Making some searches I found this gold nugget in Wikipedia about Independent film history.

In Edison we don't trust

The beginning of film making history began when some movie makers and producers decided to run away from East Coast and from Thomas Edison who was reigning without wanting to share his technology and newly created industry. They decided to go west to a little village named Hollywood to make some movies in little studios.

They were escaping from the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) or "Edison Trust" that was a cartel that held a monopoly on film production and distribution comprising all the major film companies of the time (Edison, Biograph, Vitagraph, Essanay, Selig, Lubin, Kalem, American Star, American Pathé), the leading distributor (George Kleine) and the biggest supplier of raw film, Eastman Kodak. (there was a patent on Raw film!!!)

The Kinetoscope marketed by Thomas Edison (even though it was invented by Thomas Armat and C. Francis Jenkins - Astoria: Museum of the Moving Image. Image Credits: Creative Commons License by Wally Gobetz (

"At the time of the formation of the MPPC, Thomas Edison owned most of the major patents relating to motion pictures, including that for raw film. The MPPC vigorously enforced its patents, constantly bringing suits and receiving injunctions against independent filmmakers. Because of this, a number of filmmakers responded by building their own cameras and moving their operations to Hollywood, California, where the distance from Edison's home base of New Jersey made it more difficult for the MPPC to enforce its patents. The Edison Trust was soon ended by two decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States: one in 1912, which canceled the patent on raw film, and a second in 1915, which cancelled all MPPC patents. Though these decisions succeeded at legalizing independent film, they would do little to remedy the de facto ban on small productions; the independent filmmakers who had fled to Southern California during the enforcement of the trust had already laid the groundwork for the studio system of classical Hollywood cinema."

Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison. Image Credits: Creative Commons License by the Boston Public Library.

Of course "The Hollywood oligopoly replaced the Edison monopoly" later and then it's another story of fights and lawsuits but that's a topic for an article in the future ;-).

a number of filmmakers responded by building their own cameras and moved west to a little village named Hollywood.

What is interesting is that the technology used during these times has also evolved being smaller and simpler than before and facilitating the birth of independent filmmakers and producer BUT (generally) applying the same rules as big production companies (the movie industry is not a watertight compartment and some majors are also putting money today in "not-so-independant" companies. Remember the quote saying that if you see a movie producer jumping out from the last floor of his building, just follow him because there is surely some money to earn :D

The road of producing movies is made of some revolutionary cycle (the creations of studios, the addition of sound to movies, color film, etc...), revolutionary advances of the technology and revolutionary ways to come up with new ways to conceive and achieve a movie (the French nouvelle vague, the Italian neorealism, the new Hollywood, the web, movies financed by fans) and we can see that it's a whole that can not be separated.

Technology and independent films today

Image Credits: Creative Commons License by romain-novarina (

he independent film scene's development in the 1990s and 2000s has been stimulated by a range of factors, including the development of affordable digital cinematography cameras that can rival 35 mm film quality and easy-to-use computer editing software. Until digital alternatives became available, the cost of professional film equipment and stock was a major obstacle to independent filmmakers who wanted to make their own films. In 2002, the cost of 35 mm film stock went up 23%, according to Variety. With the advent of consumer camcorders in 1985, and more importantly, the arrival of digital video in the early 1990s lowered the technology barrier to movie production. The personal computer and non-linear editing system have dramatically reduced costs of post-production, while technologies such as DVD, Blu-ray Disc and online video services have simplified distribution. Even 3-D technology is available to low-budget, independent filmmakers now.

Image Credits: Creative Commons License by ricardodiaz11 (

With new technology, such as the Arri Alexa, RED Epic, and the many new DSLRs, independent films can create footage that looks like 35mm film without the same high cost. These cameras also perform well in low light situations. In 2008 Canon released the first DSLR camera that could shoot full HD video, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. With the creation of the 5D Mark II, and subsequent DSLRs capable of video, independent filmmakers have the ability to shoot 1080p video at 24fps, which is considered the standard for 'film' Also these DSLRs allow for a greater control over depth of field, great low light capabilities, and a large variety of exchangeable lenses — things which independent filmmakers have been longing for for years.

Image Credits: Creative Commons License by lakelandlocal (

In addition to new digital cameras, independent film makers are benefiting from the new editing software. Instead of needing a post-house to do the editing, independent film makers can now use a personal computer and cheap editing software to edit their films. These new technologies allow independent film makers to create films that are comparable to high-budget films."

Well they do not talk about apertus°, Linux and Open source tools but well:D

By the way: apertus° is working on a collaborative documentary film about open source in hollywood's film production landscape called: "Hollywood loves Open Source".

Closing words are from director Francis Ford Coppola, an advocate of new technologies like non-linear editing and digital cameras who in 2007 said that:

"cinema is escaping being controlled by the financier, and that's a wonderful thing. You don't have to go hat-in-hand to some film distributor and say, 'Please will you let me make a movie?'"

Just make it!

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