The rising popularity of Independent or ‘Indie movies’ has raised a question on what defines a film as ‘Indie’ and this is yet to be answered. Historically, the difference between Indie movies and studio movies was always clear. However, with the major studios venturing into production of Indie movies too, the line has become blurred and left many wondering what exactly makes a movie Indie or mainstream.
Looking at the five distinguishing features of an Indie movie will give us a clear idea of what constitutes an Independent movie.
Indie movies are low budget, with the consideration being $20 million and below. Because they are not usually financed by big studios, Indie movies face challenges raising the necessary funds for film financing. This is mainly because Indie films are usually high risk and most investors are reluctant to fund them. Many Indie movie producers have now turned to crowdfunding as a source of finance. This has worked mainly because they do not need to invest any money prior and yet get to keep all the profits from the filmmaking.
- Narrative/ Content
For lack of a clear definition of an Indie film, the content and style are generally looked at as a distinguishing point. The narrative can be unconventional or a stereotypical but it maintains its difference from the commercial film narrative of the major studios.
Most Indie movies are set in everyday reality as opposed to the distant future or past and focus more on the artistic or personal tone of the producer. Many narratives also focus on a theme that resonates with the consumers and that is why the stories often feature outcasts to society.
- Distribution and marketing
Marketing and distribution determine whether a movie will sell or not and whether it reaches the intended audience or not. The big studios have both channels clearly mapped out but this is an area where Indie films have struggled.
It is hard for an Indie movie to get a good distribution deal because they are usually low budget and feature little-known actors. This has forced most of them to market based on limited release where
Film festivals have also become the go-to for Indie movies as they can easily market themselves here.
- Independence from Hollywood
Indie movies were originally identified by the fact that they were made outside the six major studios, that is Fox, Paramount, Warner, Columbia, Universal, and Disney.
However, these same studios are have now developed and funded Indie filmmaking branches, making this distinction irrelevant.
What is clear though is that Independent movies are usually made in rebellion to the mainstream system created by Hollywood.
- The Aesthetic
One clearly distinguishing feature about Indie films is the spirit in which they are made. They are usually high-risk films that veer away from the conventional film critic’s notes. The artistic vision of the filmmaker, his or her creativity is what shines through each and every Indie movie.
Though not the rule, Indie movies are usually made by unknown directors or emerging producer, feature little-known actors, and focus more on the content of the film.