Other Publications

This is a list of various other published work on American indie cinema, some academic and some more general in orientation, organized roughly by category (for my own publications, click here). I’m trying to keep this up to date,  but always appreciate any suggestions for useful work I might have missed.

See also the reading listed here in the guide for my American Independent Cinema module at Brunel University. This includes much more material, particularly on specific areas such as black independent film, New Queer Cinema, cult film and the like.

Work of academic substance

Some very useful publications I’d particularly recommend

Michael Z. Newman, ‘Indie culture: in pursuit of the authentic autonomous alternative’, Cinema Journal, vol. 48, no. 3, Spring 2009. Also the book-length development of the argument begun in this article:

Indie: An American Film Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011 (a very useful overview of indie film in what Newman terms the ‘Sundance-Miramax’ era, with a particular focus on the broader cultural resonance of ‘indie’. Suggests three key dimensions of how indie films are designed to be read: as offering realism of character; as playful, his main examples being playfulness in narrative; and as, if in doubt, to be read as anti-Hollywood)

James MacDowell, ‘Notes on Quirky’, Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, issue 1, August 2010, available online here (a very useful analysis of what is signified by the notion of quirkiness, a term frequently employed in relation to indie film, seen here as involving a particular balance between the ironically distanced and the sincerely engaged)

Various other works, in assorted categories (these are broad rather than absolute divisions, with some overlaps):

General academic studies/collections

John Berra, Declarations of Independence: American Cinema and the Partiality of Independent Production, Bristol: Intellect, 2008 (I found this less than convincing in some parts; also rather shoddily produced, full of typos)

Chris Holmlund and Justin Wyatt (eds), Contemporary American Independent Film: From the Margins to the Mainstream, Routledge, 2004 (the first academic edited collection on the subject; some useful material but rather a disappointment for me overall & lacking a clear sense of focus within which to situate the various contributions)

Rona Murray, Studying American Independent Cinema, Leighton Buzzard: Auteur, 2011 (much useful material although rather fragmented as a result of being mostly in the form of numerous case-study chapters, which means many issues are split over various parts of the book rather than being tackled in a more concerted manner; good particularly on mapping some of the key differences between different varieties/degrees of indie)

Sherry B. Ortner, Not Hollywood: Independent Film at the Twilight of the American Dream, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2013 (very interesting perspective from a social anthropologist investigating the field; particularly strong on emphasising the social critique independent films offer of life in American since the late 1980s)

Claire Perkins, American Smart Cinema, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012

Claire Perkins and Constantine Verevis (eds), US Independent Film after 1989: Possible Films, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Press, 2015  (chapters focused on smaller and less well-known indie films, includes on by me on Primer)

E. Deidre Pribram, Cinema & Culture: Independent Film in the United States, 1980-2001, New York: Peter Lang, 2002 (useful and substantial study, although includes a range of non-American films within its definition and among its main case-studies)

Yannis Tzioumakis, American Independent Cinema: An Introduction, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006 (uses a broadly inclusive definition of ‘independent’) Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com

Yannis Tzioumakis, ‘Academic discourses and American independent cinema: in search of a field of studies. Part 1: from the beginnings to the 1980s, New Review of Film and Television Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, June 2011 and ‘Part 2; from the 1990s to date’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, vol. 9, no. 3, September 2011 (an ambitious examination of various different phases in the academic study of independent cinema, maybe of particular interest in its tracing of a number of earlier and less familiar beginnings of this enterprise; also has a useful and very inclusive bibliography)

Yannis Tzioumakis, Hollywood’s Indies: Classics Divisions, Speciality Labels and American Independent Cinema, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012

Jeffrey Sconce, ‘Irony, nihilism and the new American “smart” film’, Screen, 43, 4, Winter 2002 (already now a classic, a very useful attempt to try to get to grips with the cultural positioning of one strand of indie or Indiewood film)

Industry oriented

Martin Dale, The Movie Game: The film business in Britain, Europe and America, London:Cassell, 1997, chapter 4, ‘American Indies’, chapter 6, ‘Independent Production

Chuck Kleinhans, ‘Independent Features: Hopes and Dreams’, in Jon Lewis (ed.), The New American Cinema, Durham:Duke University Press, 1998

Tiiu Lukk, Movie Marketing: Opening the Picture and Giving it Legs, Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1997, chapter 2, ‘American Independent Films: Pulp Fiction and The Brothers McMullen’, chapter 4, ‘Documentary Film: Hoop Dreams’, chapter 5, ‘More American Independent and Foreign Films:Welcome to the Dollhouse, Howards End, Crumb’ (useful detail on marketing strategies employed in some indie films)

Paul McDonald, ‘Miramax, Life is Beautiful, and the Indiewoodization of the foreign-language film market in the USA’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, vol. 7, no. 4, December 2009

Perren, Alisa, ‘Sex, Lies, and Marketing: Miramax and the Development of the Quality Indie Blockbuster’, Film Quarterly, vol. 55, no. 2, Winter 2001-2

David Rosen, Off-Hollywood: The Making and Marketing of Independent Films, New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990 (not an academic study as such but a source of substantial detail on production, distribution and exhibition of a selection of case studies from the 1980s)

James Schamus, ‘To the rear of the back end: the economics of independent cinema’, in Neale and Smith (eds.), Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, London & New York: Routledge, 1998 (bit of a rant in places, could also be filed under ‘insider accounts’, below)

Justin Wyatt, ‘The Formation of the ‘major independent’: Miramax, New Line and the New Hollywood’, in Neale and Smith (eds.), Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, London & New York/Routledge, 1998 (the authoritative account of this important moment in the consolidation of the indie/Indiewood sector)

Formal qualities

Aymar Jean Christian, ‘Joe Swanberg, Intimacy, and the Digital Aesthetic’, Cinema Journal, vol. 50, no. 4, Summer 2011 (focused on the mumblecore movement, particularly via an examination of Swanberg’s LOL)

David Bordwell, ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice’ (1979), in Poetics of Cinema, New York/London: Routledge, 2008

David Bordwell, ‘Mutual Friends and Chronologies of Chance’, in Poetics of Cinema, New York/London: Routledge, 2008

David Bordwell, ‘Subjective Stories and Network Narratives’, in The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006

Warren Buckland (ed.), Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema, Blackwell, 2009 (includes essays on Lost Highway, Memento and films scripted by Charlie Kaufman, among others)

Kevin Howley, ‘Breaking, Making, and Killing Time in Pulp Fiction’, Scope: An Online Journal of Film Studies , May 2004, accessible via archives at www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk

David James, ‘Alternative Cinemas’, in Chris Holmlund and Justin Wyatt (eds), Contemporary American Independent Film: From the Margins to the Mainstream, Routledge, 2004

J.J. Murphy, Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work, London: Continuum, 2007

Murray Smith, ‘Parallel Lines’, in Jim Hillier (ed.), American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader, London: BFI, 2001

Chuck Tryon, Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence, Rutgers University Press, 2009, chapter 4, ‘Desktop Productions: Digital Distribution and Public Film Cultures’

Individual film studies (in film title order – still quite a selected and incomplete list)

Gary Needham, Brokeback Mountain, Edinburgh University Press ‘American Indies’ series, 2010

Toni Cade Bambara, ‘Reading the Signs, Empowering the Eye: Daughters of the Dust and the Black Independent Cinema Movement, in Manthia Diawara (ed.), Black American Cinema, Routledge, 1993

Glyn Davis, Far From Heaven, Edinburgh University Press ‘American Indies’ series, 2011

Kevin Howley, ‘Breaking, Making, and Killing Time in Pulp Fiction’, Scope: An Online Journal of Film Studies , May 2004, accessible via archives at www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk

Claire Molloy, Memento, Edinburgh University Press ‘American Indies’ series, 2010

J.J. Murphy, ‘Harmony Korine’s Gummo: The Compliment of Getting Stuck with a Fork’, Film Studies: An International Review, 5. Winter 2004

Yannis Tzioumakis, The Spanish Prisoner, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press ‘American Indies’ series, 2009

Ray Carney, ‘“Challenging Understandings”: An essay on Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger’, accessible online at http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/indievision/burnetttext.htm

General background reading

None of these have much that is very academically analytical in focus, but they are useful for general orientation and history.

Emmanuel Levy, Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film, New York: New York University Press, 1999 (this and Merritt are primarily of value for broad survey background)

Donald Lyons, Independent Visions: A Critical Introduction to Recent Independent American Film, New York: Ballantine Books, 1994

Greg Merritt, Celluloid Mavericks: A History of American Independent Film, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2000 (I always find myself arguing with Merritt’s insistence that ‘independence’ can only be defined in industrial terms, though separation from any involvement with the studios, rather than at the level of the form or content of individual films themselves)

Kaya Oakes, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, New York: Holt, 2009 (a useful study of a broader range of indie culture, especially from the 1990s onwards but that also traces some earlier roots. Oddly almost entirely ignores indie film but charts some similar territory in areas such as music and publishing).

Initial introductions:

Jessica Winter, The Rough Guide to American Independent Film, London: Rough Guides, 2006

Jason Wood, 100 American Independent Films, London: BFI, 2004

More journalistic books on indie or Indiewood

These are often better for factual detail/background rather than for analysis, but some are of more substance than others.

Geoff Andrew, Stranger than Paradise: Maverick Film-makers in Recent American Cinema, London: Prion, 1998

Peter Biskind, Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004 (a lively read, but more given to gossip and salacious detail than to substance)

Peter Hanson, The Cinema of Generation X: A Critical Study, Jefferson: McFarland, 2002 (focuses on generation including Soderbergh, Tarantino, Smith, Fincher, Shyamalan, etc; mix of indie and more Hollywood-oriented figures)

Derek Hill, Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood’s Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists and Dreamers: An Excursion into the American New Wave, Harpenden: Kamera Books, 2008 (descriptive or review-level engagement with work of Linklater, Russell, Wes Anderson, Jonze, Sofia Coppola, Gondry)

Jim Hillier (ed.), American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader, London: BFI, 2001 (mostly reprints from the magazine, so primarily serious-journalistic rather than analytic in focus although with some exceptions)

D.K.Holm, Independent Cinema, Harpenden: Kamera Books, 2008 (rather thin, both in its brevity, general lack of much substance and somewhat arbitrary selection of case-study examples)

Jesse Fox Mayshark, Post-Pop Cinema: The Search for Meaning in New American Film, Westport: Praeger, 2007 (reasonably substantial journalistic/review account of works of indie filmmakers including Linklater, Haynes, P.T. and Wes Anderson, Russell, Kaufman, Jonze, Gondry & Sofia Coppola)

James Mottram, The Sundance Kids: How the Mavericks Took Back Hollywood, London: Faber 2006 (this and Waxman, below, are very much journalistic accounts, useful for factual background but non-academic/analytical in focus)

Sharon Waxman, Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System, New York; Harper 2005

Insider accounts

Ted Hope, Hope for Film: From the Frontlines of the Independent Cinema Revolutions, Berkeley: Soft Skull Press, 2014

John Pierson, Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: A Guided Tour across a Decade of Independent American Cinema, London: Faber, 1996; updated version, Spike, Mike Reloaded, 2004 (very good read for an impression of the shaping of the indie sector from the late 1980s)

Mark Polish, Michael Polish, Jonathan Sheldon, The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking: An Insider’s Guide to Making Movies Outside of Hollywood, Orlando: Harvest, 2005 (lively account by makers of films including Twin Falls Idaho and Northfork)

Jon Reiss, Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era, Hybrid Cinema Publishing, 201o (useful guide to DIY strategies, largely based on the author’s own experiences with films such as The Last Broadcast and Head Trauma)

Roberto Rodriguez, Rebel Without Crew, London: Faber, 1995 (now-classic account of how he made his first film for next to nothing)

Christine Vachon, Shooting to Kill: How an independent producer blasts through the barriers to make movies that matter, London: Bloomsbury, 1998 (this and Vachon below offer useful insights on the nature of work within the indie sector, from a key figure in many of its more challenging productions)

Christine Vachon, A Killer Life: How an Independent Film Producer Survives Deals and Disasters in Hollywood and Beyond, New York: Simon & Shuster, 2006

Single filmmaker studies/interviews (in filmmaker-name order; this is only a small number of the many such works available)

Ray Carney (ed), Cassavetes on Cassavetes, London: Faber, 2001

R. Barton Palmer, Joel and Ethan Coen, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004

Mark Reid, ‘Haile Gerima: Sacred Shield of Culture’, in Chris Holmlund and Justin Wyatt (eds), Contemporary American Independent Film: From the Margins to the Mainstream, Routledge, 2004

Haile Gerima, ‘Thoughts and Concepts: The Making of Ashes and Embers’, Black American Literature Forum, vol. 25, issue 2, Black Film Issue, Summer 1991

Ludvic Hertzberg (ed), Jim Jarmusch Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2001

Juan A. Suarez, Jim Jarmusch, Urbana: University of Chicago Press, 2007

Benjamin Halligan, ‘What is the Neo-Underground and What Isn’t?: A First Consideration of Harmony Korine’, in Xavier Mendik & Steven Jay Schneider, (eds),  Underground U.S.A.: Filmmaking Beyond the Hollywood Canon, Wallflower Press, 2002

Paula J. Massood, The Spike Lee Reader, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008

Amiri Baraka, ‘Spike Lee at the Movies’, in Manthia Diawara (ed.), Black American Cinema, Routledge, 1993

Houston A. Baker, Jr., ‘Spike Lee and the Commerce of Culture’, in Manthia Diawara (ed.), Black American Cinema, Routledge, 1993

Diane Carson (ed), John Sayles Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 1999

Gavin Smith (ed.), Sayles on Sayles, London: Faber, 1998

Andrew Dewaard and Colin Tait, The Cinema of Steven Soderbergh: Indie Sex, Corporate Lies, and Digital Videotape, New York: Columbia University Press, 2013

Mark Gallagher, Another Steven Soderbergh Experience: Authorship and Contemporary Hollywood, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013

R. Barton Palmer and Steven M. Sanders (eds), The Philosophy of Steven Soderbergh, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2011

Movements/tendencies

New Queer Cinema 

Michele Aaron,  (ed.), New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004

B. Ruby Rich, ‘Homo Pomo: the new queer cinema’, Sight and Sound, vol. 2 no. 5, September 1992; reprinted in Pam Cook and Philip Dodd (eds), Women and Film: A Sight and Sound Reader, Scarlet Press, 1993

B. Ruby Rich, ‘Queer and Present Danger’, Sight and Sound, March 2000, reprinted in Jim Hillier (ed), American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader

Jose Arroyo, ‘Death, Desire and Identity: The Political Unconscious of “New Queer Cinema”, in Joseph Bristow and Angela Wilson (eds), Activating Theory: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Politics

Chris Holmlund, ‘Generation Q’s ABCs: Queer Kids and 1990s Independent Films’, in Holmlund and Justin Wyatt (eds), Contemporary American Independent Film: From the Margins to the Mainstream, Routledge, 2004

Monica Pearl, ‘AIDS and New Queer Cinema’, in Michele Aaron (ed.), New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader, Edinburgh University Press, 2004

Glyn Davis, ‘Soup Cans and Heart-Throb; The Role of Camp in New Queer Film and the work of Gregg Araki’, in Michele Aaron (ed.), New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader, Edinburgh University Press, 2004

Michael DeAngelis, ‘This Past That Haunts Us: Todd Haynes and the New Queer Cinema’, in Michele Aaron (ed.), New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader, Edinburgh University Press, 2004

Anat Pick, ‘Out-Skirts: New Queer Cinema and Lesbian Films: Between Marginality and Mainstream’, in Michele Aaron (ed.), New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader, Edinburgh University Press, 2004

Michele Aaron, ‘Everywhere and Nowhere: New Queer Cinema and the New Queer Spectator’, in Michele Aaron (ed.), New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader, Edinburgh University Press, 2004

Emmanuel Levy, Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film, New York University Press, 1999, chapter 12, ‘The New Gay and Lesbian Cinema’

Jim Hillier (ed.), American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader, ‘Section 3: Queers’ (various articles, including Rich’s, ‘Queer and Present Danger’, 2000)

Alexander Doty, Making Things Perfectly Queer, University of Minnesota Press, 1993

Alexander Doty & Corey Creekmur (eds), Out in Culture: Queer Essays on Popular Culture, Duke University

Nicholas Rombes (ed.), New Punk Cinema, Edinburgh University Press, 2005 (Some interesting essays. The initial definition of ‘punk’ cinema is quite useful in application to certain works, but the writers here extend a notion of ‘new punk cinema’ to a point at which the terms seems of little specific value; an initial definition rooted in radical alterity textually and industrially is lost in the use of the term in relation to numerous indie or Indiewood films, as well as other examples such as Dogme 95, in relation to which it seems unconvincing)

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