Why Traveling Filmmakers Made the Same Movie Hundreds of Times

Filmmaker David Friedman of Likely Media explained the historical concept of the “itinerant filmmaker”, who repeatedly went from town to town to make the same film using local “talent”. One such filmmaker was Melton Barker, whose film was “The Kidnappers Foil”. For 40 years, he traveled across the United States, recruiting residents to appear in his film for a fee.

When he arrived in town, he would hold a free audition. If your kid was cast in the movie, there was a fee to participate. Luckily, there were dozens of roles in the movie, and even a few parts for grownups, so I doubt very many people didn’t make the cut.

While it sounds like Barker was trying to pull a con, he wasn’t. He actually made the movie.

Melton Barker was not a con man. He really did make a movie. He would develop and edit the film, and then a few weeks later, the local movie theater would hold a screening and everyone would attend. The local newspapers would write about it. Reviews were always positive, of course. And everyone got a fond memory of the time their town came together and made a movie.

He also provided a real service to the history of his country.

It turns out that these itinerant films end up having an unintentional but important role in documenting mid-century life in rural America. …by going through all these small towns through the South and all over, Barker was preserving regional dialects. No one else was recording people in Childress, Texas in 1936, and here they are, a large group of them, all talking in their natural voices.

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