This article investigates the role of the screenplay in early Russian cinema and the life and work of Aleksandr Voznesenskii, who is considered to be the first professional writer of screenplays in Russia. It is no coincidence that Voznesenskii, who had been a novelist, a poet, a playwright, a literary critic, a universal writer of the Russian Silver Age, was the first major Russian writer for the screen, since, in a country with a logocentric culture, film was closely connected with literature from its very beginnings. Voznesenskii's screenplays (‘Tears’, ‘Silent Witnesses’, ‘The Queen of the Screen’, etc.) had a major influence on the development of early Russian cinema and he had a productive creative relationship with Evgenii Bauer. His writings (particularly his theoretical essays of the 1910s and his 1924 book, The Art of the Screen) played a key role in the development of cinema studies in Russia. He polemicized with Lev Kuleshov in the post-Revolutionary debates about the relative merits of the ‘Russian’ and ‘American’ montage systems. Furthermore, Voznesenskii was one of the pioneers of Russian film education. He made increasingly doomed attempts to adapt to the new cultural models of the Soviet period. Yet the role and achievements of this exemplary and pivotal figure have so far drawn little scholarly attention. The article draws upon a wide range of archival materials.