The Photodramatist (May 1922-Feb 1923)

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At left: Empty pool and dismantled "set" at United Studios. At rigfrt: Same "set" after it had been leased and "dressed" by producer. This set has appeared, in various guises, in many in- dependent productions. If built for one com- pany only the cost would be prohibitive. The 'Independent' Film Studio How It Functions—What It Means to the Motion Picture Art By George Landy CONTRARY to popular belief, most producers do not own, or even lease entire studios for the filming of their pictures. Although it is true that ten or fifteen companies do maintain their own plants, a great majority of the films are turned out at independent studios. Of these the United Studios is the largest and most important, not only on the West Coast, but throughout the world. There is no doubt that the independent studio is the hope- ful spot in the motion picture industry. The plants owned by individual companies are too apt to be overawed by the conservative financial and sales departments so that the film they turn out tends to remain in the self-same rut of mediocrity and repetition of theme and treatment, the two great faults that have been the besetting sins of the films for several years. COME time ago students of the photodrama ^ realized the stultification into which we were so rapidly drifting; today even the public understands it and in this appreciation lies the chief explanation of the diminished attendance at motion picture theatres. The independent producer who expends all his time, energy, thought and money on one pic- ture at a time is the hope of the films, not only as an art but also as an industry, since the screen is one sphere of activity in which art and industry are indissolubly connected. The independent studio makes possible the ex- istence of the independent producer—hence its in- controvertible claim to being the hope for better- ment in the films. The United Studios, being rep- resentative of this type of studio, therefore merits an exposition of its history, organization and poli- cies so that we may better understand its workings and thus realize how it serves the independent pro- ducer and through him the independent writer, di- rector and actor—and ultimately the theatre-goer. t^ OUR years ago there was a vineyard covering *- twenty-eight square blocks fronting on Mel- rose avenue in Los Angeles. An independent pro- ducer named Robert Brunton first had the vision of the possibilities of service to others like himself in the organization of a studio founded on the theory that a number of producers working cooperatively on a central overhead scheme could have at their call greater resources than any one of them could assemble alone. Furthermore, he could have these greater resources more economically than if he played a lone hand. Accordingly the Brunton Studio was erected on the site of the vineyard with a capacity for twenty production units working at the same time. It is a matter of history that about a year ago the control of this plant was transferred to the United Studios, Inc., of which M. C. Levee is president. How does such a plant as the United Studio func- tion? A producer assembles his funds and selects the story he wants to film. Sometimes that is all with which he starts. At a conference with President Levee and other officials of the studio the scenario is carefully dissected for a study of the materials, labor, etc., etc., which it will require. The various department heads make up their estimates, these are added together and the total represents the net rental which is charged to the producer for the studio's cooperation in his picture. 7