Communication and Culture | Topics in Media History
C420 | 23805 | Katrina G. Boyd

CMCL-C 420: Topics in Media History
(Topic: Independent Cinema)
Class Number: 23805

Lecture/Discussion: TuTh, 4:00P-5:15P, Room TBA
Required Screening: M, 7:00P-10:30P, Room TBA

(Fulfills COAS S&H Distribution Requirement AND COAS Intensive
Writing Requirement)

(A portion of this course is reserved for majors.)

Professor: Katrina G. Boyd
Office: BH 420
Office Hours: Tu 1:30P-3:00P and by appointment
Phone: 6-0405

Prerequisite: CMCL C190 or consent of the instructor

This course will provide an overview of the history of American
independent filmmaking after the decline of the classical Hollywood
studio system. We will examine films by key independent filmmakers
with substantial bodies of work: John Cassavetes (Woman Under the
Influence), Robert Altman (Nashville), John Sayles (Lone Star),
Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), and the Coen Brothers (Fargo). Today
both film festivals and cable distribution outlets, such as the
Sundance channel and the Independent Film channel, regularly focus
on independent directors who offer an “escape from Hollywood.” While
the term independent cinema has now passed into our everyday
vocabulary, the exact meaning of the phrase remains elusive. Is an
independent filmmaker someone who works outside the Hollywood
production and distribution system, or someone who works
with “boutique” studios,” or someone who explores themes, styles
and/or subject matter that are incompatible to mainstream
filmmaking? This course will examine how independent cinema has
reacted to and influenced the mainstream American film industry,
dealing with independent production in relation to New Hollywood,
media conglomeration, high concept filmmaking, digital technologies,
and the continued globalization of the film industry. We will watch
two to three films for each director, often focusing on the first
feature-length films (which are often independently financed) and
other representative works. Through lecture/discussion this course
will examine trends in the economics of the American film industry
as well as historical shifts in the meaning of the
term “independent.” We will, therefore, examine the “auteur”
director both as a critical category and as a marketing strategy. We
will be interested in relating independent filmmakers and their
films to their contexts in terms of social history, with their
attention to specific historical issues, such as the Vietnam War, as
well as to broad shifts in identity politics and issues of race,
class, gender.

Because this is an intensive writing class, there will be three
eight-page papers and one rewrite. There will also be two exams.
Students will be expected to keep up with the weekly readings and to
participate actively in class. I do not anticipate giving quizzes in
this class but will do so as necessary to encourage students to keep
up with the material. Feel free to e-mail me if you have questions.