Recently, I was invited by the great folks at Film Courage to write an article for their website. The resulting piece – which you can read here: http://filmcourage.com/content/can-indie-filmmakers-unite-create-brand – are the thoughts I had pondering why there are not more known “brands” associated with consistently good film in this business. The article was not meant to be a call to action or a business plan, it was just hypothetical fantasizing. It did create discussion and I greatly thank anyone who would take the time to read anything I write (including you reading this), let alone share their own perspective. Funnily enough, as I read the comments something else that struck me was what the readers seemed to think of “indie” film.
What is an independent film? I had wrestled with this a few months ago when filmmaker Michael Barnard had asked his readers to participate in a survey that’s objective was to define what classified indie film. ( http://michaelrbarnard.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/just-what-the-hell-is-an-%E2%80%9Cindie-film%E2%80%9D/ ) As I read through the questions I found myself unsure. Is it budget? Is it attitude? The more I thought about it, the less I cared. Then something struck me:
I am not an independent filmmaker.
I made what most would consider a very independent film. That film faced and continues to face very unique challenges by being an independent film. A great number of the films I love could easily be defined as being independent.
But, I am not an independent filmmaker. I am a filmmaker.
If a studio gave me one hundred million dollars to make a dream project, I would do it. I would feel no remorse, no betrayal to a set of values. (I would, however, be scared shitless.) If I had a great story that I could make in my backyard for free. I would make that. Right this minute. I have neither of those options. It doesn’t matter. The struggles that must be faced to get any film of merit written and produced will always exist. I need no additional labels. I need no additional associations. I will always support fellow filmmakers regardless of what they are making. I will always strive to tell stories that I think are original and bring them to life with as many resources as possible to ensure they look and feel the way I think they deserve.
When I was younger I would have been more attached to the idea of independent film as something unique and special. I would have known down to my core what an independent film was, what it stood for and how much better it was than a mainstream film. In the last few years most of the truly great films I have seen could not, in a business-sense, be called independent and on the other side of the coin recently I have seen far more bad independent films than good ones, many that actually got into festivals like Sundance. Maybe it would be suffice to say that I have an independent spirit, but after reading the nominees for the actual Independent Spirit Awards, I’m not sure how much that would even matter.
I will always love the romantic notion of independent film, but at the end of the day the film is what matters, not how you made it.