Independent film has always been a staple of filmmaking. The popularity of indie film gave rise to such successful directors as Samuel Fuller, John Casavettes, and more recently, Quentin Tarantino. In the indie heyday of the early 1990’s, indie film was seen as an equivalent of the rich, distinct, and more socially conscious filmmaking of the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. Companies such as Fine Line Features and the Samuel Goldwyn Company saw unprecedented numbers of fans and audiences attending their films.
However, as we progressed into the late 1990’s and the new millenium, indie films have struggled to gain a foothold in the public conscious. Critics attribute this to a deluge of average indie films and too many filmmakers. Other insiders attribute this to the purchase of the major studios by large corporations, in turn, forcing budgets up higher, costs of filmmaking higher, and creation and dominance of theater chains by booking their films in multiple screens in the same theater.
As far as I can tell, the perception of an indie film downfall is a combination of all of the above. With the introduction of so much new and relatively cheap technology, almost anyone can make a film. However, there are less of these burgeoning filmmakers that are seeking to hone their craft in film school or any one of the guild programs. Give ’em a camera and they will call whatever they shoot, a “film”. Availability to websites that will show and advertise the “do it yourself” films and videos, also contribute to a glut of independently created movies.
The studios have pretty much cut out all of their independent divisions. The value of the art and craft of filmmaking has turned to strictly business. Now, filmmaking is a business first and foremost (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), however, talented and driven filmmakers who believe in the art of the story, the creation of a distinct world and its characters, were always able to find some bit of comfort in the studio system. That time is gone. Indie filmmakers have had to learn to crowdfund their films, beg and plead small studios with foreign investors, to compensate and believe in their vision.
So, if one wants to make a film independently, what kind of benefits can they be assured of? None, really. The modern indie filmmaker has to make the film because they love movies, because they love seeing artistic people creating something unique. The modern indie filmmaker can find success in their film’s completion. They can submit the film to the festival circuit and have it seen by a wider audience.
The most important thing to remember is this; an indie filmmaker must be educated in film. They must be willing to seek assistance from those who have experience. They must take the time to intern on a set, work with other filmmakers to learn all aspects of the process… even read as many books as they can. Just because there is no set system to work in does not mean one can ignore every past teaching. Talent is one thing, learning to harness that talent and use it properly is another.
Let’s all of us indie filmmakers try to keep fighting the good fight. We don’t have to take down the studio system, and it would be negative to do so, but we can create our own system of respect, artistic viability, and entertaining and educational films if we just continue to focus on building our strengths and asking for help from other like-minded individuals.