The American Movie Industry: The Business of Motion Pictures

By Gorham Anders Kindem | Go to book overview

5
Dividing Labor for Production Control: Thomas Ince and the Rise of the Studio System1

Janet Staiger

Thomas Ince was a classic case of a stage actor who, during a brief period of unemployment in 1910, turned to the fledgling movies as a source of income. Yet his long-term impact on filmmaking would be very great indeed. Working first for IMP and then Biograph, he returned to IMP when promised a chance to direct. He completed his first film in December 1910. Ince soon tired of the one-reel format, however, and accepted a position in the fall of 1911 to direct for Adam Kessel and Charles Bauman's New York Motion Picture Company. He headed for Edendale, California, where a small group of people were already making films. The studio at that time was a converted grocery store: one stage (without even a muslin overhang), a scene dock, a small lab and office, and a bungalow that served as a dressing room. Ince wrote, directed, and cut his first film within one week.2 From these beginnings, by 1913 he had a fully developed continuity-script procedure; by 1916, a $500,000 studio on 43 acres of land with concrete buildings. There were a 165-foot electrically lit building (which was unique); eight stages measuring 60 by 150 feet; an administration building for the executive and scenario departments; property, carpenter, plumbing, and costume rooms; a restaurant and commissary; 300 dressing rooms; a hothouse; a natatorium; and 1,000 employees and a studio structure essentially like that associated with the big-studio period of later years.3 Why?

Earlier historians have provided only partial answers. Lewis Jacobs attributes Ince's innovations to the need to standardize large-scale produc-

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