Serial Film - Production - Production Practices

Production Practices

The major studios had their own retinues of actors and writers, their own prop departments, existing sets, stock footage, and music libraries. The early independent studios had none of these, except for being able to rent the sets of independent producers of western features.

The firms saved money by reusing the same cliffhangers, stunt and special effect sequences over the years. Mines or tunnels flooded often, even in Flash Gordon, and the same model cars and trains went off the same cliffs and bridges. Republic had a Packard limousine and a Ford Woodie station wagon used in serial after serial so they could match the shots with the stock footage from the model or previous stunt driving. Three different serials had them chasing the Art Deco sound truck, required for location shooting, for various reasons. Male fistfighters all wore hats so that the change from actor to stunt double would not be caught so easily. A rubber liner on the hatband of the stuntman's fedora would make a seal on the stuntman's head, so the hat would stay on during fight scenes.

Exposition of what led up to the previous episode's cliffhanger was usually displayed on placards with a photograph of one of the characters on it. In 1938, Universal brought the first "scrolling text" exposition to the serial, which George Lucas first used in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977 and then in all of the following Star Wars films. As this would have required subcontracting the optical effects, Republic saved money by not using it.

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