Independent Filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest: A Critical Analysis of the Regional Film Landscape

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Title: Independent Filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest: A Critical Analysis of the Regional Film Landscape
Author: Erickson, Mary P. A., 1977-
Abstract: Thousands of films are produced every year in the United States, and only a fraction of these is made by mainstream Hollywood film studios. Independent filmmakers working in regional locations produce the majority of these films, retaining financial, creative and distribution control and working with locally-based cast and crew members. This film activity must be acknowledged in order to fully understand the American film industry. This study examines regional independent filmmaking through case studies of two film communities: Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Using political economy of communication as the primary theoretical foundation, this study focuses on the infrastructure (systems, policies, resources and practices) that supports and/or limits the production and distribution of independent films. The research utilizes extensive document analysis of historical materials and contemporary documents produced by organizations and individuals, as well as a survey of 60 film professionals and interviews with over 40 film professionals. A central challenge to independent filmmaking is the term "independent," which has been contested by film professionals and scholars; therefore, this study analyzes and offers a new definition of "independent filmmaking." The history of filmmaking activity in Portland and Seattle is presented, as well as an extensive discussion of the contemporary landscape of regional independent filmmaking in these two communities. The study finds that there are a multitude of contradictions pertaining to financing, distribution, labor and myths of independent filmmaking. These contradictions present a range of opportunities and challenges that often simultaneously conflict with each other. The filmmaking communities in Portland and Seattle have notable networks of support, including professional and educational organizations, film festivals, government initiatives and a few locally-operated distributors. However, filmmakers in both cities also share challenges in financing, distribution and labor. The study argues that regional independent filmmaking has made a dynamic and influential contribution to the American film industry and cultural production but has been under-explored in academic scholarship. The research also points to the need to examine and understand the contradictions of independent filmmaking to improve the circumstances and infrastructure that support regional independent filmmaking.
Description: xvii, 397 p. : ill., maps.
Date: 2011-06

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