A lot of people have been whining about the “death” of indie film (including me), so I thought some perspective might be in order.
First of all, the only reason we have indie film at all is because we have Hollywood. Hollywood makes American films, in English. Take them or leave them, they are ours and they are a huge business and the dominant art form in the world today.
For most countries, there is no “indie” because they don’t have a film industry at all! Any and all films that come out in, say, Argentina are “indie”, even though they make up that country’s national cinematic experience. I’d be surprised in any film made in Argentina cost more than a few million dollars in recent years – and that’s a country that is putting out some interesting films these days and getting world attention (and financing).
You think it’s hard putting together an indie film in America, you should try raising money in England. Sure, they have the Film Council, which could help you out a little, but look at the actual amounts of the money they dole out. It’s not going to get you there alone.
France has a pretty full cinema industry, heavily subsidized, and it makes films that fill the full spectrum of art to commercial. But their films don’t usually travel, and a ten million dollar French film is a very big deal. Most are made under 3 million. And you would be a fool to make your film outside of the system because the system pays for your films. It’s still not easy to get your film made there, by the way.
When was the last time you saw a film from Africa? Or Guatemala? Or Panama? Or Peru? Some of these countries have absolutely zero film industry.
Another thing is that American Indie film rides on the coattails of Hollywood films. People have an appetite for American films all over the world and they have the appetite because of Hollywood. Stars in indie films help them because Hollywood made them stars, but even without stars, there is a desire to see different films coming out of America because they’ve been shown the way by Hollywood.
There may be a lot wrong with Indie film today, but give me a break. A year ago, Ted Hope added up the budgets of all the films submitted to Sundance and came up with an astounding (and unsustainable) number – something like a billion plus dollars. But what other country could raise that kind of money for film, even if that was in more flush times?