What makes a film an Indie Film? That’s a hard question to answer. Sure it’s easy to define an Independent Film-A film financed and produced independent of the Hollywood Studio system-but is that all that makes an Indie Film? If you go by the “definition” than Star Wars Episode I:The Phantom Menace is an Indie Film. And yet, Phantom Menace is hardly what comes to mind when most people think of Indie Films. So what kind of movies do come to mind?
Indie Films are usually micro-budgeted, guerrilla style affairs. There is a real sense of DIY surrounding most Indie Films. Take the movie Clerks for example;Kevin Smith had to come up a way to shoot inside the store at night but still set his scenes during the day. The answer was to leave the store’s shutters down and makeup up something about gum in the locks. Indie Filmmakers are constantly having to improvise under budget constraints. Sam Raimi using a wheelchair for a dolly, Robert Rodriguez editing El Mariachi with two VCR’s. The list goes on.
Other defining factors of Indie Films are attitude and subject matter. Indie Filmmakers are free from studio interference. As such they don’t have to take memos about how they should add a cute kid into the movie to appeal to the child demographic, or a kitten to appeal to animal lovers.Since Indie Films are made with smaller budgets, they don’t have to make as much money as studio films to make a profit. Therefore rather than feeling pressured to appeal the largest market possible, Indie Films can appeal to niche markets. Look at the films Slacker and Waking Life by famed Indie Film director Richard Linklater. Neither movie has a linear narrative and in fact are almost completely devoid of any traditional narrative structure whatsoever. Had Linklater try to make these films for a major studio they would have insisted on a story and character development that would have ruined the beautiful stream of conscience affairs that Slacker and Waking Life are.
Indie Films frequently base their films around subjects either too taboo for mainstream cinema or too obscure. Or if you’re Peter Jackson, you make a film like Meet The Feebles That Is Both. A movie about swearing,drug taking, Muppets engaging in pornography and murder isn’t a movie you see many people clamoring for. And to think that they let the same guy make Lord Of The Rings.
Some Indie Films can define a whole genre like Night Of The Living Dead by not being held back by the usual genre constraints. Not only did Night Of The Living Dead feature a Black man and a Woman as the main protagonists (almost unheard of in the late 60′s) but a stark bleakness that lacked any of the fantasy of the earlier gothic horror such as the Universal fare from the 30′s and 40′s. There was no sense that “It’s all for silly fun, there’s no reason to be afraid” because it felt all to real. This of course lead to bleaker envelope pushing horror from Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven in the 70′s and 80′s.
One of the biggest hurdles of Indie Film is funding. Not getting money from a studio means having to procure your budget through private investors,loans,maxing out your credit cards (Kevin Smith) or volunteering for medical experiments (Robert Rodriguez). Fortunately the advent of cheap digital technology has made it possible for almost anyone to make a movie. That along with croudsourcing websites like indieFilmFunding.com means that a new exciting age of Independent Film is upon us. Circumventing the studios has never been easier!
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