John Cassavetes

Initially trained to be an actor, John Cassavetes debuted as a director in 1968 with Shadows. Shot on location in the streets of New York, often on a handheld camera and without authorisation, and featuring loose, heavily improvised dialogue by little-known or non-professional actors, the film can be regarded as the foundation of American indie cinema. It was unenthusiastically received by audiences at the time, but garnered some interest from critics (and won him the Venice Film Festival Critics Prize).

Insistent on this approach, Cassavetes increasingly endured a difficult relationship with the studios, leading him to reject them altogether in favour of making his own films, financed by his own parallel acting career. As much as the loose rhythms and unpolished feel of Cassavetes' work have clearly made a wider aesthetic impression, his  rejection of the marketised systems of film production was a beacon to independent film makers that were to come,   

Want to find out more? Read our fascinating feature about the unique partnership between Cassavetes and his wife and favourite actress, Gena Rowlands.

And for those new to Cassavetes, here's where to begin.