What Makes an Indie
Do you want to think or do you just want to be entertained?
This is a question that is asked of every movie goer that goes to the movies as
they are faced with the choice between mainstream or indie films.
When you consider the fact that ultimately many of those people make the
decision to watch movies that have little or no publicity and a miniscule budget
compared to a mainstream film, you must ask yourself the question about what it
is that keeps people craving independent films? The answer is both simple and
complex and it has to do with people wanting something different, intellectually
stimulating and emotionally satisfying.
The problem that most people have with mainstream movies is
that they usually do not offer anything different. The decisions of The Big Six
film studios such as Universal, Paramount or 20th Century Fox to
green light a film project are based purely on business models. These models
include certain elements that minimize or eliminate any investment risk. These
elements are things such as having big name actors, writers, producers and
directors attached, having a classic or well known story and extensive testing
beforehand of every artistic decision with public focus groups prior to
accepting it as part of the project.
The Big Six film studios spend hundreds of millions of
dollars on most of their mainstream film projects and they are not willing to
take any risks with untried products or people. Unfortunately, this means that
the creative aspect of their movies is usually lacking because they are not
willing to try anything new.
One of the most critically acclaimed indie films of 2011
that came out of the film festival circuit was Martha Marcy May Marlene by
writer and director Sean Durkin. It is a stark look at the life of a young woman
played by Elizabeth Olsen who is trying to come to terms with the effects of
living in an abusive cult in the Catskills. It is an emotional journey that
examines the inner thoughts of this woman and how she tries to deal with the
trauma she suffered before she escaped and returned to the traditional way of
living back in the real world. Often dark and cynical, this film makes you think
hard about what reality is and how we should deal with it as we partake in this
mysterious event we call life. It
is the kind of movie that indie film audiences love.
It offers a bleak, yet interesting story that the Big Six studios would
The budget for Martha Marcy May Marlene may have been
small, but the ideas it puts forth are very big. It is unique, intellectually
challenging and enlightening. It is not a movie for people who do not want to
think too much. Because of this fact, it excludes certain potential movie goers
and this made it a bit of a risky investment that the Big Six were not willing
Another popular independent film of 2011 was Meeks Cutoff,
a period film set in the 1880s. Directed by Kelly Reichert, this spellbinding
tale of early American pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail is a great
example of the kind of movie indie film audiences value greatly. It is the
antithesis of a mainstream film in every way. First of all, its a western, and
very few films of this genre are being made these days by the Big Six studios
mostly due to the fact that they just do not appeal to everyone in this modern
age of technology.
Also, there is no room for the sponsors of film studios to
have product placement in a western movie. No name brand cars, soft drinks,
buildings, clothing, shoes, tools or food can be placed into the background of
scenes because none of these things were invented yet during the days of Wild
West. This is a major point for indie
film goers who typically feel that product placement has become way too blatant
in the mainstream films these days. Meeks Cutoff offers independent film
audiences a chance to watch a film that is devoid of corporate meddling
onscreen. It is a breath of fresh
air in a film industry that is polluted with commercialism.
While Meeks Cutoff is different than mainstream movies
because of its genre, it is also different for its philosophical style of
storytelling. Socially relevant and
politically poignant, this movie investigates the issues of trust, justice and
honesty in a civilized society as the characters are forced to choose between
their guide and protector, or a perceived enemy. These are deep thoughts that
cannot be expressed in a hurry onscreen. While some people may consider this
film to be slow in its pace at times, the indie film goer understands that it is
just part of the process of being stimulated intellectually when you watch
The independent film industry is surviving today not
because indie films make a lot of money. Most of the films that make it out of
the film festival circuit barely break even and rarely make a profit. These
films are made because there are still some true Artist filmmakers out there who
believe in the art form of filmmaking more than the business side. These
independent filmmakers are carrying the torch of creativity in their business.
They provide audiences with unique stories, intellectually stimulating issues
and emotional satisfaction. Most
importantly, they offer something different than the same old recycled,
commercialized films that mainstream Hollywood cranks out these days.
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