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Production Assistants

History

In the early 20th century, as motion pictures were first developing, the roles of director and producer were combined in one person. European filmmakers such as Georges Melies and Leon Gaumont and New Yorker Edwin S. Porter directed, filmed, and produced very short movies. The first woman to become a director and producer was Alice Guy, who started the Solax Company in New York in 1910.

The film industry settled in Hollywood and began to consolidate in the first two decades of this century, as jobs were differentiated. Major studios assembled large staffs, so all stages of production from conception to financing and directing could be performed within a single studio. Twentieth Century Fox, for example, would have producers, writers, directors, and actors on staff to choose from for each film. Small producers were forced out of business as major studios grew to have a monopoly on the industry.

In the 1950s the dominance of major studios in film production was curbed by an antitrust court decision, and more independent producers were able to find projects. Changes in the United States tax code made independent producing more profitable. At the same time, the growth of television provided new opportunities for producers, not only for television films, but news programs, weekly entertainment programs, sports broadcasts, talk shows, and documentaries. More recently, the video industry, particularly in the areas of music and education, has opened up even more production jobs.

The industry is becoming increasingly international; many foreign-made films and videos are now financed by Americans, and a number of American motion picture companies are under foreign ownership. Currently many producers work on a project-by-project basis. Independent producers must be good salespersons to market a project to a television or movie studio and to other financial backers. They will try to involve popular actors and media personalities with the project from its inception in order to attract a studio's interest. Studios hire production assistants to facilitate the work of the producer and other staff members.

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