Whining about Indie film

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?

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2 thoughts on “Whining about Indie film

  1. it really is amazing that our ignorance to the rest of World Cinema is as high as its been. We are, for lack of a better term, conditioned to view films as Hollywood makes them. Foreign films often brake away from traditions and, aside from the mainstream hating subtitles, they’re not up for big changes. Americans view cinema as more of an escape than an art form, and it shows.

    but i think the your point about the rest of the world having ZERO film industry is something that can be explored more by american filmmakers. basically, every film abroad is an indie film as you’ve said, a labor of love. when you’re a studio you can afford to put out Seat Filler films and Star/Talent Vehicles, but when you’re not, you can’t afford to frak things up. You always ALWAYS have to answer for your work. You always have to be good enough to warrant another film.

    i love this industry.

  2. I can understand why you think that, but I certainly can’t agree with it. I work mostly in independent film, and it’s not a dying industry. I am one of the producers for an annual film festival, The Indie Gathering (www.theindiegathering.com) and we receive films from all over the world. These films are heavy competition against the American films – which are NOT Hollywood films – and many of them have won. These are some amazing film projects, and many of the filmmakers have gone on to great success.

    It does not take “more than a few million dollars” to make a great film. In fact, it doesn’t take anywhere near that. Does it take that much to make them in Hollywood? Yes. That’s simply for the fact of how expensive it is to make films there. A lot of LA Filmmakers travel to other states, or even other countries, for this very reason, just to make their film. Or, maybe – if they’re lucky – they can film just part of it in LA and the rest somewhere else.

    The fact of the matter is, you can make a great film on a very low budget. And I’m talking films that will get widespread distribution, or play at Sundance and win. It’s all about finding the right resources and getting the right people (who know what they’re doing) to volunteer or work for lesser pay.

    Don’t let that statement make you think there is no money to be made in independent films. The majority of my film projects make me money, and I rarely ever work for free. The only time I do is if I really believe in the project and the other filmmakers involved.

    My weekly web show, The REEL Show, is here to support and promote Indie filmmaking. We believe in the filmmakers whose projects we air on our show. We believe that there is a large demand for unique films that can’t be found in theaters. Indie film does not ride on the coattails of Hollywood films! Most indie films are unique and unrelated to the other side of the spectrum. However, that is all up to the individuals behind the projects.

    Indie filmmakers are not a dying breed. The market for indie films is not diminishing. Independent filmmaking is on the uprise, along with the interest and support coming from the public. Indie filmmaking won’t die. It might change, but not by much. If anything, it will change for the better. It will be greater and bigger. Just wait – I know it. 🙂

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