American Independent Cinema: An Introduction

American Independent Cinema: An Introduction

American Independent Cinema: An Introduction

American Independent Cinema: An Introduction

Synopsis

This introduction to American Independent Cinema offers both a comprehensive industrial and economic history of the sector from the early twentieth century to the present and a study of key individual films, filmmakers and film companies. Readers will develop an understanding of the complex dynamic relations between independent and mainstream American cinema. The main argument revolves around the idea that independent American cinema has developed alongside mainstream Hollywood cinema with institutional, industrial and economic changes in the latter shaping and informing the former. Consequently the term 'independent' has acquired different meanings at different points in the history of Hollywood cinema, evolving according to the impact of changing conditions in the American film industry. These various meanings are examined in the course of the book. The book is ordered chronologically, beginning with Independent Filmmaking in the Studio Era (examining both top-rank and low-end independent film production), moving to the 1950s and 1960s (discussing both the adoption of independent filmmaking as the main method of production as well as exploitation filmmaking) and finishing with contemporary American Independent cinema (exploring areas such as the New Hollywood, the rise of mini-major and major independent companies and the institutionalisation of independent cinema in the 1990s). Each chapter includes case studies which focus on specific films and/or filmmakers, while independent production and distribution companies are also discussed in the text. Films, filmmakers and film companies examined include:
• Cagney Productions and Johnny Come Lately, Blood on the Sun and The Time of Your Life
• The Charlie Chan series
• Lomitas Productions, Stanley Kramer and The Defiant Ones, On the Beach and Inherit the Wind
• Sam Katzman and Rock Around the Clock
• Roger Corman and The Wild Angels
• John Cassavetes and

Excerpt

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.'

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 . . .

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