Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Virgin Guide to the Sundance Independent Film Festival

The Sundance Festival held each year in Utah. Useful info.
For another festival held in Utah at the same time each year see
This festival hosts independent film made on even slimmer shoe-string budgets!

Independent Films - a wider definition?

Can we count corporate, Government information films, and short documentary/information films as "independent films"? It's worth thinking about. Students will need carve out a definition of what an independent film is so that they can make boundries and show that such definitions are problematic for their essays. They will also need to establish the degree of independence that exists from mainstream film-makers. That, too, is very problematic.

Of course, strong reference to case study films will enable students to make detailed points on independent films and their audiences.

Independent Films - a definition?

Independent Films - a definition with some statistics? (From Wikipedia)

A definition

An independent film (or indie film) is a film initially produced without financing or distribution from a major movie studio. Often, films that receive less than 50% of their budget from major studio are also considered "independent". According to MPAA data, January through March 2005 showed approximately 15% of US domestic box office revenue was from independent or indie studios. Creative, business, and technological reasons have all contributed to the growth of the indie film scene in the late 20th and early 21st century.


The roots of independent film can be traced back to when the early pioneer filmmakers at the turn of the century resisted the control of the Motion Pictures Patents Company, when filmmakers built their own cameras to escape the Edison trusts in order to relocate to Southern California where they laid the foundations of the American film industry as well as the Hollywood studio system.The studio system took on a life of its own, and became too powerful. Filmmakers once again sought independence as a result. Throughout the decades, independent filmmakers around the world have created a diverse range of filmmaking styles that symbolize their own unique cultures such as experimental film and underground film.Some independent filmmakers have even broken through technological barriers with the use of digital cinema.The American film industry is located principally in Los Angeles, while one-third of all independent films in the United States are produced in New York.


Until the advent of digital alternatives, the cost of professional film equipment and stock was also a hurdle to being able to produce, direct, or star in a traditional studio film. The cost of 35mm film is outpacing inflation: in 2002 alone, film negative costs were up 23%, according to Variety. Film requires expensive lighting and post-production facilities.But the advent of consumer camcorders in 1985, and more importantly, the arrival of high-resolution digital video in the early 1990s, have lowered the technology barrier to movie production significantly. Both production and post-production costs have been significantly lowered; today, the hardware and software for post-production can be installed in a commodity-based personal computer. Technologies such as DVDs, FireWire connections and non-linear editing system pro-level software like the open source Cinelerra or the commercial Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro and consumer level software such as the open source Kino, or the commercial Final Cut Express and iMovie make movie-making relatively inexpensive.Popular digital camcorders, mostly semi-professional equipment with 3-CCD technology, include:
Canon , GL2, XL1(S), XL2
Panasonic AG-DVX100/AG-DVX100A
Sony VX-1000/2000/2100
Sony PD-150/170 Most of these cost between US$2,000 - $5,000 in 2003, with costs continuing to decline as features are added, and models depreciate.

Indie versus major

Creatively, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get studio backing for experimental films. Experimental elements in theme and style are inhibitors for the Big Six studios.On the business side, the cost of big-budget studio films also leads to conservative choices in cast and crew. The problem is exacerbated by the trend towards co-financing (over two-thirds of the films put out by Warner Bros. in 2000 were joint ventures, up from 10% in 1987). An unproven director is almost never given the opportunity to get his or her big break with the studios unless he or she has significant industry experience in film or television. Films with unknowns, particularly in lead roles, are also rarely produced.Another key expense for independent movie makers is the music for the film. The licensing fees for popular songs can range between US$10,000 - $20,000.Anecdotal evidence for the difference between indie films and studio films abounds. The following example was taken from Alec Baldwin , commenting on his independent film The Cooler as a guest on David Letterman's talk show in November 2003::The scene "Amy opens the window" takes half a day and perhaps ten shots in a big studio production: ::Amy walks to the window, ::Window itself, ::Amy touching the handle, ::shot from outside the window, etc. :For independent film makers, that scene is one shot, and done before 9 a.m.

Independent movie-making has resulted in the proliferation of short films and short film festivals. Full-length films are often showcased at film festivals such as Robert Redford 's Sundance Film Festival, the Slamdance Film Festival or the Cannes Film Festival . Award winners from these exhibitions often get picked up for distribution by major film studios, and go on to worldwide releases.

[ Visit the complete Wikipedia entry for Independent film ]

The Independent Film Industry: its history and its current state

These are key articles for not only understanding the current state of the independent film industry and for being able to destinguish it from the mainstream film industry.

Independent Film

Is the sky falling on the indie film business?

Read also the discussion beneath the article.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Movie Stars explained

Movie star
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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For other uses, including various songs titled "Movie Star", see Movie star (disambiguation).

Movie star Tobey Maguire greets fans at the Spider-Man 3 premiere in Queens
A movie star (cinema star or film star) is a celebrity who is well-known, or famous, for his or her starring, or leading, roles in motion pictures. The term may also apply to an actor or actress who is recognized as a marketable commodity and whose name is used to promote a film in trailers and posters. The most widely-known, prominent or successful actors are sometimes called "superstars" by writers and journalists.
1 Origin
2 Advantages and drawbacks
3 Decline
4 Treatment outside the West
4.1 India
4.2 China
5 See also
6 References

[edit] Origin

Lillian Gish was one of the first female movie stars, working from 1912 to 1987
In the early days of silent movies the names of the actors and actresses appearing in movies were not publicized or credited as they are now. Some of these performers had to help build the sets, clean up and other chores around the film studio. As the movie-going public became more interested in the performers who attracted their attention, however, the curiosity to know more about them made the movie studios and producers rethink their policy. As the demand increased, they began publicizing the names of their leading women and men, and bill them in the credits of their movies, such as Florence Lawrence, referred to as "the first movie star," who was previously known only as the "Biograph Girl" because she worked for Biograph Studios, and Mary Pickford, who was previously known as "Little Mary." By 1909, the silent film companies began promoting "picture personalities" by releasing stories about these actors to fan magazines and newspapers, as part of a strategy to build “brand loyalty” for their company’s actors and films. By the 1920s, Hollywood film company promoters had developed a “massive industrial enterprise” that “... peddled a new intangible—fame.”[1]
Hollywood “image makers” and promotional agents planted rumours, selectively released real or fictitious biographical information to the press, and used other "gimmicks" to create personas for actors. Then they “...worked [to] reinforce that persona [and] manage the publicity.” Publicists thus "created" the "enduring images" and public perceptions of screen legends such as Rock Hudson,Marilyn Monroe,and Grace Kelley. The development of this “star system” made “fame... something that could be fabricated purposely, by the masters of the new ‘machinery of glory.’”[1] However, regardless of how “... strenuously the star and their media handlers and press agents may ... try to "monitor" and "shape" it, the media and the public always play a substantial part in the image-making process.”[1]According to Madow, “fame is a "relational" phenomenon, something that is conferred by others. A person can, within the limits of his natural talents, make himself strong or swift or learned. But he cannot, in this same sense, make himself famous, any more than he can make himself loved.”
Madow goes on to point out that “fame is often conferred or withheld, just as love is, for reasons and on grounds other than "merit." According to Sofia Johansson the "canonical texts on stardom" include articles by Boorstin (1971), Alberoni (1972) and Dyer (1979) that examined the "representations of stars and on aspects of the Hollywood star system." Johansson notes that "more recent analyses within media and cultural studies (e.g. Gamson 1994; Marshall 1997; Giles 2000; Turner, Marshall and Bonner 2000; Rojek 2001; Turner 2004) have instead dealt with the idea of a pervasive, contemporary, ‘celebrity culture’." In the analysis of the 'celebrity culture,' "fame and its constituencies are conceived of as a broader social process, connected to widespread economic, political, technological and cultural developments."[2]
In the 1980s and 90s, entertainment companies began using stars for a range of publicity tactics including press releases, movie "junkets, and community activities. These promotional efforts are targeted and designed using market research, "to increase the predictability of success of their media ventures.” In some cases, publicity agents may create “provocative advertisements” or make an outrageous public statement to “trigger public controversy and thereby generate "free" news coverage.”[1] Movie studios employed performers under long-term contracts. They developed a star system as a means of promoting and selling their movies. "Star vehicles" were filmed to display the particular talents and appeal of the most popular movie stars of the studio.

[edit] Advantages and drawbacks
Traditionally, those who achieve "star" status in the movie industry are given special treatment, perks, and high salaries. Other than those movie stars who began forming their own production companies to make more money and those who received a percentage of the profits to star in a movie, such as Lana Turner for Imitation of Life (1959), reaping millions of dollars,[citation needed] the first movie star to be paid a fee of $1,000,000 to star in a movie was Elizabeth Taylor for Cleopatra (1963). For his appearance in the 1978 movie Superman, movie star Marlon Brando received almost $4,000,000 for eight minutes of screen time as Superman's father, Jor-El. The highest paid Hollywood actress is Cameron Diaz, who received $50,000,000 for her role in What Happens in Vegas. The highest flat fee paid to any actor was $30,000,000 to Mel Gibson for reprising his role in Lethal Weapon 4.
Usually, a star receives the most earnings when they agree to forgo part of their usual payment in exchange for a certain percentage of the gross takings of a particularly successful film), because in this fashion they are sharing the potential risks and rewards with the production company and other financial backers.[citation needed] An example of this concession is the $185 million paycheck Keanu Reeves received for his participation in the Matrix sequels (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions). Reeves accepted an upfront salary of $20 million for the project, plus an additional 15% of the movies' gross revenue. Furthermore, a movie star's popularity can allow for more artistic accommodation such as personal projects or supporting collaborators or friends that otherwise would not have support from the studios.
Movie stars also receive what is known as "celebrity swag" when attending award ceremonies, winning an award and presenting awards. This "swag" comes in the form of gift bags or baskets containing items worth thousands of dollars, ranging from designer sunglasses and expensive perfume to high-end electronics. Companies provide the movie stars with these gifts in the hopes they will receive free publicity for their products, either from the actor wearing or using the gift in public, or thanking the company in an interview.[citation needed]
However, a movie star's personal privacy is often substantially reduced. Stars can rarely appear in public for long without being surrounded and often harassed by strangers and aggressive tabloid photographers that are nicknamed paparazzi. While some film stars only experience this type of harassment during film awards, the most popular actors, such as Brad Pitt are photographed every week as they go about their private lives, in order to feed the huge public demand for tabloid coverage of the star's private lives. Movie stars often are required by movie producers to appear on TV, in newspapers, in magazines, to publicize their movies. Some stars stipulate they will not talk about their private lives (e.g., their relationships or family), but only about acting and movies, particularly the projects they are working on.[citation needed]

[edit] Decline
Some critics argue that few Hollywood movie stars of the 2000s have been able to match the universal appeal of "classic" movie stars (e.g. Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant).[citation needed] To explain this phenomenon, some point to the growing trend of "niche marketing" Hollywood movies, producing stars with strong, but limited appeal to specific demographics.[citation needed] Others point to the unappealing public conduct of modern stars, or to Hollywood's tendency to hire career actors who possess little life experience.[citation needed]

[edit] Treatment outside the West
Movie stars in other regions too have their own star value. For instance, in Asian film industries, many movies often run on the weight of the star's crowd pulling power more than any other intrinsic aspect of film making.

[edit] India
The Indian film industry has its own set of rules in this aspect and there are often superstars in this region, who often command premium pay commensurate with their box office appeal. Among them, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Salman Khan, Kamal Hassan, Mohanlal, Mammootty and Aishwarya Rai, are arguably the most popular movie stars in Southern Asia.

[edit] China
Chinese movie stars well-known in the West include Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, and the late Bruce Lee, who are also some of the most popular movie stars in Eastern Asia. A few movie stars from Hong Kong have global audiences, such as Jackie Chan, while others have a limited overseas audience but a more devoted following, such as Stephen Chow,[citation needed] though he has become more known in the West after Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.

[edit] See also
Character actor
Leading Man
Leading lady
List of movie actors
List of movie actresses
Matinée idol

Film portal
Sex symbol
Voice actor

[edit] References
^ a b c d
^ Editorial by Sofia Johansson from the Communication and Media Research Institute of the University of Westminster. Available at:
Retrieved from ""

The Studio System

This article has been taken from Wikipedia. It serves as a good starting point for studying "The Studio System".

Studio system
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The studio system was a means of film production and distribution dominant in Hollywood from the early 1920s through the early 1950s. The term studio system refers to the practice of large motion picture studios (a) producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative personnel under often long-term contract and (b) pursuing vertical integration through ownership or effective control of distributors and movie theaters, guaranteeing additional sales of films through manipulative booking techniques. A 1948 Supreme Court ruling against those distribution and exhibition practices hastened the end of the studio system. In 1954, the last of the operational links between a major production studio and theater chain was broken and the era of the studio system was officially over. The period stretching from the introduction of sound to the court ruling and the beginning of the studio breakups, 1927/29–1948/49, is commonly known as the Golden Age of Hollywood.
During the Golden Age, eight companies comprised the so-called major studios that promulgated the Hollywood studio system. Of these eight, five were fully integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Fox (later 20th Century-Fox), Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Paramount Pictures, RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum), and Warner Bros. Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits. The eighth of the Golden Age majors, United Artists, owned a few theaters and had access to two production facilities owned by members of its controlling partnership group, but it functioned primarily as a backer-distributor, loaning money to independent producers and releasing their films.
1 Sound and the Big Five
2 Reign of the majors
3 The end of the system and the death of RKO
4 The studio system in Europe and Asia
5 After the system
6 See also
7 Notes
8 Sources
8.1 Published
8.2 Online
8.2.1 Authored
8.2.2 Archival

[edit] Sound and the Big Five
The years 1927 and 1928 are generally seen as the beginning of Hollywood's Golden Age and the final major steps in the establishment of studio system control of the American film business. The success of 1927's The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length "talkie" (in fact, the majority of its scenes did not have live-recorded sound) gave a big boost to the then midsized Warner Bros. studio. The following year saw both the general introduction of sound throughout the industry and two more smashes for Warners: The Singing Fool, The Jazz Singer's even more profitable follow-up, and Hollywood's first "all-talking" feature, Lights of New York. Just as significant were a number of offscreen developments. Warner Bros., now flush with income, acquired the extensive Stanley theater chain in September 1928. One month later, it purchased a controlling interest in the First National production company, more prominent than Warners itself not long before. With the First National acquisition came not only a 135-acre studio and backlot but another large string of movie theaters. Warners had hit the big time.
1928 also saw the emergence of the fifth of what would come to be known as the "Big Five" Hollywood conglomerates of the Golden Age. The Radio Corporation of America (RCA), led by David Sarnoff, was looking for ways to exploit the cinema sound patents, newly trademarked RCA Photophone, owned by its parent company, General Electric. As the leading film production companies were all preparing to sign exclusive agreements with Western Electric for their technology, RCA got into the movie business itself. In January, General Electric acquired a sizable interest in Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), a distributor and small production company owned by Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the future president. In October, through a set of stock transfers, RCA gained control of both FBO and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chain; merging them into a single venture, it created the Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation, Sarnoff chairing the board. With RKO and Warner Bros. (soon to become Warner Bros.–First National) joining Fox, Paramount, and Loew's/MGM as major players, the Big Five that would rule Hollywood—and thus much of world cinema—for decades to follow were now complete.

[edit] Reign of the majors
The ranking of the Big Five in terms of profitability (closely related to market share) was largely consistent during the Golden Age: MGM was number one eleven years running, 1931–41. Paramount, the most profitable studio of the early sound era (1928–30), faded for the better part of the subsequent decade, and Fox was number two for most of MGM's reign. Paramount began a steady climb in 1940, finally edging past MGM two years later; from then until its reorganization in 1949 it was again the most financially successful of the Big Five. With the exception of 1932—when all the companies but MGM lost money, and RKO lost somewhat less than its competitors—RKO was next to last or (usually) last every year of the Golden Age, with Warners generally hanging alongside at the back of the pack. Of the smaller majors, the Little Three, United Artists reliably held up the rear, with Columbia strongest in the 1930s and Universal ahead for most of the 1940s.[1]

[edit] The end of the system and the death of RKO
One of the techniques used to support the studio system was block booking, a system of selling multiple films to a theater as a unit. Such a unit—five films was the standard practice for most of the 1940s—typically included only one particularly attractive film, the rest a mix of A-budget pictures of dubious quality and B movies.[2] On May 4, 1948, in a federal antitrust suit known as the Paramount case brought against the entire Big Five, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically outlawed block booking. Holding that the conglomerates were indeed in violation of antitrust, the justices refrained from making a final decision as to how that fault should be remedied, but the case was sent back to the lower court from which it had come with language that suggested divorcement—the complete separation of exhibition interests from producer-distributor operations—was the answer. The Big Five, though, seemed united in their determination to fight on and drag out legal proceedings for years as they had already proven adept at—after all, the Paramount suit had originally been filed on July 20, 1938.
However, behind the scenes at RKO, long the financially shakiest of the conglomerates, the court ruling was being looked at as something that could be turned to the studio's advantage. The same month that the decision was handed down, movie-crazy multimillionaire Howard Hughes had acquired a controlling interest in the company. As RKO controlled the fewest theaters of any of the Big Five, Hughes decided that starting a divorcement domino effect could actually help put his studio on a more equal footing with his competitors. Hughes signaled his willingness to the federal government to enter into a consent decree obliging the breakup of his movie business. Under the agreement, Hughes would split his studio into two entities, RKO Pictures Corporation and RKO Theatres Corporation, and commit to selling off his stake in one or the other by a certain date. Hughes's decision to concede to divorcement terminally undermined the argument by lawyers for the rest of the Big Five that such breakups were unfeasible. While many today point to the May court ruling, it is actually Hughes's agreement with the federal government—signed November 8, 1948—that was truly the death knell for the Golden Age of Hollywood. Paramount soon capitulated, entering into a similar consent decree the following February. The studio, which had fought against divorcement for so long, became the first of the majors to break up, ahead of schedule, finalizing divestiture on December 31, 1949. The Golden Age was over. Through Hughes's deal with the feds, and those by the other studios that soon followed, the studio system lingered on for another half-decade. The major studio that adapted to the new circumstances with the most immediate success was the smallest, United Artists; under a new management team that took over in 1951, overhead was cut by terminating its lease arrangement with the Pickford-Fairbanks production facility and new relationships with independent producers, now often involving direct investment, were forged—a business model that Hollywood would increasingly emulate in coming years. The studio system around which the industry had been organized for three decades finally expired in 1954, when Loew's, the last holdout, severed all operational ties with MGM.
Hughes's gambit helped break the studio system, but it did little for RKO. His disruptive leadership—coupled with the draining away of audiences to television that was affecting the entire industry—took a toll on the studio that was evident to Hollywood observers. When Hughes sought to bail out of his RKO interest in 1952, he had to turn to a Chicago-based syndicate led by shady dealers without motion picture experience. The deal fell through, so Hughes was back in charge when the RKO theater chain was finally sold off as mandated in 1953. That year, General Tire and Rubber Company, which was expanding its small, decade-old broadcasting division, approached Hughes concerning the availability of RKO's film library for programming. Hughes acquired near-complete ownership of RKO Pictures in December 1954 and consummated a sale with General Tire for the entire studio the following summer. The new owners quickly made some of their money back by selling the TV rights for the library they treasured to C&C Television Corp., a beverage company subsidiary. (RKO retained the rights for the few TV stations General Tire had brought along.) Under the deal, the films were stripped of their RKO identity before being sent by C&C to local stations; the famous opening logo, with its globe and radio tower, was removed, as were the studio's other trademarks. Back in Hollywood, RKO's new owners were encountering little success in the moviemaking business and by 1957 the gig was up. The tiremen shut down production and unloaded the main RKO facilities, which were purchased by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's company, Desilu. Just like United Artists, the studio now no longer had a studio; unlike UA, it barely owned its old movies and saw no profit in the making of new ones. In 1959 it abandoned the movie business entirely.

[edit] The studio system in Europe and Asia
While the studio system is largely identified as an American phenomenon, film production companies in other countries did at times achieve and maintain full integration in a manner similar to Hollywood's Big Five. As historian James Chapman describes,
In Britain, only two companies ever achieved full vertical integration (the Rank Organization and the Associated British Picture Corporation). Other countries where some level of vertical integration occurred were Germany during the 1920s (Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft, or Ufa), France during the 1930s (Gaumont-Franco-Film-Aubert and Pathé-Natan) and Japan (Nikkatsu, Shochiku and Toho). India, which represents perhaps the only serious rival to the U.S. film industry due to its dominance of both its own and the Asian diasporic markets, has, in contrast, never achieved any degree of vertical integration.[3]
For instance, in 1929 nearly 75 percent of Japanese movie theaters were connected with either Nikkatsu or Shochiku, the two biggest studios at the time.[4]

[edit] After the system
For more details on this topic, see Major film studio.
As of 2007, five of the Golden Age majors continue to exist as major Hollywood studio entities, each as part of a larger media conglomerate: Sony (owner of Columbia), News Corporation (20th Century Fox), Time Warner (Warner Bros.), Viacom (Paramount), and General Electric/NBC Universal (Universal). In addition, The Walt Disney Company's Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group has emerged as a major, resulting in a "Big Six." With the exception of Disney, all of these so-called major studios are essentially based on the model not of the classic Big Five, but of the old United Artists: that is, they are primarily backer-distributors (and physical studio leasers) rather than actual production companies.
Sony, in addition to ownership of Columbia, also has effective control of the relatively small latter-day incarnation of MGM and its subsidiary UA; under the Sony umbrella, MGM/UA operates as a "mini-major," nominally independent of but closely associated with Columbia. In 1996, Time Warner acquired the once-independent New Line Cinema via its purchase of Turner Broadcasting System. In 2008, New Line was merged into Warner Bros., where it continues to exist as a subsidiary. Each of today's Big Six controls quasi-independent "arthouse" divisions, such as Paramount Vantage and Disney's Miramax Films (which originally was an independent studio). Most also have divisions that focus on genre movies, B movies either literally by virtue of their low budgets, or spiritually—for instance, Sony's Screen Gems and Buena Vista's Hollywood Pictures brand. One so-called indie division, Universal's Focus Features, both releases arthouse films under that primary brand and also oversees the conglomerate's genre specialty division, Rogue Pictures. Both Focus and Fox's arthouse division, Fox Searchlight, are large enough to qualify as mini-majors. Two large independent firms also qualify as mini-majors, Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company. They stand somewhere between latter-day versions of the old "major-minor"—like Columbia and Universal in the 1930s and 1940s, except Lionsgate and The W.C. have about half their market share—and leading Golden Age independent production outfits like Samuel Goldwyn Inc. and the companies of David O. Selznick.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes
^ Financial anlaysis based on Finler (1988), pp. 286–287.
^ See Schatz (1999), pp. 19–21, 45, 72.
^ Chapman (2003), p. 49.
^ Freiberg (2000), "The Film Industry."

[edit] Sources

[edit] Published
Bergan, Ronald (1986). The United Artists Story (New York: Crown). ISBN 0-517-56100-X
Chapman, James (2003). Cinemas of the World: Film and Society from 1895 to the Present (London: Reaktion Books). ISBN 1-86189-162-8
Finler, Joel W. (1988). The Hollywood Story (New York: Crown). ISBN 0-517-56576-5
Goodwin, Doris Kearns (1987). The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (New York: Simon and Schuster). ISBN 0-671-23108-1
Hirschhorn, Clive (1979). The Warner Bros. Story (New York: Crown). ISBN 0-517-53834-2
Jewell, Richard B., with Vernon Harbin (1982). The RKO Story (New York: Arlington House/Crown). ISBN 0-517-54656-6
Orbach, Barak Y. (2004). "Antitrust and Pricing in the Motion Picture Industry," Yale Journal on Regulation vol. 21, no. 2, summer (available online).
Schatz, Thomas (1998 [1988]). The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era (London: Faber and Faber). ISBN 0-571-19596-2
Schatz, Thomas (1999 [1997]). Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press). ISBN 0-520-22130-3
Utterson, Andrew (2005). Technology and Culture—The Film Reader (Oxford and New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis). ISBN 0-415-31984-6

[edit] Online

[edit] Authored
Brand, Paul (2005). "'Nice Town. I'll Take It': Howard Hughes Revisited", Bright Lights Film Journal 47, February.
Freiberg, Freda (2000). "Comprehensive Connections: The Film Industry, the Theatre and the State in the Early Japanese Cinema", Screening the Past 11, November 1.

[edit] Archival
The Hollywood Antitrust Case, aka The Paramount Antitrust Case detailed history from the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers research archive.
Retrieved from ""
Categories: History of film

Hollywood's Star System Explained

Sexy starlet Rita Hayworth posing in the 1940s

Courtesy of Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
The Star system (filmmaking)

The star system was the method of creating, promoting and exploiting film stars in Classical Hollywood cinema. Studios would select promising young actors and create personas for them, often inventing new names and even new backgrounds. Examples of stars who went through the star system include Cary Grant (born Archie Leach), Joan Crawford (born Lucille Fay LeSueur), and Rock Hudson (born Roy Harold Scherer Jr.).
The star system put an emphasis on image rather than on acting, although discreet acting, voice, and dancing lessons were a common part of the regimen. Women were expected to behave like ladies, and were never to leave the house without makeup and stylish clothes. Men were expected to be seen in public as gentlemen. Morality clauses (see Clara Bow) were a common part of actors' studio contracts.
Just as studio executives, public relations staffs, and agents worked together with the actor to create a star persona, so they would work together to cover up incidents or lifestyles that would damage the star's public image. It was common, for example, to arrange sham dates between single (male) stars and starlets to generate publicity, especially if one of them was homosexual (as in the case of Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and others). Tabloids and gossip columnists would be tipped off, and photographers would appear to capture the romantic moment. At the same time, a star's drug use (such as Robert Mitchum's arrest for marijuana possession), drinking problem, divorce, or adultery would be covered up with hush money for witnesses or promises of exclusive stories (or the withholding of future stories) to gossip columnists.

Beginnings of the star system
In the early years of the cinema (1890s-1900s), performers were not identified in films. There are two main reasons for this.
Stage performers were embarrassed to be in film. Silent film was only considered pantomime. One of actors' main skills was their voice. They were afraid that appearing in films would ruin their reputation. Early film was also designed for the working class. Film was seen as only a step above carnivals and freak shows.
Producers feared that actors would gain more prestige and power and demand more money.
Thomas Edison and the MPPC forced filmmakers to use their equipment and follow their rules, since they owned the patents of much of the motion picture equipment. The MPPC frowned on star promotion, although, according to research done by Janet Staiger, the MPPC did promote some stars around this time.
The main catalyst for change was the public's desire to know the actors' names. Film audiences repeatedly recognized certain performers in movies that they liked. Since they did not know the performers' names they gave them nicknames (such as "the Biograph Girl," Florence Lawrence, who was featured in Biograph movies).
Producer Carl Laemmle promoted the first film star. He was independent of the MPPC and used star promotion to fight the MPPC's control. Laemmle acquired Lawrence from Biograph. He spread a rumor that she had been killed in a streetcar accident. Then he combated this rumor by saying that she was doing fine and would be starring in an up-coming film produced by his company, the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP).
The development of film fan magazines gave fans knowledge about the actors outside of their film roles. Motion Picture Story Magazine (1911-) and Photoplay. They were initially focused on movies' stories, but soon found that more copies could be sold if they focused on the actors.
Also, precedents set by legitimate theater encouraged film to emulate the star system of the stage. Theater stars in the late 19th century were treated much like film stars came to be treated by the middle of the 20th century.

Decline of the star system
From the 30s to the 60s it was somewhat regular for studios to arrange the contractual exchange of talent (directors, actors) for prestige pictures. Stars would sometimes pursue these swaps themselves. Stars were becoming selective. Although punished and frowned upon by studio heads, several strong-willed stars received studio censure & publicity for refusing certain parts, on the belief that they knew better than the studio heads about the parts that were right for them. In one instance, Jane Greer negotiated her contract out of Howard Hawks hands over the limp roles he had been foisting on her. Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis both sued their studios to be free of their gag orders (Davis lost, de Havilland won). The publicity accompanying these incidents fostered a growing suspicion among actors that a system more like being a free agent would be more personally beneficial to them than the fussy, suffocating star system. The studio-system instrument Photoplay gave way to the scandal-mongering Confidential. By the 1960s the days of the star system were numbered.
The conspiratorial aspect of the studio system manipulating images and reality, eventually began to falter as the world and the news media began to accept the dismantling of social boundaries and the manufactured virtue and wholesomeness of stars began to be questioned; taboos began to fall. By the 60s and 70s a new, more natural style of acting ("the Stanislavsky Method") had emerged, been mythologized and enshrined; and individuality had been transformed into a treasured personal quality. With competition from TV, and entire studios changing hands, the star system faltered and did not recover. The studio system could no longer resist the changes occurring in entertainment, culture, labor, and news and it was completely gone by 1970.

Hollywood signals the death of the star system

That is, modern star system in Hollywood and not the Hollywood star system of the 1930s and 40s!,features,hollywood-signals-death-of-the-star-system

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Case study questions for FS6, Section B ( Independent film and its audience )

“A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year.” Director, Steven Spielberg.
F6 Critical Studies Section B
From the WJEC's specification

Understanding and appreciation will be fostered through the development of skills in:
  • reflecting critically on key concepts and critical approaches used in the analysis of film texts;
  • bringing learning from other modules to bear in discussing issues and engaging in debates within cinema;
  • clarifying personal responses to both of the above.

Independent film and its audience

The opportunities for independent film-makers working outside the main commercial system, together with issues on how they reach their audience, is the focus for this study. The definition of 'independence' is itself to be explored and contested rather than simply 'given'. Technological, as well as economic factors should be considered, including the opportunities of indepedent film-makers within 'digital culture'.
Consider how major studies sometimes label their low-buget films as "independent." But what is a low budget film.? For a major studio and distributor "low budget" may mean no "a list" actors and any film that is less than a blockbuster. Major studios also have subsidiaries who make and distribute budget films, (perhaps for as much as ten or twenty million dollars!).
Paramount have "Vantage" and Disney release their low cost films through Mirimax. It's a bit like flying first class (the blockbuster) and then resorting to a major carrier's budget airline such as British Airway's "Go" when watching a "cheapie". The major studios sometimes get a little bit more ambitious and try to make "art-house" films. These films are made and distributed by their subsidiaries. And sometimes, these films do well and do better at the box office than was expected.
The Coen Brothers' "No Country For Old Men" crossed over from a medium budget film to a blockbuster because of its success at the Oscars. No doubt this helped extend its release in the theatres and it gave a big push for its release on DVD.
If you need an analogy for how mainstream films compare with films with much smaller budgets think the Premier League and the leagues below. Remember also that the major studios love the cachet of the "indie" scene and see it as a great selling point when making and marketing films. Paul Greengrass had great success with a genuinely independent film (low budgets and uncertain distribution) with "Bloody Sunday". The majors liked his shakey indie camerawork and he went on to give "The Bourn Supremacy" and "The Bourn Ultimatum" similar treatment in their flashbacks and fight scene. Universal wanted Greengrass and that "indie" style to add grit and realism to the Bourn films.

Tie as many of these points as you can to case studies on ONCE and The Lives Of Others. (T.L.O.O.)
Remember to include ONCE and/or TLOO to help make your points

To what degree can we call such films “independent”?
How do mainstream films differ from independent ones?
List some “independent films” and consider why they are independent.
In what ways do independent film directors cross over into the mainstream and vice- versa. (Paul Greengrass, the director of The Bourne Ultimatum, began his career in independent film. What are the advantages and disavantages?)

Funding and production
What were the funding and casting issues? (history)

The freedom that “INDY” film-makers have to make films
What opportunities do independent film-makers have outside the commercial system? (In what ways are they freer and in what ways are they constrained?)
What were/are the economic issues?
Consider permits and locations.
The "indy" film's look and style
How important "realism" for the film
How the camerawork establishes realism and framing
Use of mise-en-scenes, lighting, colour, props, blocking, facial expressions, etc.
Technological issues
What are the technological issues for this film and for independent films in general? (Equipment, cameras, editing, lighting, technical personnel?)
What opportunities do independent film makers have within “digital culture”?

Distribution and marketing
How do these films reach their audiences? (How do they find distributors? How are they distributed? Which companies distributed these films?)
The importance of film festivals for distribution
Find out the awards the film received and the the significance of film festivals for independent films? What impact do they have? The Sundance Festival was crucial for ONCE’s later success. Why? See IMDB and independent film websites (see the column on the right) for the other awards, etc.
How was the film’s audience targeted by poster, trailers, airtime on television and radio shows. (Once was discussed on a Radio 4 cinema review show either late last year or earlier this year.
Where the films exhibited? (Numbers and types of cinemas.)
(What was the gross take, music sales? Digi-download figures?)
Promotion, DVDs, costs, etc. Oscars, Awards, etc. How do the latter affect independent films?
Was digital distribution possible? How can independent film-makers take advantage of this form of distribution.
What kinds of deals were struck for the distribution of the independent films that you studied. Which genres did the distributors prefer? What kinds of battles needed to be fought?

What were the release patterns? For how long? How many cinemas? Which cinemas? Where they independent ones/chains? How much did the films gross. Give dates and figures. Consider also the DVD releases and the distribution, sales and figures for those.

Audiences and reception
Who are the audiences for independent films like ONCE? How were they reached?
How important was word of mouth?
Find and read reviews by Roger Ebert, US newspaper, The Guardian, etc. and consider the points that they make about independent films.

Monday, 15 September 2008

British Films In Progress (production)

Here's a useful website for finding and tracking the production of a new film from the processes of production. You can then follow the film for its marketing and distribution and exhibition. This is great for FM2 case studies.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


For my students:
F6 Critical Studies
Section B - Independent Film And Its Audience
The US site is below.
The UK website

This is one of the independent films that we will use as a class focus case study. As you can see the alternative musical, ONCE, has been distributed and supported by the major film studio, FOX. Their ONCE website is a great starting point for your research. I'll give the topic headings in the next post.

The first song that you hear, "Falling Slowly" won the Academy award for best song during this year's Oscars.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Film Distribution Explained

This looks like a good starting point for understanding how films are distributed and the steps and arrangements that take place along the chain of film production.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

AS Film Studies - summary of the AS course

The following information has been drawn from the WJEC exam board. Their syllabus is the one that most students follow for Film Studies.

This specification is divided into a total of 4 units: 2 AS units for the first year and 2 A2 units for the second year in A2.

The grade weightings are noted below are expressed in terms of the full A level qualification (AS in brackets).

Unit 1: FM1 20 % (40%) Internal Assessment
Exploring Film Form
• One analysis of how the micro aspects of a chosen extract from a film of
candidate's choice produce meanings and responses (1500 words) (30)
• One creative project based on a film sequence or short film
(50: sequence or short film [40]/reflective analysis [10])
Paper raw mark total: 80
Paper UMS total: 80

Unit 2: FM2 30% (60%) External Assessment
2½ hours Written Paper
British and American Film
Three questions, one from each section:
Section A:
Response to stimulus material set by Awarding Body based on
producers and audiences of film (40)
Section B: Topics in British Film (40)
Section C: US Film - Comparative study of two films (40)
Paper raw mark total: 120
Paper UMS total: 120