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fondazione ente dello spettacolo
tertio millennio film fest
» Report 2008
Chapter 1 - An atypical product
Immediate Capitalists
Claiming that as a merchandise film must confront itself with the market is not altogether appropriate. Contemporary film making has little in connection with its first seventy years, in the sense that it is no longer a specific and homogenous sector based on the film product to be projected in cinemas and in all likelihood, even if much later, to pass to the television. Film today is the product of diverse sectors and divisions. Conversely, the making of a film, a work constitutionally of creativity, transcends the pure and simple logic of the market, especially if the scope of the film makers is not, as a priority, to cover the incurred costs, but rather to create something of genuine cultural value.
Even Federico Fellini himself, another great director who died a few years ago and remains, like Bergman, an icon of modern cinema tended to make the following distinction: whilst he claimed that "Cinema is a divine means for recounting life, for competing with the divine father! No other profession permits you to create a world that resembles so much from close up that which you know, but also those worlds which are unknown, parallel, and concentric," he also confessed that "I have the terrifying suspicion that, once I’ve signed a contract to make a film, not even once have I thought that I would commit myself to rendering more intense the rhythm of life of the public, the clearer things are the more tolerable existence is. Is it wrong? I make films because I don’t know how to do anything else. At least that’s how it seems to me".(3)
Nonetheless, cinema has shown itself to be one of the purest, hardest and most concrete expressions of capitalism since its very origins. It was ‘invented’ in Paris in 1895 by the Lumière brothers and the first showings soon followed in numerous other countries in the brief period of four years: in Germany in November 1895, Berlin (the work of Skladanowsky); in France 28th December 1895, Paris (Lumierè); in England 17th February 1896, London; in Belgium 29th February 1896, Brussels; in the United States 26th April 1896, New York (Thomas A.Edison); in Italy in 1899, Rome (Luigi Topi). However, as early as 1897 Edison began the first legal battles concerning the violation of patenting laws and royalties for the production as much for the ‘hardware’ as for the ‘software’ components of the supply of materials for the production and projection of his Edison Manufacturing Company. Furthermore, between 1907 and 1910 the first concentrated groups were created in the United States which were to later have such an enormous influence on the cinema industry.(4)
Indeed, even the massive transference of the cinema studios from New York to Hollywood, California has exclusively economic origins. Contrary to popular legend, which maintains that the studios were transferred to Hollywood as a result of the latter’s favourable climate which permitted filming twelve months a year (circumstances, furthermore, which don’t refer to activity generally under the roof of the studios but rather only to those sets filmed outdoors, above all linked to the specific geographic or environmental settings of the individual scenes), it was, in fact, the introduction of a new fiscal regime in the New York district which pushed film producers, who represented 85% of the total film production, to the other side of America between 1916 and 1919(5)

3 Federico Fellini in Intervista sul cinema, a cura di Giovanni Grazzini (Laterza editore, 1983).
4 One example is MPCC (Motion Picture Patents Company) a cartel formed by sixteen of the most important producing companies and film importers, among which Edison Manufacturing Company, Biograph, Armat, Parhè Frères, Vitagraph and Eastman-Kodak. The district court of New York declared such practices illegal in 1915.
5A testimony of this authentic exodus of the first United States production companies is given by the Swiss economist Peter Bachlin in his book Der Film als Ware (Burg-Verlg, Basil 1945), a classic of economics literature dedicated to the performing arts, in particular the cinema, published in Italy as Il cinema come industria: Storia economica del Film by Feltrinelli Editore (Milan 1958). Bachlin wrote “The American centre, Hollywood,…was created during the patents war (1909-1914), by certain independents that refused to pay license fees and moved as far away as possible from New York out of their own interests. The surroundings of Los Angeles were found to be an ideal destination due to their vicinity to Mexico where the instruments subject to patenting could be hidden in the threat of confiscation…Hollywood, administratively separated from Los Angeles, in 1913 it became the capital of the American film industry.” Before the Second World War there were few attempts to return the cinema industry to New York – where, furthermore, a large number of companies had, in the meantime, situated their administrative services - thereby reducing certain determinate fixed costs in case the production plants and equipment were no longer found at 3000 miles distance. However, also these failed.


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