Another major figure during this formative era was Thomas Ince, who perhaps more than any other producer, except for Edison, put the motion picture industry on the map as a business. Ince got his start working for Carl Laemmle, perhaps the most industrious of the independent producers, one who would challenge Edison’s domination of the motion picture business. As a director, Ince made a number of interesting and influential films, most notably Civilization (1916), a pacifist religious parable, but his lasting influence can best be felt as a producer in his introduction of the assembly-line system of studio production. Working with storyboards and using tight control over his directors, he decreed that the films he produced would be shot to order—that is, exactly as he planned.
In this manner, he was able to oversee the production of numerous features simultaneously and worked with a number of major filmmakers-to-be, including Henry King. But his cookie-cutter method reduced his directors to the status of glorified traffic cops, and thus the films he produced, while commercially successful, were creatively unadventurous.
Once Edison began cranking out his highly exploitative shorts, he attempted to monopolize the industry and created the Motion Picture Patents Company (also known as the Trust) in 1908, combining his own Edison operation with six other production companies—Essanay, Kalem, Lubin, Vita-graph, Biograph, and Selig—to create a massive company designed to dominate film production and distribution. To further consolidate his hold on the industry, he struck a deal with George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, whereby Eastman would supply perforated celluloid film only to members of the Trust. Shortly afterward, the French companies Pathé, Méliès, and Gaumont joined the group, so that ten companies now controlled the bulk of motion picture production not only in the United States, but in Europe as well. Together, the members of the Trust cleared—through their wholly owned distribution arm, the General Film Company—$1.25 million per year.