Indie producers Chris Hanley and James Robinson would seem at first glance to have as much in common as Evander Holyfield and Mahatma Gandhi. Hanley’s Muse Prods. has never made a picture for more than $5 million, and every picture he’s produced in the last two years has pushed the envelope of edginess and controversy, with several more of the same due out in the next year.

Robinson’s Morgan Creek banner hangs over pictures that have Big Studio written all over them: actioners, thrillers and comedies that require tens of millions of bucks, big stars and mass rollouts. When they hit, they do in a day the box office of a Muse film’s total run. The action in a Hanley pic revolves around Steve Buscemi in a bar or Billy Zane in a nurse’s outfit. In Robinson’s, you’ve got Costner, Connery and Carrey.

So what are they doing together in the pages of Daily Variety’s 1997 report on “The Independents?” They both have the word “risk” stamped at the top of their dossiers to describe what they do and why they do it. And it’s probably Word One for virtually everyone chronicled and analyzed inside this issue, whether they’re producers, directors, actors, craftspeople or financiers.

In the indie world, the stakes may be different and the players may have nothing in common but their SAG cards, but they’re all working without the benefit of sure-thing subject matter or a nice cozy net.

From the filmmaker who made a film about Hollywood dealmaking — and then self-distributed the comedy, to Cool Loon, the Minnesota company that hung out its shingle at Cannes last May with a slate of small, regional films, these people are working every possible angle to get their work seen. This issue explains how to work the angles: Hiring a producer’s rep, licensing music, distribution alternatives, getting the press interested and, of course, financing the project.

This issue isn’t for those who get their kicks reading about the latest $100 million studio summer pic that’s loaded with stars and special effects, studio accounting and a burger tie-in to cover the posteriors of all involved.

This is for those of us and those of you who’d love to see Evander and the Mahatma go 10 rounds, and who’d bet the house on the little guy with the glasses.

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