This fascinating piece of independent/underground cinema history comes to us from a recent Boing Boing story…

“A filmmaker named Melton Barker travelled America from the 1930s to the 1970s, making and remaking a short movie called ‘The Kidnapper’s Foil,’ which featured a large cast of kids. He’d roll into small towns, announce that he was going into production, and advertise for proud parents who wanted their kids to break into the movies. He’d raise local money to (re)make the film with an all townie cast, have it produced, and leave it behind. There are lots of versions still extant, but there are probably hundreds more that may never be recovered. They’re a fascinating insight into the lives of Americans across the country and the years.” – Cory Doctorow (Strange, scammy director made the same movie over and over for 40 years)

For more versions of Barker’s movie, visit the “Watch” section of the official Melton Barker and the Kidnappers Foil website.

According to that site, this nomadic mode of filmmaking is known as “itinerant” cinema:

“Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, so-called ‘itinerant filmmakers’ traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, visiting smaller cities and making a business out of the creation of local ‘stars.’ These ‘town booster’ or ‘home talent’ films featured community landmarks, businesses and, most importantly, local residents. Many of these ‘itinerant’ films did not feature a narrative structure; rather, the camera simply panned groups of school children, business owners, and factory workers. Other itinerant films, however, either concocted some sort of limited narrative, or mimicked popular Hollywood films and genres as a method through which to focus upon the local community. The local talent films, their premieres heralded and touted in the local print press, were then exhibited along with other ‘short subjects’ before major theatrical features.” – Itinerant Films