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38 The film, an account of linguistic/cultural misunderstanding that leads to a Mexican American farmer in turn-of-the-century Texas becoming the subject of a manhunt, was financed principally by public funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It was developed as a product with a strong social/political message. A deal for theatrical release was made with Embassy Pictures, a small studio (subsequently taken over by Columbia). The filmmakers, including star Edward James Olmos, were committed to a distribution and marketing strategy based on a ‘grassroots’ outreach campaign.

Not that all of the earlier generation ‘indie classics’ were given an easy time. Slacker was shown as a work in progress at the Independent Feature Film Market in 1989 and gained a £35,000 advance sale to German television. It was turned down by Sundance (and later by Telluride and Toronto), however, and opened theatrically by the director himself at the on-campus Dobie Theatre in his home town of Austin,Texas, playing to a very local constituency before eventually being picked up by Orion Classics and gaining the high profile that resulted from the film and its title being played up in the media as an embodiment of the ‘Generation X’ lifestyle.

Ideally, they appeal to both the specialized and a more general audience. There is a danger of appearing too ‘arty’ and ‘adult’ for teenagers and too youth-oriented for older art-house viewers. The Blair Witch Project is a rare example of a low-budget independent that achieved enormous crossover into the mass teen audience, but that was for a product clearly located in a genre of youth-oriented appeal. 43 The distributor, First Run Features, invested considerable effort in a grassroots marketing strategy designed to reached an inner-city youth market.

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