Filmmaker Melton Barker started a novel business in the 1930s: He traveled across the United States, shooting a film in each town using local talent. The residents would gladly pay a fee to see themselves immortalized in a two-reel short, and their support financed the production and Barker’s livelihood until he could reach the next town.
He shot the same film, The Kidnappers Foil, 300 times over 40 years, using the same script and largely the same shots. A young girl named Betty Davis is kidnapped on her birthday, and the town’s children organize a search for her. The finished film, 15 to 20 minutes long, would be screened at local theaters. (The example above was shot in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in February 1937.)
Most of these films have been lost, but the project as a whole was added to the National Film Registry in 2012. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image has a collection of surviving films.