Independent of What? (Part 2 of 2)

Independent film. Google turns up two very different definitions for this phrase:

1: A film that is produced mostly outside of a major film studio.

2: A film not produced by a major studio.

The first definition can’t be correct, because the word ‘independent’ doesn’t connote a partnership, let alone one with a bureaucracy. Therefore, the second definition must be correct, and it is– in theory, at least.

In the real world, both definitions are ‘correct.’ According to Wikipedia, In order to be considered independent, less than half of a film’s financing should come from a major studio. This enables major studios to have an invisible hand in what independent film is and isn’t, as the films they finance become the films most people see, and the films most people see dictate how people view independent film as a whole.

AMCi (AMC Independent) is just another way for this control to be exercised. The independent films they play will be chosen by committee, and in areas of the U.S. without art houses nearby, spoon fed to filmgoers as an alleged representation of the independent films worth seeing at the moment.

What is the consequence of all this control? Independent film as a homogenized mess. A mold of ‘indie’ that has become a genre in and of itself. Forced arrested development at the hand of those who create nothing themselves.

Most independent filmmakers take no stance against the bureaucracy that independent film has become. At the end of the day, they just want their film made, and will suffer through all the ‘necessary’ evils in their way in order to do so. It is unlikely that any revolution will come from them.

The revolution must come from those not yet ingrained in all of this. Young, ambitious people who recognize what is going on and want no part of it. Those who want an independent pursuit to be recognized for what it is. It’s time for an individualist film revolution.

by Cody Clarke

1: Above all else, make an entertaining film to the best of your ability. We are not anti-film just because we are anti-bureaucracy.

2: We are also not a cult, tribe, club, brotherhood, or any other form of collective. We are not obligated to associate with or be in service to any other individualist filmmaker. We are simply individuals who share common goal.

3: Our goal is to create films without studios. Films as wholly individualist pursuits, owned entirely by their creator(s) and financed entirely by their creator(s), donations, or both.

4: Our films should be wholly original. Each and every one of us has a unique eye, experience and story to tell. Any individualist film made should be, as a goal, distinguishable from the films of other individualist filmmakers. Homogenization leads to stagnation.

5: It is strongly encouraged that we look upon our limitations as strengths, and face obstacles with optimism. If one does not have the money to do a film idea justice, one should probably write a smaller film. Avoid debt at all costs.

6: We should, as a rule, not work with unions or guilds. Let these people work on films they can make actual money on. There are plenty of competent and capable people who haven’t yet reached that point and are eager to be cast and crew.

7: When ones film is completed, get it seen, but don’t enter into any distribution deal that would sacrifice any portion of ownership of the film you created. Such would undermine the entire individualist film pursuit. Keep in mind that there are many ways to distribute ones work other than the traditional theater system. (For example, what Josh Bernhard was able to do with his film The Lionshare.)

8: Lastly, there should be no obligation to create individualist films exclusively. We will not pass judgment on individualist filmmakers who work within the studio system on non-individualist projects. Quoth the Notorious B.I.G., “Get money.”

And so concludes my little manifesto. There are plenty of filmmakers out there already doing this, and have been for decades. I didn’t invent anything, just put a well-needed name to it.

Rest in peace, word known as ‘independent.’ We will remember you for what you were intended to mean., and though you are dead, your spirit is not gone and will never be gone.

Viva la individualism!

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2 Responses to Independent of What? (Part 2 of 2)

  1. I agree. The good thing is that I think the next wave of filmmakers understands this intuitively, and when they make it and/or the studio system stops being able to sustain the glut of product they output, the rest will follow.

    But yes, of course you’re right that the label ‘independent’ has zero relationship to actual independent film. The term is so misused and slapped on everything that it means exactly nothing at all. It’s similar to indie music, which now refers to a sound (and a broad range of sound all lumped together at that). How you can have indie acts signed to labels like Dreamworks and still be indie, well, that should tell you something. Same with a movie like “Juno” or, my favorite example, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the ultimate non-independent independent film. If you’re released by Fox Searchlight, or you have a major actor in your movie, if you’re produced within the same infrastructure and follow all the same rules, independent you are not.

  2. Pingback: Met my donation goal in 12 hours! | CODY CLARKE dot com

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