The Art House: Independent Film

Independent Film

The world of cinema offers many genres and film types, but when it comes to the business side of industry, there are just two: Blockbuster-studio backed productions and the Independents.  Independents refers to those films made outside the studio system on a low-budget.  Some have taboo or uncommon subject matter considered to have small box office appeal; they’re also known as Art House movies.

Filmmakers are a curious combination of artist and storyteller.  Their most precious tenant is to share emotionally evocative stories with their audience.  Yet if every movie ever made was an action packed, star studded specter, Studios would quickly bore audiences.  Not to mention, not every director has the style and technical skills blockbuster films call for.  They can’t all be Michael Bay.  In the same vein, not every director has the versatility of Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg.

Independent filmmakers take more daring risks than their studio backed counterparts.  They tend to use lesser known actors, bare minimum sets and guerilla filmmaking techniques.  Story structure, theme and presentation can be avant-garde; even the decision to shoot in color, black and white, film or digital represents a specific artistic choice the director makes to give the film a tone and texture.

Low-budget independent feature films are the hallmarks of some very famous directors, including Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Sophia Coppola and Darren Aronofsky –all successful filmmakers whose careers were launch by their ventures into Indie cinema.  There  are many film festivals for Independents, but  winning a prize at the two most popular festivals- the Cannes Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival – is an almost guarantee your next project will be signed and distributed by a studio.

Independent films or Indies are called Art House films because of the venues they are shown in, usually smaller theater houses known to cater to a more selective audience.  These same Art House theaters usually hold local or lesser known film festivals, for example the Asian Film Festival or the HollyShorts film festival.   Movies that have unusual box office success are then recommended for wide-release, where you can view the film at a larger venue, such as AMC or Northgate Stadium.

Many low-budget independent films are huge box-office successes; Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translation (2003) cost $4 million to make but took home more than one hundred million dollars in revenues.  Even if the film isn’t a bread-winner for a production company, well-made Indie films still capture the attention of those highly coveted Oscar Awards.  Indie filmmakers don’t just oil the wheels of the industry with cash value; they uphold and contribute to the integrity of the art of cinema.

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