What are some of your favorite indies? No Hollywood/studio please.
I think the film critic Emanuel Levy sums up the criteria for what an independent film consists of rather well.
Summary: Independent film is...
- Two different conceptions of independent film can be found. One is based on the way indies are financed, the other focuses on their spirit or vision.
- The most important thing when a filmmaker says he is an independent, is that somebody cannot beat him into a pulp and force him to make a movie that the financier wants. (Art over profit)
- If there is distribution attached to a film before it’s made, I am not sure how independent it really is.
- The budget’s size is a criterion too. With this stated, in today’s Hollywood, Chris Hanley’s Muse Productions and James Robinson’s Morgan Creek are both considered independents. Some "low-budget indies" may still cost over $1 million to make under certain circumstances.
- Those who care about the quality of indies are concerned with the current lack of radically political and avant-garde visions, which had characterized the earlier American independent cinema.
- Express themselves artistically (self-expressionism over profit)
- Indies take the kinds of risk that are out of the question in mainstream Hollywood. For this reason, indies may deal with controversial subject matter or culture that the mainstream media would never want to deal with (like queer film in the 90s, black people making love in the 80s, Italian culture in the 70s)
- A lot of indies are shot with 8mm lens or more "home-style" equipment, as opposed to a 16mm lens or wide angle lens
- Main plot is driven by sub-plots
- Story consists of balance
- Music is used to define the scene
- Lighting is used to reflect mood and atmosphere
- Seamless editing
- Satisfying conclusion with most questions answered and no loose ends
- There does not need to be a main plot, though there often is one
- Story may be more spontaneous and chaotic rather than balanced
- Music is rarely used to set the stage for a scene
- Lighting is rarely used to reflect mood
- Conclusions may be abrupt and leave the audience confused, begging for answers
So while low-income budgets are a large factor of indies, it is not the defining factor. Mean Streets was made on a $500,000 budget, and though it had distribution, it was no filmed in the studio by ANY means. When you receive financing from Hollywood, there are strings attached--the filmmaker therefore must compromise with their true vision. This limits artistic creativity. Indies are just as much about spirit and the artistic technical methods used, as they are about the budget and distribution. Mean Streets was independent to the core. Scorsese had full artistic control, in contrast to his previous film dealing with the post-Depression era. This lead to the great Cassavetes calling Scorsese's work a "piece of [expletive]," which inspired him to do what he did best: self-expression. This lead to the creation of Mean Streets, whose characters were all based on Scorsese's life events and ideas. Scorsese had the financing and distribution, but his Mean Streets masterpiece is one of the exceptions. He brought the Italian culture to the American mainstream, something Hollywood was afraid to do. Charlie Coppa is literally named after his parents, while a majority of the script was written while Scorsese was driving around in a car. A lot of the dialogue was improv between the actors. This stuff simply does not happen on a studio set. This is why Scorsese is considered one of the most influential filmmakers; his bold vision that is motivated by self-expression.
Hollywood wants to top box charts, and in order to do this, they must appeal to the general audience.
Edited by -Wade-, January 19, 2014 - 07:13 PM.