Makino was born in Kyoto on September 22, 1878. His mother ran a theater[clarification needed], and his association with movies began when the motion picture producer Einosuke Yokota of Yokota Shōkai asked for his help in filming period films. Shozo discovered actor Matsunosuke Onoe working in an itinerant kabuki troupe, enlisted him into becoming Japan's first film star. He directed over 60 Matsunosuke films a year in the early 1910s, most if not all short films.
In addition to creating the unique genre of the Japanese period film,[clarification needed] Makino also incorporated trick camera techniques and a myriad of other cinematic methods of expression into his films. In 1919, he founded the Mikado Company and began to produce educational films. He later founded an independent production company, Makino Film Productions, and from 1923, continued as a director and as producer. Makino Film Productions turned out many successful movies also made by several other directors and actors.[clarification needed]
In 1928, he directed the epic, Jitsuroku Chushingura (True Record of the Forty-Seven Ronin), which coincided with his 50th birthday. He died on July 25, 1929.