I am not an Indepedent Filmmaker

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.

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2 Comments

Filed under film budgets, Filmmakers, Filmmaking, Independent Film

2 responses to “I am not an Indepedent Filmmaker

  1. MichaelRBarnard

    Nathan, I am really glad the “Just what the hell IS an ‘Indie Film'” survey inspired you to gel your thoughts! That makes the survey a success.

    And, I agree with you. The conversations that swirl around the current disturbing state of “the indie film biz” have been confusing because there are so many dogmas that are termed “indie”. Some say, “You are not really an indie filmmaker because you seek outside investors,” and others say “You are not really an indie filmmaker because of –insert argument here–“.

    Your thinking is similar to mine: if there’s no universally acceptable definition of “indie,” then why worry about who tells you you’re NOT an indie?

    By the way, the results of the survey: 100% said an indie film is one that is NOT created and produced by the studios. Other than that, the answers were all over the map, although many respondents also said an indie film is one that was created from a script that had no other input than the filmmaker’s.

  2. Kirsten Hillhouse

    I completley agree with you about what is considered independent. I have always been a big fan of independent movies. I enjoy the filming process and the quality of the films. However, like you, I have noticed the lack of good independent films in the past few years. I can only hope that independent films will return to their original principles.

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