American independent cinema has always been a notoriously difficult concept to define. This is primarily because the label 'independent' has been widely used since the early years of American cinema by filmmakers, film critics, industry practitioners, trade publications, academics and cinema fans, to the extent that any attempt towards a definition is almost certainly destined to raise objections.
For the majority of people with a basic knowledge of American cinema, independent filmmaking consists of low-budget projects made by (mostly) young filmmakers with a strong personal vision away from the influence and pressures of the few major conglomerates that control tightly the American film industry. Far from the clutches of AOL Time Warner, Sony Columbia and Viacom Paramount, which are mainly in the business of producing expensive star vehicles and special-effects-driven films that bring larger profits from DVD sales and merchandising than from theatre admissions, independent filmmakers create films that stand against the crass commercialism of mainstream Hollywood while often pushing the envelope in terms of subject matter and its mode of representation. As film critic Emmanuel Levy put it, 'ideally, an indie is a fresh, low-budget movie with a gritty style and offbeat subject matter that express the filmmaker's personal vision.'1
This 'ideal' definition immediately brings to mind films such as Return of the Secaucus Seven (Sayles, 1980), Stranger than Paradise (Jarmusch, 1984), She's Gotta Have It (Spike Lee, 1986), Poison (Haynes, 1991), Straight Out of
Brooklyn (Rich, 1992), Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994), Welcome to the Dollhouse (Solondz, 1996), The Blair Witch Project (Sanchez and Myrick, 1999) and many other films that emerged post-1980 as low-budget 'alternatives' to the considerably more polished, expensive and conservative films produced and distributed by the major conglomerates. Despite its popularity in public discourse, however, this is only one definition of independent film and, significantly, fails to demonstrate what all the above films are independent from while also excluding other groups of films that could also lay claim to the label independent.
For industry practitioners and trade publications like Variety and Screen International independent film can assume a completely different meaning. For instance, on 9 June 2003 a Variety article featured a quote by Graham King, head of Initial Entertainment Group, about the production/distribution company's new project, The Aviator (Scorsese, 2004), a $115 million Howard Hughes biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The quote read: 'It's the biggest independent movie ever made, unless you count Lord of the Rings.'2 A little more than a year earlier (8 February 2002), Screen International had published a table with the 'Top 20 Independent Movies of All Time' (in the US market). Leading the table while still in release was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2002), while other films included: Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 (Ratner, 1998 and 2001); Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Roach, 1999); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990); Spy Kids (Rodriguez, 2001), Scary Movie (K. I. Wayans, 2000); Dumb and Dumber (P. Farelly, 1994); Good Will Hunting (Van Sant, 1997); and The Blair Witch Project (Sanchez and Myrick, 1999).3
With the exception of the ultra-low-budget novelty horror The Blair Witch Project, none of the other films included in the Screen International table would be considered independent in the 'ideal' sense of the term. For the trade publication, however, independence has nothing to do with low-budget films with gritty visual style and offbeat subject matter. Instead, an independent film is any film that has not been financed, produced and/or distributed by a major entertainment conglomerate (Sony Columbia, Viacom Paramount, AOL Time Warner, MGM/UA, ABC Disney, NBC Universal, News Corp. Fox and Dreamworks SKG).4 Indeed, from the twenty films that appear on the list, nine were distributed by New Line Cinema, eight by Miramax (and its sister company, Dimension Films), while from the remaining three Sony Pictures Classics, Artisan and USA
Films distributed one film each. As Lord of the Rings was financed and distributed by New Line Cinema and despite its $300 million price tag (for all three instalments) it can justifiably be considered an independent film, the most commercially successful one, for that matter. Equally, as IEG was the primary financer and worldwide distributor of The Aviator (with the exception of the United States where Miramax held the theatrical distribution rights), the $115 million film can also be considered an independent film.
However, even this definition of independent film (a picture financed, produced and/or distributed by any company apart from the eight majors) is problematic. This is because New Line Cinema, Miramax/ Dimension and Sony Picture Classics are subsidiaries of AOL Time Warner, ABC Disney and Sony Columbia respectively and, therefore, not independent distributors. They might be operating with a large degree of autonomy from their respective parent companies but they are financially accountable to them. This means that their parent companies have the power to close these units, sell them, reorganise their management structures, decrease their production/distribution/acquisition budgets, interfere in their decision-making policies and so on. This leaves only Artisan and USA Films as independent companies, neither of which has existed as a corporate entity since 2004. USA Films participated in a series of mergers in 2002 that created Focus Features, a distribution company that is owned by NBC Universal. Artisan, on the other hand, was taken over by Lions Gate, which is currently one of the very few successful production-distribution companies that does not have a corporate relationship with a major; in other words, an independent.
Even if one is prepared to see beyond the problems that ownership of companies like Miramax and Sony Pictures Classics by a major presents and perceive of them as distributors of independent films - after all Miramax in particular has been associated heavily with independent films in the minds of cinema-goers - film critics and industry analysts have been reluctant to attach the label independent to them, especially to Miramax. Having made a name by releasing successfully a number of 'ideal' or paradigmatic independent films such as sex, lies, and videotape (Soderbergh, 1989), Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino, 1992), Clerks and Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995), in recent years Miramax has shifted increasingly towards the finance and distribution of considerably more expensive, star-studded genre pictures including Gangs of New York (Scorsese, 2002),
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Madden, 2001) and The Aviator. This shift has resulted in an identity crisis that can be seen clearly in the words chosen to describe the company.
For instance, a Variety editorial of 11 November 2002 labelled Miramax a 'mini major'.5 Five months later (7 April 2003), the same publication proclaimed that 'Miramax ha[d] evolved to the point that it resemble[d] a major'.6 On 8 March 2004, Miramax, New Line Cinema and United Artists were described by Variety as 'semi indies',7 while on 14 July of the same year another Variety article christened Miramax 'a production driven quasi studio with franchises, mega-grossing hits and mega-budget offerings'.8
Film academics, on the other hand, have labelled Miramax and New Line 'major independents'. According to Justin Wyatt, this label captures the hybridity of the companies in terms of structure and position in the market and distinguishes them from both the major conglomerates and the independent companies.9 If nothing else, the words 'mini major', 'major', 'semi indie', 'quasi studio' and 'major independent' demonstrate that Miramax cannot be labelled an independent company, at least not since it became a Disney division. As a similar argument can be advanced about New Line Cinema, one could suggest that seventeen of the twenty most commercially successful American independent films are not actually independent.
A different approach to what constitutes independent film can reveal a whole new set of potential candidates. A large number of widely regarded mainstream filmmakers and industry practitioners have established their own independent production companies which physically produce (and often finance) pictures. Examples of such companies by filmmakers include LucasFilms (George Lucas), Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg) and Lightstorm Entertainment (James Cameron), while well-known independent companies by industry practitioners include Revolution Studios (Joe Roth) and Phoenix Pictures (Mike Medavoy). Films by these companies are distributed by the majors, some of which have exclusive distribution deals with individual production companies (Revolution with Universal; Phoenix with Sony until 2001) while others operate independently and approach the major distributors once finance is in place (Phoenix Pictures after 2001). This would mean that such definitive Hollywood films as Spielberg's Minority Report (2002) and War of the Worlds (2005); Lucas' six instalments of the Star Wars saga (1977-2005); Revolution's xXx
(R. Cohen, 2002) and Hollywood Homicide (Shelton, 2003); Phoenix's The 6th Day (Spottiswoode, 2000) and Stealth (R. Cohen, 2005); and Cameron's The Abyss (1989), True Lies (1993) and Titanic (1997) can all be considered independent productions.
Although it is tempting to dismiss these films as independent productions on the basis that such a status has been conferred on a legal technicality (Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment might have physically produced the $200 million Titanic, though Fox and Paramount shared the costs of the budget and therefore were really 'in charge' of the production), other cases point to the contrary. If it is difficult to perceive of Titanic as an independent film, it is equally difficult to think of the three recent Star Wars films (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith [Lucas, 1999, 2002 and 2005]) as such. All three films were produced by LucasFilms for Fox and, like Titanic, they carried a very expensive production cost. Unlike Titanic, however, the distributor did not provide in this case the finance. It was LucasFilms that funded as well as produced the three films, which makes them clearly independent productions while, according to Variety, the filmmaker has enjoyed an autonomy that 'is unique in the history of the entertainment industry'.10 Equally, a number of Amblin films are partly financed by Dreamworks SKG, a major distribution company Steven Spielberg co-owns with David Goeffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Owning both a production and a distribution company has allowed Spielberg freedom to pursue less commercial projects such as Amistad (1997) and A.I. (2001) while still making franchise pictures for other majors such as the Jurassic Park sequel for Universal.
If, despite this evidence, one is still tempted to disqualify Spielberg and Lucas as independent filmmakers because of their association with the majors, should this not be the case for all filmmakers whose work is financed or distributed by the majors? Take, for instance, Spike Lee and Wes Anderson, two filmmakers who are much easier to label independent as throughout the years they have produced a number of low-budget, offbeat films permeated by a strong personal vision. Lee, in particular, is often credited with putting black American independent cinema on the map through a series of challenging films that dealt with questions of race from the mid-1980s onwards. What is interesting, however, is that after his breakthrough feature She's Gotta Have It (produced by Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks and distributed by the short-lived independent Island
Pictures) in 1986, the next seven films Lee wrote and directed were financed and/or distributed by the majors (School Daze  by Columbia; Do the Right Thing , Mo' Better Blues , Jungle Fever  and Clockers  by Universal; Malcolm X  by Warner; and Crooklyn  by Paramount). More recently, Lee's films have been financed and distributed by various companies including Buena Vista, Disney's distribution arm, which released Summer of Sam (1999) and The 25th Hour (2002).
Disney is also responsible for financing and distributing the films of Wes Anderson, one of the most original voices in contemporary American cinema. Since his debut feature Bottle Rocket (1996), a Columbia Pictures-financed remake of a thirteen-minute short that Anderson had produced in 1994 under the same title, the filmmaker has established himself with such famous 'indie' pictures as Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) and Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). Even though all three were produced by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson's production company, American Empirical Films, they were nevertheless co-financed and distributed by Buena Vista. Still, despite the obvious similarities with the finance, production and distribution of Titanic, the films by Anderson and Lee are more easily perceived of as independent, while Cameron's film epitomises mainstream Hollywood at its most excessive.
The above examples demonstrate clearly the significant problems involved in any attempt towards a definition of the term independent in contemporary American cinema that privileges an industrial-economic perspective. If, as Jim Hillier has remarked, 'historically, 'independent' has always implied work different from the dominant or mainstream, whether this relationship is defined primarily in economic terms (production and distribution) or in aesthetic or stylistic terms', these distinctions are not clear cut in the current state of American cinema, certainly not in terms of economics.11 Independent production companies like IEG are in a position to finance films budgeted in excess of $100 million away from the majors. Independent distributors like the Independent Film Channel Films (IFC Films) score $241.4 million in the US box office with a $5 million production like My Big Fat Greek Wedding (J. Zwick, 2002), more than blockbusters such as Jurassic Park: The Lost World (Spielberg, 1997) and The Matrix (A. Wachowski and L. Wachowski, 1999). Major independents like New Line Cinema produce and distribute The Lord of the Rings, a franchise that has brought approximately $1 billion net profit, while the third instalment of the trilogy (The Return of the King ) has outgrossed any film produced and or/distributed by the 'mainstream' sister label Warner.12 Under the umbrella of the same conglomerate, Time Warner, there is also Warner Independent (for some critics a contradiction in terms) which finances and distributes low-budget, 'personal, taboo-breaking and experimental films'.13 New Line Cinema has also created a subsidiary, Fine Line Features, which produces and/or distributes low-budget, edgier films that are too specialised for the more 'mainstream' major independent parent company.
If the distinctions in terms of economics are murky and the boundaries between independent and major companies forever blurred, an approach that sees independent filmmaking as different from mainstream in terms of aesthetics or use of film style produces equally, if not more, problematic results. With mainstream American cinema generally exemplified by what some critics have called a 'classical aesthetic', one would expect that independent films depart from some or all conventions associated with classical narrative and film style.14 In terms of narrative such conventions include: cause-effect logic; goal-oriented, psychologically motivated characters; an equilibrium-disequilibrium-new equilibrium structure; the transformation of the main characters by the end of the story; the formation of the heterosexual couple (or, alternatively, of the family unit); and narrative closure. In terms of visual style, one would expect a break of the rules of continuity editing (180-degree rule, eyeline match, point of view cutting, match on action cut, and so on), which ensure that the spatial, temporal and causal relationships between characters in the film are clear at all times and that the spectator is always aware of his or her position in relation to the narrative. Continuity editing produces an unobtrusive or 'transparent' film style that is always at the service of the narrative and does not attract attention to itself. In other words, it allows the spectator to attend to 'the story being told and not to the manner of its telling'.15
With mainstream Hollywood cinema bound by so many conventions, independent films can depart from the dominant and the established in a large number of ways. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994; produced by A Band Apart and financed and distributed by Miramax), for instance, follows the rules of continuity editing within individual sequences. However, its move back and forth in time from scene to scene without explicit markers of flashback or flashforward (blurred images, intensification of music, framing of a character in a close up to suggest that he or she is remembering or imagining something, and so on) disorients the spectator. Memento (Nolan, 2000; produced by I Remember Productions, Newmarket Capital Group, Summit Entertainment and Team Todd and distributed by the independent Newmarket) is edited in such a way that half its scenes (the ones in colour) unfold in reverse chronological order and are intercut with the other half (the ones in black and white), which move forward in time. Only towards the end of the film when the last black and white scene 'meets' the last (chronologically first) colour scene is the spectator able to understand that all scenes in black and white take place before the scenes in colour and that this is a relatively linear narrative that has become complicated through editing. In the end, however, this assumption is thwarted as the film confounds audience expectations towards a satisfactory narrative closure as there are shots whose place in the narrative is not clear (for instance Leonard in bed with his wife and the words 'I did it' tattooed on his chest).
Other films break dominant conventions more forcefully. Harmony Korine's films (Gummo [1997; produced by Independent Pictures and distributed by Fine Line Features] and Julien Donkey-Boy [1999; produced and distributed by Independent Features]) can be more easily described as a loosely structured assemblage of scenes than anything close to a classical narrative. In David Mamet's films (especially House of Games [1987; produced by Filmhaus Productions and distributed by Orion Pictures], Homicide [1991; produced by Cinehaus and distributed by Triumph Releasing] and Oleanna [1994; produced by Bay Kinescope and distributed by the Samuel Goldwyn Company]) the specific logic of his scripts determines the use of film style. This means that if the script calls for unclear psychological motivations on the part of the characters, for gaps in the narrative that cannot be explained, for interruptions in the cause-effect logic of the shots and scenes and even for a lack of realism in the unfolding of the story, then the film's style would not attempt to 'cover these problems' as a mainstream film might try to do. Furthermore Mamet's actors deliver their lines in such a non-emotive manner that the convention of the illusion of the character - upon which mainstream acting has been founded - is clearly shattered. Although in many ways structured in a classical manner, Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001; produced by View Askew Productions and distributed by Miramax) contains so many references to Smith's previous films that lack of prior knowledge of the films can render Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back incomprehensible.
In Todd Solondz's Palindromes (2004; produced by Extra Large Pictures and distributed by Wellspring Media), seven actors of a different age, race and body shape play the same character, with only the costume they are wearing providing continuity from scene to scene.
The above examples demonstrate clearly the extent to which independent films can depart from the conventions that characterise mainstream filmmaking. On the other hand, however, it is also clear that several aspects of the classical narrative and style remain in place. This means that in terms of aesthetics, independent films retain a certain grounding on mainstream traditions, the extent of which varies from film to film. Especially in terms of narrative, as Geoff King has argued, 'it is rarely if ever the case that [it] is entirely absent in the more commercial/industrial independent sector.'16
Even though this argument seems to differentiate a very large category of films from the more mainstream fare (which would include the expensive blockbuster films made by the majors), pointing perhaps towards a less controversial definition of American independent cinema, it nevertheless presents one major problem. It is not unusual for a mainstream film, especially an effects-driven action/adventure blockbuster to also depart from the classical conventions. Stylistic and narrative patterns often associated with the blockbuster film include: loose narrative structure; narrative as a showcase for special effects; increasing emphasis on spectacle; characters as plot functions; and genre hybridity. For many film critics, the blockbuster film has gradually become an expression, or even a celebration, of a conglomerated entertainment industry, which attempts to entice a very large, increasingly young, audience to a specific kind of entertainment that can be reiterated ad-infinitum through the multiple distribution channels that the same industry controls.17 For this reason, certain pillars of the classical aesthetic, such as cause and effect narrative logic, psychological character motivation and clear-cut generic frameworks have been replaced by elements of a new aesthetic that increasingly foregrounds narrative fragments rather than narrative structure in order to encourage spin-offs and tie-ins in various ancillary markets. This aesthetic has been labelled by some critics as post-classicism and, as in the case of independent cinema, it is characterised by both departures from and continuities with classical cinema.
The term post-classicism has been employed also in critical discussions of 'the high-concept film', certainly a type of film associated with mainstream cinema. According to Justin Wyatt, the constituent elements of the high-concept film can be found in the construction of narratives as vehicles for advertising to the extent that advertising and narrative have gradually become increasingly integrated, thereby changing the look and the sound of the film. Despite 'important aesthetic ties' with classical cinema, the considerably tighter relationship between economics and aesthetics of the high-concept film creates a style of filmmaking that differs considerably from the classical one.18 And as with independent cinema, the extent of the breaking of the classical conventions varies from film to film.
As this stylistically determined approach to defining American independent cinema is also plagued with problems, one wonders whether it is, indeed, possible to come up with a definition. Furthermore, to this point I have been referring to examples of films that could be construed as independent strictly from the post-1980 period, which has attracted considerable critical attention in recent years.19 Commercial independent filmaking in the United States, however, is as old as mainstream Hollywood, which for many film historians extends back to the second decade of the twentieth century. This means that, historically, independent cinema has assumed a large variety of forms and functions some of which differ considerably from others. For instance, during the studio years (mid-1920s-late 1940s) the label independent could be attached to prestige-level pictures made by producers such as Samuel Goldwyn, Walt Disney and David O. Selznick who used United Artists (and later other companies) to release films they made through their respective production companies. Among these independent films one could find Gone with the Wind (Fleming, 1939), a film widely considered the epitome of mainstream Hollywood under the studio system, which nevertheless was produced by Selznick through his Selznick International Pictures. The label independent, however, could be also attached to low-budget pictures (such as the singing-cowboy western Tumbling Tumbleweeds [Kane, 1935]) produced and distributed by Poverty Row studios such as Monogram and Republic Pictures and destined for the low part of double bills in the 1930s and 1940s. It could also be attached to ultra-low-budget films that targeted the various ethnic populations in America, which were produced, distributed and exhibited mainly outside the California-based film industry.
To account for all these different forms and expressions of independent filmmaking during the last hundred years, this study has approached
American independent cinema as a discourse that expands and contracts when socially authorised institutions (filmmakers, industry practitioners, trade publications, academics, film critics, and so on) contribute towards its definition at different periods in the history of American cinema. The concept of discourse is well suited to sidestep some of the problems involved in defining independent filmmaking. According to Michel Foucault, discourses 'bring cultural objects into being by naming them, defining them [and] delimiting their field of operation'.20 By creating objects of knowledge such as American independent cinema (and mainstream cinema for that matter), various institutional forces such as academia, the trade press, filmmakers and industry practitioners highlight specific practices and procedures associated with filmmaking upon which individual definitions are founded. These practices 'realise and set the conditions for discourse, while discourse, reciprocally, feeds back utterances which facilitate practice'.21
A good illustration of the usefulness of this approach is provided by the case of Disney. One obvious practice that has consistently characterised the discourse of American independent cinema from the mid-1920s has been the production of films through production companies other than the major studios. One of the most successful such companies was Disney, which managed to curve a niche market with its animated films. In recent years, however, Disney has become one of the largest entertainment conglomerates and an undisputed member of the major powers in American cinema. The practices associated with the 'rise' of Disney from a relatively small independent production company to a major conglomerate (the establishment of a distribution apparatus, diversification in ancillary markets, its merger with giant television network ABC, its emphasis on tent pole films with potential for stratospheric profits, its distribution contracts with other production companies like Pixar which provide it with product) influenced the 'Disney discourse' to such an extent that it ceased to be part of the discourse of American independent cinema. Equally, following developments in the American film industry (including Disney's transformation to a conglomerate), the discourse of American independent cinema was shaped accordingly to exclude Disney from its remit.
The concept of discourse is also well suited for approaching American independent cinema because it involves questions of power. As discourses are produced and legitimated by socially authorised groups, it is obvious that there are parties who stand to gain through their association with American independent cinema (and through the exclusion of other parties or groups). Not surprisingly, numerous sub-groups within the above institutions have appropriated the term independent in order to achieve particular objectives as well as define the field. Nowhere is this more evident than in the manner in which sub-groups of filmmakers and industry practitioners have used the label to include themselves and exclude others. For instance even as early as 1909, a number of filmmakers who opposed the tactics of the Motion Picture Patents Company created a distinct identity for themselves by choosing to be called independent. In the studio times, top-rank producers like Howard Hughes, David O. Selznick and Charles Chaplin used the concept of independence to differentiate their own productions (such as Hell's Angels , Gone with the Wind and The Great Dictator , respectively) from the routine films associated with the Hollywood studios, often referred to as sausage factories. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a group of experimental filmmakers on the East Coast dismissed all Hollywood-based filmmakers (including those with their own production companies) as cogs in an institutionalised film industry claiming instead the label for themselves and their own ultra-low-budget and technically unpolished personal projects.
Finally, it is certainly because of its association with questions of power relations between contending groups that the discourse of American independent cinema became so pervasive and prominent in the post-1980 period. With the major entertainment conglomerates tightening their grip on everything related to American cinema and with Reaganite entertainment defining mainstream cinema and reigning supreme at the box office, it became a cause for celebration when films that were financed, produced and distributed outside the majors met with (relatively) wide commercial success. This was particularly the case when the films also dealt with important social issues that were absent in the majors' productions or when their filmmakers employed challenging visual styles and/or narrative structures that were markedly different from the formal contours of the dominant aesthetic regime.
As the label independent was also attached to productions such as Heartland (Pierce and A. Smith, 1979), Return of the Secaucus Seven, Smithereens (Seidelman, 1982) and Stranger than Paradise and to a large number of films that were characterised by one or more of the above defining features in the following years, it acquired additional meanings. Besides signifying one or more of the above-cited characteristics, independence also connoted a particular brand of quality that was perceived as absent from the considerably more refined (and expensive) but impersonal mainstream Hollywood productions. In other words, independence in American cinema had become associated with intelligent, meaningful, often challenging but always full of spirit filmmaking, while production by the majors was associated with conservative, conventional, formulaic and spiritually empty efforts at entertaining an increasingly young audience.
With the label independent acquiring such distinct meanings, it was not long before small-scale distributors started using it as a marketing category. Especially during the early 1990s, a low-budget film's independent status could prove its only chance to attract a sizable audience and return a profit to the producer and distributor involved. This was clearly understood by the majors, which managed to appropriate the term and use it for their own financial gain for the rest of the 1990s. Sponsoring their own brand of low-budget 'independent' filmmaking, the majors secured their presence in one more film market, while also putting a significant dent in the profit margins of independent companies. The majors' appropriation of the label for a large number of low-budget films that originated under their corporate umbrellas once again demonstrates the power struggle involved in the usage of 'independence' and in effect justifies an approach to American independent cinema as a discourse.
Although power relations are certainly important to the present study, the main emphasis is placed on industrial and economic factors and how those shaped the discourse of American independent cinema at various historical trajectories. This means that this study privileges an examination of the production of the discourse from one particular perspective, the industrial-economic one, though it resorts to numerous socially authorised institutions to achieve this objective. It draws on: the work of historians of American cinema (where questions of independence are dealt usually in a surprisingly brief fashion); interviews with industry practitioners; legal documentation about independent production companies from archival collections; and trade publications. The study also contains a number of case studies. These include discussions of individual pictures as examples of independent filmmaking from specific periods in the history of American cinema. This book provides the reader not only with a history on the subject, but also with a concrete framework within which individual films can be discussed as independent.
2. Synder, Gabriel (2003), ' "Aviator" Ready For Take-Off: Scorsese, DiCaprio Reteam for Pricey Hughes Biopic', in Variety, 9 June 2003, p. 9.
3. Goodridge, Mike (2002), 'Top 20 Independent Movies of All Time', in Screen International, no 1343, 8 February 2002, p. 33.
4. At the time of writing MGM/UA was taken over by Sony, while Dreamworks is in the process of being taken over by Viacom. Despite the change in their corporate status these companies will continue to be referred to as majors in this study.
5. Oppelaar, Justin (2002), 'Pangs of New York: Harvey Beefs Up, Slims Down', in Variety, 11 November 2002, pp. 1 and 62.
6. Harris, Dana (2003), 'H'wood Renews Niche Pitch: Studios Add Fresh Spin as They Rev Up "Art" Divisions', in Variety, 7 April 2003, pp. 1 and 54.
7. Brodesser, Claude (2004), 'Niche Pics Stole Summer Heat', in Variety, 8 March 2004, p. 53.
8. Rooney, David (2004), 'The Brothers Grim: Weinsteins Bridle at Disney Dictates', in Variety, 14 June 2004, pp. 1 and 57.
10. Cohen, David S. (2005), 'Is the Force Still with Him?', in Variety, 14 February 2005, pp. 1, 58-9.
12. Oppelaar, Justin (2003), 'New Line's Billion-Dollar Bet', in Variety, 20 January 2003, p. 11.
13. See http://wip.warnerbros.com.
14. The key study on Hollywood cinema as a 'classical' art is Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson's Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (1985). Although the study examines American cinema prior to 1960, in the penultimate chapter of the book the authors argue that the classical mode of film practice has persisted post-1960 (pp. 367-77). Equally Kristin Thompson's Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique (1999) extends this argument to American cinema of the 1980s and 1990s.
18. Wyatt, 1994, pp. 18. Examples of high-concept films include Flashdance (Lyne, 1983), Footloose (Ross, 1984) and Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986).
19. Book-length studies that focus strictly or mainly on American independent cinema in the post-1980 period include: Rosen and Hamilton, 1990; Lyons,
1994; Pierson, 1995; Andrew, 1998; Levy, 1999; Biskind, 2005; and King, 2005. Two edited collections also focus mainly on the post-1980 period, Hillier (ed.), 2001; and Holmlund and Wyatt (eds), 2005. There is one study that focuses on independent filmmaking during the studio times (mid-1920s-late 1940s), Aberdeen, 2000. Finally, to this date there has been only one study that examines independent filmmaking from the early years of the twentieth century to our times, Merritt, 2000.
AMERICAN INDEPENDENT CINEMA IN THE STUDIO YEARS (MID-1920s-LATE 1940s)
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