Business Of Codependents

After Orion established the modern incarnation of the satellite production company with Warner in the late 1970s, one by one the rest of the majors gradually adopted this practice. Such deals generally involved a contract between producer and distributor whereby the latter provided the former with office space in the studio lot, staffing and development funds so that the producer could develop films which the distributor could option. Once a film was greenlit for production, the distributor...

American Independent Cinema An Introduction

Images on pp. 24, 70 and 211 courtesy of The Kobal Collection. Images on pp. 54 and 126 courtesy of United Artists The Kobal Collection. Image on p. 150 courtesy of AIP The Kobal Collection. Image on p. 175 courtesy of Lion Productions The Kobal Collection. Image on p. 231 courtesy of Orion The Kobal Collection. Image on p. 259 courtesy of Cineville Film 4 International The Kobal Collection. Image on p. 271 courtesy of View Askew The Kobal Collection. Edinburgh University Press Ltd 22 George...

Analytical Table Of Contents

Introduction Problems of Definition and the Discourse of American Independent Cinema 1 Part I American Independent Cinema in the Studio Years (mid-1920s-late 1940s) 1. Independent Filmmaking in the Studio Era Tendencies within the Studio System 19 Independents before the Formation of the Studios 25 Independents in the Age of Oligopoly 30 The First Period (mid- late 1920s-1939) 31 Independent Production vs Studio-Unit Production 37 2. Independent Filmmaking in the Studio Era The Poverty Row...

Case Studies

James Cagney at United Artists 55 Stanley Kramer's Lomitas Productions and Sam Katzman and Rock Around the Clock 160 John Cassavetes and Shadows 184 Dennis Hopper and The Last Movie 187 Blaxploitation, the AIP Way Foxy Brown 212 John Sayles and The Return of the Seacaucus Seven 216 David Mamet, Filmhaus, Orion Pictures and House of Games 240 The definitive independent film sex, lies, and videotape 272 Kevin Smith, Miramax and Clerks 275

Contents

Analytical Table of Contents vii Introduction Problems of Definition and the Discourse of American Independent Cinema 1 American Independent Cinema in the Studio Years (mid-1920s-late 1940s) 1. Independent Filmmaking in the Studio Era Tendencies within the Studio System 19 2. Independent Filmmaking in the Studio Era The Poverty Row Studios (1930-50s) 63 The Transitional Years (late 1940s-late 1960s) 3. Independence by Force The Effects of the Paramount Decree on Independent Film Production 101...

Figures

1.1 The birth of United Artists 24 1.2 James Cagney and his sister Jeanne Cagney 54 2.1 The Singing Cowboy Gene Autry 70 3.1 Stanley Kramer directing Ava Gardner in On the Beach 126 4.1 Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern and other Hell's Angels 5.1 An emphatic close-up of Lelia Goldoni and 6.1 Pam Grier is Foxy Brown 211 8.2 The two main leads in Clerks 271

From The Theatrical To The Video Market

If AIP 'disappeared' in 1980 after playing the majors' game, the other smaller exploitation companies met different destinies. Dimension Pictures also made an effort to upgrade its product. In the 1977-8 season, the company allocated production funds in the region of 15 million and enjoyed the noteworthy success of Ruby (Harrington, 1977), which grossed 16 million. Following this, Dimension tried to shift from quantity to quality, producing and releasing only a few films with budgets around 3...

Info

Vincente Minnelli's A Matter of Time (1976) starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Liza Minnelli, which was budgeted at 5 million.32 Although the company's first steps towards expansion were successful, its march towards the industry's major league was severely curtailed in the final months of 1976, when the US Treasury Department repealed the federal income tax shelters that the Nixon administration had created in 1971 to stimulate film production after the recession.33 These credits...

Introduction

The above statement by the once president and chief executive officer of Poverty Row outfit Monogram Pictures represents an appropriate introduction to a different form of independent filmmaking during the studio years low-end independent production, which, in Broidy's analogy, is represented by the phrase 'stale bread'. The analogy seems apt. If one accepts that the films of top-rank independent producers and the studio prestige productions represent American cinema's 'cake', and the standard...

The End Of Exploitation As We Know It

The runaway success of Billy Jack in 1971-2 represents, arguably, the zenith of low-end independent cinema in the early 1970s and made the retrenched majors question once again their knowledge of the film market. Once the majors came out from the heavy recession of the 1969-71 period and the effects of conglomeration (renewed emphasis on blockbusters, scientific audience research and new marketing techniques, aggressive diversification, and so on) were becoming apparent, it became clear to them...

The Era Of The Drivein Theatres

Although a small number of drive-in theatres had existed in the United States since 1933, this type of exhibition site did not become popular until after the end of World War II.17 The Depression and war years, the inadequate sound technology and, of course, the limited number of automobiles and shortages in petrol (especially during the war years) ensured that the drive-in remained a marginal exhibition site throughout the 1930s. In 1941, the year when in-car speakers were developed, there...

The Gradual Rise And Rapid Fall Of American International Pictures

Like the other exploitation companies, AIP experienced a particularly successful period until the mid-1970s, achieving an impressive increase in both its profits and revenues (see Table 6.2).30 By 1975, the company was in such good shape that Arkoff was not afraid to choose competition with the majors over retrenchment in a changing film marketplace. Even though AIP's capitalisation was considerably larger than that of the other low-end independents, its financial basis was nevertheless still...

Youth

The independent filmmaker in the 1960s was a little bit like a guerrilla fighter - he could move fast and flexibly and react immediately to the change in circumstances - whereas a large army was like a large studio that had to have a bureaucracy to keep it all together and that would slow down its response time. Producers have always wanted to make 'dignified' pictures. That's not a good word for it. They wanted to make 'nice' pictures. They wanted to make pictures for their mothers and their...

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,...

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...

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,...