Just what is 'independent' cinema? D. K. Holm aims to define a term all too carelessly used both by media commentators and marketers, and distinguish it from categories such as avant-garde, underground, experimental or 'art' films, with which it is often confused. By contrasting studio-era Hollywood with changes in the business since the 1970s, and the rise of companies such as Miramax and New Line, it shows the birth of a commercial environment in which the new independent cinema can emerge. Profiles of specific filmmakers suggest how diverse personalities use independent cinema for individual ends; directors such as James Mangold, who found indie cinema to be a stepping stone to more mainstream movies, Jill Sprecher, who uses its flexibility to explore philosophical ideas, and Guy Maddin, one of the few true independent filmmakers, whose films are beholden to his own unique vision rather than financiers or abstract audience markets.

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