There is a lot of discussion about what make a film an “independent film” and there are a lot of different opinions about it. My opinion is rather simple (and admittedly could probably use an update), to me an independent film is anything built outside of a major studio’s backing.
The films I celebrate and focus this site on are the films put together by those who have either bootstrapped a film with next to nothing, crowdfunded a film by building a community and a following, or have went out and done the ground work needed to find investors and partners. It’s those people who I believe are the real life blood of the independent film world. While I don’t have a problem with the multi-million dollar, celebrity endorsed non-studio films out there, I do have a slight problem with them lumping themselves into the pool with the indie world, but I digress.
Independent films matter for a host of different and widely varying reasons. They help push innovation in storytelling, because lower budget and free-thinking individuals can experiment with story ideas that a major studio would never back. They have the opportunity to put together a film, based on developing a fan base BEFORE filming the movie, which gives them validation and a source for creative assistance when they hit a wall.
Independent films give people a voice. I spoke to a woman a while ago who has used independent film as a way to express herself in a country where women speaking out is a crime, punishable by truly horrible means. She uses independent film to help change hundreds of years of oppression and gender bias.
Speaking of gender bias, independent films have given women in the United States of America a larger voice and have given them opportunities to go out and take charge for themselves, building entire companies around the voice of women and equality in the workplace.
Festivals like The Artemis Film Festival celebrate women in film, in front of the camera and behind, giving them a larger voice and letting people know that #WomenKickAss and while there is a lot of negativity, on both sides of the fence, with that topic, at least it’s being spoken about and efforts are being made to change. I think that the independent film community is going to be a massive proving ground for artists and all the validation they need.
When I think about independent films, I think about the people who have been denied the opportunities to get massive funding. I think about the movies and shows who experiment with new and bold ideas, I think about the people who want to have a voice and make an impact in the world, and I think of all of the technological advances that have been made to allow for independent film to be made for so little, yet provide amazing quality.
So, next time someone says they are making an independent film and could use your advice or to have a sounding board, don’t just roll your eyes and think “Oh great, another indie film” because they could be the very person to shake up the entire industry and make a huge statement about what is wrong with the traditional studio-backed industry.
I’ve seen a lot of indie films, some that I wish would have been worked on a little more, polished a bit, and thought deeper about. For every diamond out there in the lists, there are probably a hundred (or even a thousand) films that are poorly done in an attempt to put out something to “make it big” and that is one of the largest problems with the industry. Hundreds of thousands of indie films get made every year, saturating the market with choices and some of those choices aren’t the best films they could be.
So there are many discussions to be had about quality, storytelling, concept, and meaning but I think the most important take away from that is that we are actually having discussions about it. That they matter. I remember a time when independent films were just talked about in small circles and niche groups of people. Now they are mainstream, they are big news, and they are on a global scale.
Independent films certainly matter. They matter to the people making them, the fans of the content, and the industries that revolve around them.
Why do independent films matter to you?