Edison Studios was the first American film company.  In 1908, the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) or “Edison Trust” was created to shut out independent productions. 

Thomas Edison, yeah that guy, owned significant patents relating to distribution, motion picture production, and the film Eastman Kodak.  MPPC ruthlessly enforced its patents serving injunctions against filmmakers not in the cartel. 


Producers outside Edison’s studio system, called independents, were left to scramble for funds, equipment, and distribution.  Sound familiar?

Filmmakers and artists moved to California and found freedom in a village called Hollywood.

In 1919 United Artists Corporation, founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith studio supported stars like   Buster Keaton and Gloria Swanson’s artistic freedom.


UA transitioned into United Artists Releasing in 1950.  True to its mission, it supported producers with funding and distribution who shook it up the next 20 years with off-beat entertainment and edgy social drama.  Twelve Angry Men, The Defiant Ones, Some Like It Hot, The Magnificent Seven, The Apartment, The Pink Panther, Goldfinger, and Midnight Cowboy.

Game Changer: In the Heat of The Night. 

The summer of 1967 was called the Long Hot Summer because race riots broke out in cities across America including Detroit where rifle-carrying National Guardsmen stalked rioters, and buildings burned live on the local news.  That was from July 21st to July 28th.

Five days later, “In the Heat of the Night” was released.  For the first time, a black actor starred as a hero detective.  A black man charged with solving a white murder in a small Mississippi town.

It was a thriller delivering a message on race with a slap that still resonates after 52 years.


“You’re releasing this now?”  “You bet.”

“Perfect timing.” “What could happen?”

The film went on to win FIVE Oscars, including Best Picture.

In fact, United Artist’s films racked up dozens of best actor Oscar nominations and wins.

Taking risks telling stories about the real world no matter what is independent film.

“You’re releasing this now?”  “You bet.”

“Perfect timing.” “What could happen?”


Now as always, independent producers are tenacious, dedicated, and passionate about making films.

It’s a long and honored tradition.  Stronger than ever.

It’s this dedication that gives us films like:

Breaking: Based on an actual event underreported at the time and so common it was forgotten.  Sam Frohman and Abi Damaris Corbin’s film about war veteran Brian Brown-Easley who was failed by the system to the breaking point.  Originally titled “892,” what the VA owed him and denied him, leaving him destitute.  Homeless and hopeless, he acts to get the money he deserves.  The tight, story-focused film stars John Boyega and Michael Kenneth Williams, phenomenal in his last role.  It’s riveting, powerful, and uncomfortable.  Devastatingly relevant today.  In the indie tradition, the producers survived funding and distribution woes and won. 

In 2002 approximately 400 films were made outside of the studio system.  Twenty years later in 2022 indie film production has exploded internationally.

Congratulations to all “independent” nominees in the 2023 Festival Season.






Click here for our festival winners.