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Independent film


Independent film

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An independent film (or indie film) is a film initially produced without financing or distribution from a major movie studio. Often, films that receive less than 50% of their budget from major studio are also considered "independent". According to MPAA data, January through March 2005 showed approximately 15% of US domestic box office revenue was from independent or indie studios. Creative, business, and technological reasons have all contributed to the growth of the indie film scene in the late 20th and early 21st century.



The roots of independent film can be traced back to when the early pioneer filmmakers at the turn of the century resisted the control of the Motion Pictures Patents Company, when filmmakers built their own cameras to escape the Edison trusts in order to relocate to Southern California where they laid the foundations of the American film industry as well as the Hollywood studio system.

The studio system took on a life of its own, and became too powerful. Filmmakers once again sought independence as a result. Throughout the decades, independent filmmakers around the world have created a diverse range of filmmaking styles that symbolize their own unique cultures such as experimental film and underground film.

Some independent filmmakers have even broken through technological barriers with the use of digital cinema.

The American film industry is located principally in Los Angeles, while one-third of all independent films in the United States are produced in New York.


Until the advent of digital alternatives, the cost of professional film equipment and stock was also a hurdle to being able to produce, direct, or star in a traditional studio film. The cost of 35mm film is outpacing inflation: in 2002 alone, film negative costs were up 23%, according to Variety. Film requires expensive lighting and post-production facilities.

But the advent of consumer camcorders in 1985, and more importantly, the arrival of high-resolution digital video in the early 1990s, have lowered the technology barrier to movie production significantly. Both production and post-production costs have been significantly lowered; today, the hardware and software for post-production can be installed in a commodity-based personal computer. Technologies such as DVDs, FireWire connections and non-linear editing system pro-level software like the open source Cinelerra or the commercial Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro and consumer level software such as the open source Kino, or the commercial Final Cut Express and iMovie make movie-making relatively inexpensive.

Popular digital camcorders, mostly semi-professional equipment with 3-CCD technology, include:

  • Canon [1] , GL2, XL-1s, XL-2
  • Panasonic Panasonic AG-DVX100/AG-DVX100A/AG-DVX100B , Panasonic AG-HVX200
  • Sony VX-1000/2000/2100
  • Sony PD-150/170

Most of these cost between US$2,000 - $5,000 in 2003, with costs continuing to decline as features are added, and models depreciate.

Indie versus major

Creatively, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get studio backing for experimental films. Experimental elements in theme and style are inhibitors for the Big Six studios.

On the business side, the cost of big-budget studio films also leads to conservative choices in cast and crew. The problem is exacerbated by the trend towards co-financing (over two-thirds of the films put out by Warner Bros. in 2000 were joint ventures, up from 10% in 1987). An unproven director is almost never given the opportunity to get his or her big break with the studios unless he or she has significant industry experience in film or television. Films with unknowns, particularly in lead roles, are also rarely produced.

Another key expense for independent movie makers is the music for the film. The licensing fees for popular songs can range between US$10,000 - $20,000.

Anecdotal evidence for the difference between indie films and studio films abounds. The following example was taken from Alec Baldwin, commenting on his independent film The Cooler as a guest on David Letterman's talk show in November 2003:

The scene "Amy opens the window" takes half a day and perhaps ten shots in a big studio production:
Amy walks to the window,
Window itself,
Amy touching the handle,
shot from outside the window, etc.
For independent film makers, that scene is one shot, and done before 9 a.m.

Independent movie-making has resulted in the proliferation of short films and short film festivals. Full-length films are often showcased at film festivals such as Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival, the Slamdance Film Festival or the Cannes Film Festival. Award winners from these exhibitions often get picked up for distribution by major film studios, and go on to worldwide releases.

Indie-producing studios

The major commercial film industry in the United States is in Hollywood, while much of the independent film industry is in New York City. The following studios are considered to be the most prevalent of the independent studios (as of November 2004):

Lions Gate
Fox Searchlight
Focus Features
Sony Classics
Warner Independent
Weinstein Company
Paramount Classics
Fine Line
Saban Entertainment

Note that many of the above studios are subsidiaries of larger studios -- for example, Sony Pictures Classics is owned by Sony Pictures and is designed to develop less commercial, more character driven films. It is often argued that subsidiaries of major studios are no different

In addition to these higher profile "independent" studios there are thousands of production companies that produce truly independent films every year. These small companies look to regionally release their films theatrically or for additional financing and resources to distribute, advertise and exhibit their project on a national

List of some significant independent films

Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer. 1965)
David Holzman's Diary (Jim McBride, 1967)
Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)
Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter, 1976)
Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)
Return of the Secaucus 7 (John Sayles, 1980)
The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981)
She's Gotta Have It (Spike Lee, 1986)
sex, lies and videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989)
Roger & Me (Michael Moore, 1989)
Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1991)
Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991)
El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez, 1992)
Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993)
Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Swingers (Doug Liman, 1996)
Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996)
Cube (Vincenzo Natali, 1997)
The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez, 1999)
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004)
Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, 2004)
Crash (2004 film), (Paul Haggis, 2004)
Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, 2005)
Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005)
Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005)
Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005)

Further reading

  • Lyons, Donald (1994). Independent Visions: A Critical Introduction to Recent Independent American Film. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0345382498.
  • Redding, Judith; Brownworth, Victoria (1997). Film Fatales: Independent Women Directors. Seal Press. ISBN 1878067974.
  • Levy, Emanuel (1999). Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film. New York University Press. ISBN 0814751237.
  • Merritt, Greg (2000). Celluloid Mavericks: The History of American Independent Film. Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1560252324.
  • Biskind, Peter (2004). Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 068486259X.

See also

External links

Home | Up | Anthology film | Direct-to-video | Fan film | Feature film | Fictional film | Independent film | Short film | Television film

Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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