What is Independent Film?

January 16, 2014 : 8:07 am | by Hailey Escobar

In the past week, I have heard a lot about what independent film is through our class and I believe that I have realized how Independent film and its culture tries to define itself despite its reach across several different sub-genres such as horror and romance. I have learned that these films can be categorized as “Indies” depending on several traits both in the artistic vision of the film and it’s conception.

As far as artistic vision is concerned, an independent film is more likely to take experimental points of view that would not normally be approved of by the executives of the studio system. Popular and controversial viewpoints in the past have included gay and female protagonists that become empowered in some way through out the course of the story. There will also be a sense of anti-Hollywood through this decision. By throwing off the worry about how the film will sell in the major box office, filmmakers are given freedom from the restraints of having to please a mass audience. The stories become more personal and tend to reflect the filmmaker themselves. They also become more experimental in how they are filmed, with the filmmakers playing with narrative structure and cinematography.

This is where the difference in film production comes in. Due to the lack of studio support during the physical production and conception of a project, independent films are wiped of their budgets. Filmmakers will work with smaller budgets that are only a small fraction of what the studio system invests in their films, which I would argue would become both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse due to the limited resources that a filmmaker will have to achieve their vision. It’s not easy to film a high speed chase without the money for the cars, the actors, the cameras, etc. At the same time, by achieving a level of success with this smaller budget such as in Quentin Tarantino’s earlier action films or The Blair Witch Project, which earned 60,000 more than it’s original budget, according to Jessica Winter’s “A Rough Guide to American Independent Film”, the success seems to skyrocket the filmmakers’ success since studio will see that the filmmaker can save money and stay in budget.

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