The rumblings amongst the independent film scene during 1991 caused by one of Linklater’s first cinematic efforts named Slacker can be seen in hindsight as a significant sign of things to come. The unorthodox style and attitude of Slacker immediately turned heads in the underground filmmaking community upon its release, and can be seen as the benchmark film to which the form of many of Linklater’s follow-up efforts can be traced. The swirl of intrigue caused by Slacker stemmed from the way in which Linklater directed, wrote and starred in a film that appeared to break textbook rules; defying Film 101 in its refusal to remain with a certain set of characters; instead casually ambling on to take in different people in different places.
Slacker’s exclusive quality is its refusal to commit to character-building rules; not neglecting any of the cast, but simply observing them for a certain amount of time before shifting elsewhere. A whole host of colourful characters are watched, including an anarchist, a conspiracy theorist, a taxi passenger (Linklater himself) and a hippy; all discussing a variety of subjects such as social issues, politics, and life itself. Linklater took the casual, meandering, eavesdropping style of Slacker and incorporated it into the likes of Dazed & Confused and Waking Life later in his career, and its elongated dialogue came to be recognised as his own personal cinematic stamp.
Indeed, whilst Slacker stands alone as a curiously compelling filmic experiment; for those looking into Linklater as a filmmaker it is essential viewing. Not only does it establish the director’s filmic roots, but it is also demonstrative of his skill and style even in his relative inexperience. The film has gone on to influence the likes of other filmmakers (Kevin Smith has often made reference to its inspiration), and can be considered a valuable nugget of independent filmmaking.