American Independent Film (EAF3501)

StaffDr James Lyons - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to examine the practice of American independent filmmaking as it has developed in recent decades. In particular, it will: interrogate the meaning of independence as an aesthetic, institutional, and political category of filmmaking practice; analyse some of the key films that have influenced the aesthetic development and critical reception of independent filmmaking; and explore the range of aesthetic and narrative possibilities offered by the commercial and cultural parameters of independent filmmaking practice.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific American independent films, including an understanding of some of their key aesthetic and narrative attributes;
  • 2. demonstrate an awareness of many of the key aesthetic, institutional, and political influences on the production of American independent film;
  • 3. demonstrate knowledge of the methodological and theoretical issues involved in the categorisation of independence as a mode of filmmaking practice;
  • 4. demonstrate an understanding of independent films as sites for the articulation and contestation of gender, race, sex, and class identities;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate advanced skills in the close formal, thematic, generic and authorial analysis of different kinds of films;
  • 6. demonstrate advanced skills in the research and evaluation of relevant critical and historical materials for the study of film;
  • 7. demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse films of different periods and to relate their concerns and modes of expression to their historical contexts;
  • 8. demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to films;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 10. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 11. through research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan

The module begins by examining the major industrial transformations that have set the context for the American independent film boom since the 1980s, before moving on to consider the key formal/aesthetic strategies that films may adopt. It ends with a consideration of recent trends digital production, distribution and exhibition, and the challenges and opportunities they offer. Each week two exemplary films are studied in depth.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled44film screenings
Guided independent33study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent70seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent120reading, research and essay preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay503000 words1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11feedback sheet with opportunity for tutor follow up
Group project503000 words1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11feedback sheet with opportunity for tutor follow up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group projectProject essay1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative Primary texts:


Geoff King, American Independent Cinema (I.B Tauris, 2005).


Selected secondary texts:


Linda Badley, Claire Perkins and Michele Schreiber (eds.), Indie Re-Framed, ed., (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016)

Geoff King, Indiewood USA (I.B. Tauris, 2009)?

Geoff King, Indie 2.0 (I.B.Tauris, 2013)

Geoff King, Claire Malloy and Yannis Tzioumakis (eds)  American Independent Cinema: indie, indiewood, and beyond, (London: Routledge, 2013),

Alisa Perren, Indie, Inc., Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012).

Yannis Tzioumakis, American Independent Cinema: An Introduction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006).

Indicative films:


Stranger than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984)?

She's Gotta Have It (Spike Lee, 1986)

sex, lies, and videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989)

Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991)

Welcome to the Dollhouse (Todd Solondz, 1995)

Pulp Fiction (Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

Lone Star (John Sayles, 1996)?

Gerry (Gus Van Sant, 2002)?

Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Farris, 2006)?

Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

Frozen River (Courtney Hunt, 2008)

The Kids are All Right (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)

My Sister’s Sister (Dir. Lynn Shelton, 2011)

Pariah (Dir. Dee Rees, 2011)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)

Dear White People (Dir. Justin Simien, 2014)





Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other resources:


Reading for week 1?


Tino Balio, ‘Independents: ‘To the Rear of the Back End,’ in Hollywood in the New Millennium, (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), pp.114-148


Alisa Perren, 'sex, lies and marketing: Miramax and the Development of the Quality Indie Blockbuster', Film Quarterly (Winter 2001), Vol.55, Issue No.2, pp.30-39.


Yannis Tzioumakis, ‘‘Independent’, ‘Indie’ and ‘Indiewood’: Towards a periodisation of (post-1980) American independent cinema,’ in American Independent Cinema: indie, indiewood, and beyond, ed. Geoff King, Claire Malloy and Yannis Tzioumakis (London: Routledge, 2013), pp.28-40.

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