An independent film (or indie film) is a film initially produced without financing or distribution from a major movie studio. Often, films that receive less than 50% of their budget from major studio are also considered "independent". According to MPAA data, January through March 2005 showed approximately 15% of US domestic box office revenue was from independent or indie studios. Creative, business, and technological reasons have all contributed to the growth of the indie film scene in the late 20th and early 21st century.
The roots of independent film can be traced back to when the early pioneer filmmakers at the turn of the century resisted the control of the Motion Pictures Patents Company, when filmmakers built their own cameras to escape the Edison trusts in order to relocate to Southern California where they laid the foundations of the American film industry as well as the Hollywood studio system.The studio system took on a life of its own, and became too powerful. Filmmakers once again sought independence as a result. Throughout the decades, independent filmmakers around the world have created a diverse range of filmmaking styles that symbolize their own unique cultures such as experimental film and underground film.Some independent filmmakers have even broken through technological barriers with the use of digital cinema.The American film industry is located principally in Los Angeles, while one-third of all independent films in the United States are produced in New York.
Until the advent of digital alternatives, the cost of professional film equipment and stock was also a hurdle to being able to produce, direct, or star in a traditional studio film. The cost of 35mm film is outpacing inflation: in 2002 alone, film negative costs were up 23%, according to Variety. Film requires expensive lighting and post-production facilities.But the advent of consumer camcorders in 1985, and more importantly, the arrival of high-resolution digital video in the early 1990s, have lowered the technology barrier to movie production significantly. Both production and post-production costs have been significantly lowered; today, the hardware and software for post-production can be installed in a commodity-based personal computer. Technologies such as DVDs, FireWire connections and non-linear editing system pro-level software like the open source Cinelerra or the commercial Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro and consumer level software such as the open source Kino, or the commercial Final Cut Express and iMovie make movie-making relatively inexpensive.Popular digital camcorders, mostly semi-professional equipment with 3-CCD technology, include:
Canon , GL2, XL1(S), XL2
Sony PD-150/170 Most of these cost between US$2,000 - $5,000 in 2003, with costs continuing to decline as features are added, and models depreciate.
Indie versus major
Creatively, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get studio backing for experimental films. Experimental elements in theme and style are inhibitors for the Big Six studios.On the business side, the cost of big-budget studio films also leads to conservative choices in cast and crew. The problem is exacerbated by the trend towards co-financing (over two-thirds of the films put out by Warner Bros. in 2000 were joint ventures, up from 10% in 1987). An unproven director is almost never given the opportunity to get his or her big break with the studios unless he or she has significant industry experience in film or television. Films with unknowns, particularly in lead roles, are also rarely produced.Another key expense for independent movie makers is the music for the film. The licensing fees for popular songs can range between US$10,000 - $20,000.Anecdotal evidence for the difference between indie films and studio films abounds. The following example was taken from Alec Baldwin , commenting on his independent film The Cooler as a guest on David Letterman's talk show in November 2003::The scene "Amy opens the window" takes half a day and perhaps ten shots in a big studio production: ::Amy walks to the window, ::Window itself, ::Amy touching the handle, ::shot from outside the window, etc. :For independent film makers, that scene is one shot, and done before 9 a.m.
Independent movie-making has resulted in the proliferation of short films and short film festivals. Full-length films are often showcased at film festivals such as Robert Redford 's Sundance Film Festival, the Slamdance Film Festival or the Cannes Film Festival . Award winners from these exhibitions often get picked up for distribution by major film studios, and go on to worldwide releases.
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