapman University, and its students, for helping my dream become a reality,” said Erish.