The London Film-makers' Co-operative was founded in 1966, modeled after the artist-led distribution center created by Jonas Mekas and the New American Cinema Group. Both had a policy of open membership, accepting all submissions without judgment, but the LFMC was unique in incorporating the three key aspects of artist filmmaking-production, distribution, and exhibition-within a single facility.
Early pioneers like Len Lye, Antony Balch, Margaret Tait, and John Latham had already made remarkable personal films in Britain, but by the mid-sixties, interest in “underground film” was growing. On his arrival from New York, Stephen Dwoskin demonstrated and encouraged the possibilities of experimental filmmaking, and the Co-op soon became a dynamic center for the discussion, production, and presentation of avant-garde film. Several key figures such as Peter Gidal, Malcolm LeGrice, John Smith, and Chris Welsby went on to become internationally celebrated. Many others, like Annabel Nicolson, worked across the boundaries between film and performance and remain relatively unknown, or at least unseen.
The Co-op existed in hand-to-mouth fashion in a series of run-down buildings. Physical hardship contributed to the rigorous, formal nature of the films produced during this period. While the Structural approach dominated, informing both interior and landscape tendencies, the British filmmakers also made significant innovations with multiscreen films and expanded cinema events, producing works whose essence was defined by their ephemerality.