After making his start as an actor and published author, John Sayles first entered filmmaking as a prolific screenwriter for low-budget producer Roger Corman, writing the scripts for "Piranha" (1978), "The Lady in Red" (1979) and "Battle Beyond the Stars" (1980). But when he decided to direct his own work, Sayles avoided writing clichéd genre movies to instead explore social and political themes through richly drawn characters set against the backdrop of a unique time and place. His first, "The Return of the Secaucus Seven" (1980), was made for a scant $60,000, which established Sayles as a rugged, self-reliant director willing to avoid the studio system in order to make films that stood apart. Though he did use studio money to direct "Baby It's You" (1982) and the lush "Eight Men Out" (1988), Sayles was a beacon of hope and inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, and perhaps even the father of the independent movement of the early 1990s. By the time being an independent filmmaker was the hip new thing, Sayles already had an exemplary body of work that demonstrated the artistic freedom he sought to achieve by making a living as a script doctor-for-hire and using the money to finance his personal projects, which culminated in the exquisite crime thriller "Lone Star" (1996), which established Sayles as the one of the few independent filmmakers worthy of the name.