Independent Cinema: Notes–Various

Research in Progress: March 7, 2021

Whether independent genre films could be personal art films?

Reservoir Dogs embodied this question: It was and it was not a genre film

Mischievous conflation of the literary and the lurid

This movie marked a seismic change in the direction of indie film, which moved toward more genre-oriented cinema, albeit one with a transgressive, ironic, post-modern sensibility (Biskind, p. 121)

Ray Price: Critics (largely male) are often harder on women directors (Allison Anders as example).

Whether urban or regional/rural, indies have a real and distinct sense of time and place.

Indie directors getting the auteur label and auteur stripes based on a single film.

Indies and Actors

The indies  introduced a whole new generation of actors: Buscemi, Torturro, Keener, Parker Posey, John C. Reilley, Lili Taylor

Indie actors seldom become movie stars

But established actors and stars benefit from the existence of indies:

Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Bill Murray, Julianne Moore

Hollywood stars began playing character roles in indies, particularly men of color (black actors) and women.

Indies Vs. Hollywood

The indies benefit from the status of Hollywood: “In an age of assembly-line blockbusters, it has, paradoxically, become easier to get away with being a meandering art fraud. The hunger for something–anything–different transcends all.

Indies bring prestige and status to pop culture, they’ve become the soul of Hollywood.

Indies have something to say, but they lack the resources and skills to say it.

Hollywood has nothing to say, but it says it with great skill.

Howard Cohen, co-prexy, Roadside Attractions:

“Audiences are exhausted with studio movies. Prestige films  have been ceded to the independents–they are the beneficiaries.”



Directors are guns for hire



Avoidance of controversy



Producers have final cut

Comic strips as source materials

Movies out of cookie cutter

Committee made



Directors are often writers or producers



Embrace Controversy de fact and de uris

low budget

Unknown actors, and nonprofessional actors

Directors have final cut

Personal Vision

Unique, there are mostly sequel-free

Made by individuals (not committees)

Turning Point:

The 1994 Sundance Film Fest blurred the lines that separated  the indies from the industry.  Clerks, Spanking the Monkey, Go Fish.

Indies used to be a counter-culture with an alternative POV, either politically or artistically.

Pulp Fiction: There was erosion of barriers between mainstream Hollywood and the indies.


Mark Gill, WIP, 2005:

Now anyb0dy can make a movie . But it’s hard to make a movie good enough to warrant spending the money to market it.

Dawn Hudson, Film Independent

Only a lucky few indie filmmakers will be able to land the type of brilliant release accorded “Sideways.” Many smaller films get left behind.

Art Film Vs. Specialty:

Art film, usually European-made, or with European sensibility, is largely a festival film (Lars Von Trier).

Indies, or specialty films are US made indies, targeted at the specialized niche market (Soderbergh).