A number of the entries I've come across already relate to bible films, and the following one grabbed my attention in particular. The 1898 Passion Play was apparently the first film to separate the functions of producer and director (p.133).
The entry goes on to note how said director, Rich G. Hollaman, had never actually seen a movie, and so tried to make a series of still shots instead, rushing onto the set to shout "Hold it" whenever the cameras were rolling. Eventually, the film was shot in his absence in the early evening thanks to the cameraman convincing him the light had gone to get rid of him. Eventually they made it to two reels in time for it's opening at Eden Musee in January 1898. It seems stange that the first film to have a director was also possibly the first to have no director at all.