Film History In the Silent Era:
The Worker Management Techniques
and Capitalist Vertical Integration
The film industry would have never taken the direction it did without the incorporation of certain worker management techniques and capitalist vertical integration pioneered by the founders of Hollywood. The methods of operation that Hollywood established in the realms of production, manufacturing, exhibition and distribution of film has shaped the face of the industry to how we recognize it today.
In the warm, sunny outskirts of Los Angeles lay Hollywood. This was the location of choice for several enterprising film companies in the early 1910s to settle and establish themselves away from the cold winters of New York, the headquarters of the Motion Picture Patent’s Company known as the Trust. By the time of the Great Depression, this small band of independent entrepreneurs would demonstrate that by applying certain worker management techniques within a capitalist vertical integration system, near absolute control of the film industry could be achieved. Prior to the domination of Hollywood, French film making was amongst those at the fore front, if not the fore front itself of the film industry. However, in the wake of the First World War, the film industry within many European countries were hindered which gave the American cinema the necessary breathing space to obtain great advancements in technical and industrial mastery. The Hollywood film companies centralized their productions in giant warehouses, and were able to devise a very effective and lucrative method of making their star performers into icons within this studio system. Many countries including Germany and Russia attempted to replicate the style of studio system generated in Hollywood in order to compete within the global market. These attempts at simulating and imitating would prove to be in vein because by the mid-1920s, Hollywood would virtually monopolize the international marketplace for film.
This studio system that Hollywood designed was so efficient that no competition could contend with its industrial might. Vertical integration and low overhead were essential in allowing their films to be produced frequently, viewed widely by consumers in American cities and exported broadly amongst foreign countries. These were objectives that the Motion Picture Patents Company, or the Trust, could not achieve even though they possessed the majority of patents for cameras, projectors and film itself, made thousands of films, and were comprised of the top ten European and American inventors, manufacturers, and producers. The Trust attempted to control the industry by charging rental fees for cameras and projectors, and by inflating the cost of film. These tactics proved to be unsuccessful with the swift and adverse emergence of Hollywood producers,...