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Bryanston Films: An Experiment in Cooperative Independent Production and Distribution

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Publication details

JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
DateAccepted/In press - 29 Jul 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2017
DatePublished (current) - 16 Feb 2017
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)95-115
Early online date16/02/17
Original languageEnglish


By the end of the 1950s, independent film producers in Britain were facing an increasingly difficult challenge in sustaining their businesses. They were dependent on the major distribution companies for finance, but the combines that had long dominated the British film industry-the Rank Organisation and the Associated British Picture Corporation-had drastically reduced their production commitments, preferring to concentre on less risky aspects of their operations, notably exhibition and other leisure activities. Independent producers were therefore forced to find new ways to operate and as the new decade began one notable example of this was the formation of new collaborative enterprises to provide greater integration between production and distribution. One of the first and most significant examples of this was Bryanston Films, established by Maxwell Setton and Michael Balcon in 1959 and involving an array of distinguished directors, producers and other industry figures. Over a period of five years, Bryanston was responsible for the production and distribution of some 33 films, released through their association with British Lion. This article examines the formation, subsequent development and eventual decline and failure of this significant experiment in collaborative independent production and distribution. Drawing on the Michael Balcon papers held at the British Film Institute and the files of the completion guarantee company, Film Finances, the article examines Bryanston’s financial successes and failures, shedding light on some of the key players and projects in the Bryanston story and providing insight into the wider operations-including collaboration with a number of other companies. It will also touch on the wider opportunities and challenges facing independent production and distribution in a rapidly changing British film market during the early part of the 1960s.

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