The First Independents

The discourse of independent cinema appears perhaps for the first time in 1908-9 with the formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC, also known as the Patents Company or simply the Trust) and its antagonists, which became known as independents. The company was established on 1 January 1909 by ten film manufacturing outfits - led by Edison and Biograph - in an attempt to licence all three branches of filmmaking (production, distribution and exhibition) in the United States and,...

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Pretty Pictures (Neil La Bute) This is That (Ted Hope) scheme created many complications, especially as the first five Phoenix films as a group lost money which meant that Phoenix sought to receive compensation from the insurance companies,13 it nevertheless was successful enough to allow the company's establishment in the industry. Since then, Phoenix has financed and produced films with production funds secured from a number of different sources, including the majors.14 However, a series of...

From Poverty Row To Exploitation And Showmanship

Although the phenomenon of exploitation pictures was as old as cinema itself, the low-budget exploitation films of the 1950s and 1960s represented a drastically different approach to film content from previous forms of exploitation (though this was not the case when it came to questions of advertising and publicity). In previous decades, exploitation films dealt specifically with 'the gratification of forbidden curiosity', more often than not under the pretence of educating the audience.13...

Conclusion

Despite ultimately being controlled by the majors, independent production post-1948 continued the project of the hyphenate filmmakers of the 1940s who had laid the foundations for a filmmaker's cinema and had gradually stripped the studios of their distinct house styles. By moving from distributor to distributor, arranging individual or multi-picture deals and by constructing film packages that often were sold to the highest bidder, independent filmmakers in the 1950s and 1960s indeed finished...

The Postwar Recession

Although 1946 was the peak year for Hollywood, with the eight studios' combined profits soaring to a record 122 million (up a remarkable 85 per cent from 66 million in 1945), this turned out to be the last time profits climbed for a very long time, thus marking the beginning of a period of recession. Only a year later, in 1947, profits were down 27 per cent to 89 million, while by 1949 they had dropped to 37 million, an alarming 70 per cent down from the 1946 milestone.9 During the same time...

Independent Production The United Artists

The secret of United Artists' success was the adoption of a particular brand of independent production system that had its foundation in Krim and Benjamin's decision to provide complete production finance to independent producers. Instead of going to the banks or other financial organisations to obtain production funds, especially during a period when banks were unwilling to take risks, independent producers would be financed by United Artists in exchange for worldwide distribution rights of...

The Reasons Behind The Success

United Artists' move to offer independent producers complete production financing, creative control, final cut and a share of the profits differentiated the distribution company from the other majors, for which it was not as easy to adapt to the post-studio era. One great advantage UA held over its competitors was that it did not have a studio backlot and therefore no stars or technical personnel under contract and no overhead costs at a time when studio production started declining and studio...

The Triumph Of A Brand Of Independent Production And Of The Majors

By the end of the 1950s all the ex-studios had started following United Artists ensuite. Independent production was in full swing with almost 70 per cent of the ex-studios' output being independently produced films, forcing industry officials like United Artists' vice president, Max E. Youngstein, to talk about 'an independent revolution' that had overthrown 'the one-man studio czar system'.54 Even MGM, the studio that epitomised best the one-man studio czar system (Louis B. Meyer had stepped...

The United Artists Revival

Before moving to United Artists, Arhtur Krim and Robert Benjamin managed Eagle-Lion Films, the American-British company that had taken over low-end independent PRC. At Eagle-Lion, Krim and Benjamin initiated a hybrid brand of independent production whereby their company would provide film producers with 'a patchwork of financing consisting of second money, studio credits and completion bonds to supplement conventional bank loans.'31 Although the company had some success and managed to attract a...

The New American Cinema

In the late 1950s early 1960s, a group of filmmakers that among others included John Cassavetes, Jonas and Adolfas Mekas, Shirley Clarke, Edward Bland, Alfred Leslie, Lionel Rogosin and Robert Frank was brought together by its distinctly anti-Hollywood approach to filmmaking. Bearing a strong kinship to movements in various European countries such as the Nouvelle Vague in France, the Free Cinema in Britain and other similar attempts for an alternative cinema in Italy, Poland and the Soviet...

Beyond Poverty Row Ethnic Films

Another important part of the low-end independent market was the ethnic film market, which was established in the mid-1910s but which also reached a peak in the 1930s and 1940s. The term 'ethnic' here does not only refer to films aimed at American audiences of specific ethnicities rather it is used as an umbrella term under which one could group several defining audience characteristics such as race, religion and nationality.69 Thus, under the label 'ethnic', one could bring together films that...

The Exploitation Teenpic And The Companies Behind It

The low-budget independent market started blossoming in 1956 when the first exploitation pictures that targeted specifically teenage audiences proved box office hits. The producer and film that were credited with launching the wave of exploitation teenpics which were to flood American cinema for at least a decade were Sam Katzman and his Rock Around the Clock Sears, 1956 - see the Case Study on p. 160 . With almost 200 films behind him as a producer or executive producer for Monogram, Columbia...

Star Is Born

Orion came into existence in February 1978 when five top executives left United Artists after disagreeing with the executives of Transamerica, the corporate parent of UA, and formed a new company.7 The departure of Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin, Eric Pleskow, Morris 'Mike' Medavoy and William Bernstein sent shockwaves through Hollywood mainly because of the fact that Krim and Benjamin had been running UA for twenty-seven years but also because of its unprecedented nature. As in UA, Krim became...

Introduction

If the Paramount Decree and the post-World War II recession ushered American independent cinema towards its second major phase, the factors that led to its further evolution in the late 1960s were once again economic, though changes in American society and culture played also a significant part. The end of the 1960s was one of the most volatile periods in the history of the country, characterised by civil unrest in the streets of major American metropoles like New York and Chicago...

The Paramount Decree

The consent decree of 29 October 1940, in which the studios agreed to reduce the number of block-booked films to five and replace blind-biding with trade showing, certainly created more opportunities for independent producers but did not achieve the main objectives of the US Justice Department the elimination of illegal trade practices and the divorcement of exhibition from production and distribution. With America at war between 1941 and 1945, trust-busting campaigns had become less persistent...

The Influence Of John Cassavetes

The son of Greek immigrants, Cassavetes started his career in American cinema as an actor, achieving a certain degree of fame as a youth rebel in Crime in the Streets Siegel, 1956 and as a hard-pressed airport worker in Edge of the City Ritt, 1957 . However, it was his role as Johnny Staccato, in the NBC show Johnny Staccato in 1959-60 that made him a familiar figure to the wider public. Since 1957, Cassavetes had established in New York the Variety Arts Studio, an actors' workshop, with the...

The Aesthetics Factor

As the industrial background of a film has become gradually an irrelevant factor in its claim to independence, questions of aesthetics have assumed an increasingly prominent position in the discourse of contemporary American independent cinema. Film historians have argued that an inclusive definition of the post-1980 independent cinema must consider not only 'the position of individual films or filmmakers in terms of industrial location' but also 'the kinds of formal aesthetic strategies they...

The Emergence Of The Teenager And The Rise Of Youth Audience

The most important development in low-budget independent filmmaking and, arguably, its salvation during the period of recession was the emergence of a particular audience demographic loosely labelled as youth audience. This demographic, which, according to Barry Keith Grant, covered all people from the age of 10 to 35, included three main subcategories children, teenagers a newly coined age group that included young individuals between the ages of 12 and 19 and the post-adolescent or young...

Cinema

American independent cinema has always been a notoriously difficult concept to define. This is primarily because the label 'independent' has been widely used since the early years of American cinema by filmmakers, film critics, industry practitioners, trade publications, academics and cinema fans, to the extent that any attempt towards a definition is almost certainly destined to raise objections. For the majority of people with a basic knowledge of American cinema, independent filmmaking...

Independents In The Age Of Oligopoly

There are two main periods in the history of top-rank independent production during the era of mature oligopoly the era of the Big Five and the Little Three . The first period covers the years between the mid- late 1920s and 1939. During this period top-rank independent production was a relatively isolated phenomenon in the American film industry and was mainly characterised by a small group of elite producers, which apart from Goldwyn, Selznick, Disney and Hughes included among others Walter...

Bibliography

A. 2000 Hollywood Renegades The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers, Cobblestone, Los Angeles. Adams Sitney, P. 2000 'The New American Cinema', in Adams Sitney, P. ed. , Film Culture Reader, First Cooper Square Press, New York, pp. 71-2. Allen, Michael 2003 Contemporary US Cinema, Longman, London. Allen, Robert C. and Douglas Gomery 1985 , Film History Theory and Practice, Alfred Knopf, New York. Andrew, Geoff 1998 Stranger than Paradise Maverick Film-makers in Recent...

The New Hollywood

During the late 1960s, the American film industry presented an unusual picture. On the one hand, it had reached a respectable level of stability after the Paramount Decree had changed the organisational structure of the industry and the rise of television had made American cinema a secondary leisure activity. An increasing number of big-budget productions, either produced and distributed by the majors, or produced independently but still released by the majors, had started reaching an audience,...