Edwin S. Porter is best known as the director of The Great Train Robbery (1903). Though short by today’s standards, the film was, at the time, an epic. It was the first western, the first movie about criminals, and is also widely considered the first violent movie.
From a filmmaking standpoint, Porter was pivotal in his use of camera work. He was the first filmmaker to experiment in a significant way with varying the distance of the camera including the most notable example: the cemi-close up on the bandit shooting a gun, the last shot (or the first shot, depending on the theater) of The Great Train Robbery.
Porter, who worked at roughly the same time as Melies, was also pivotal in the expansion of narrative film from simple gags to true in depth story telling. Over the course of his career, Porter would establish many of the conventions still used in film today.