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Film production

Related: film - film distribution - patrons, sponsors and funding - production

People: Anatole Dauman - Roger Corman - Ben Barenholtz

One aspect of the history of the art of filmmaking remains largely unwritten. The financial aspects of filmmaking, namely the history of producers and distributors of films. Compared to the book industry, the film industry is infinite times more capital intensive. So while it is easy, almost risk-free and relatively cheap to write a novel that satisfies minority tastes, to produce a film that caters to minority audiences requires much more money and is a much riskier undertaking. Tyler Cowen was the first to point this out to me in his book on the economics of culture.

But what is a film producer? A film producer's job is analogous to that of a publisher in the book industry: he finances the final product, a cultural artifact. But what is a film producer? A film distributor is someone who buys the rights to a certain film in order to distribute it in his own country or region. Typically, he will have to market the film, provide subtitles for it and find screening opportunities. The analogy in book publishing is the role of a foreign publishing house that translates a book and distributes/markets it in its own territory.

Both a producer and a distributor try to reconcile the art of commerce and taste. In matters of taste I always embrace the heady nobrow cocktail of high art, eroticism, horror, philosophy, experimentalism, counterculture, subversion and avant-garde. This mix is a minority taste, I am well aware of that but some people have tried to cater to people of my taste. In publishing, this person is best exemplified by French publisher Eric Losfeld.

So I wonder: who is the Eric Losfeld of cinema?

In search of Losfeld's cinematic alter ego I want to hilight the careers of film producers and/or distributors such as Anatole Dauman in France; Antony Balch and Richard Gordon in the U. K.; Roger Corman, Ben Barenholtz and Radley Metzger in North America. These entrepreneurs ran businesses that have provided us with films that mix high and low culture or have financed their high art productions with the proceeds of their more commercial and exploitative productions. Consider this the first part of an investigation which I hope to continue over the coming months. In the meanwhile, feel free to comment if you know of distributors/producers who fit this description.


A film producer is a type of producer who oversees the making of movies.

In the early 20th century, the producer tended to wield ultimate creative control on a film project. However, with the collapse of Hollywood's studio system in the 1950s, control began to shift into the hands of the director. Further changes in movie distribution and marketing in the 1970s and 1980s gave rise to the modern-day phenomenon of the Hollywood blockbuster, giving even more power to individual directors. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_director [Apr 2005]

To do

Write profiles on:
  • Pierre Braunberger (Marker, Resnais, Borowczyk and you name it)
  • Serge Silberman (Bunuel, Kurosawa and…Jess Franco)
  • Oscar Dancigers (Most of the films from Bunuel’s mexican era, Viva Maria, Orson Welles’ Don Quijote).
  • Grove Press film distribution (William Klein films, titles that were related to their books (Miller’s Quiet days in Clichy, Duras, Beckett) and I am curious…yellow))

    Tip of the hat to Andrej Maltar

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