What is an Indie Movie?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
The use of hand-held cameras and other low-cost filming techniques often characterize indie movies.
The use of hand-held cameras and other low-cost filming techniques often characterize indie movies.

An indie movie is an independently produced film with a minimal shooting budget. The producers often must procure all of the financing, which means investing in the film themselves or finding outside backers. The director usually agrees to waive his or her usual union-mandated fee or offers to work for a percentage of the film's profits, if there are any. Similarly, the writers, production staff and actors involved all agree to work for minimal union scale wages or other compensation.

Independent films are typically cheaper to produce than commercial movies.
Independent films are typically cheaper to produce than commercial movies.

Indie movies often benefit from remaining independent of a major film studio. Many of the themes explored in these movies would not be considered appealing to the mass audience sought by major studios. Controversial subject matter or experimental film techniques are part of the indie culture, which prides itself on not being formulaic or mainstream. A director and his or her crew usually enjoy complete artistic control over the production.

Mainstream actors may work in indie movies.
Mainstream actors may work in indie movies.

While major studio motion pictures may go straight out to theaters, indie movies may have a much more circuitous path to follow. They may be completed over time, beginning with the principle shooting and possibly ending several years later with post-production work. A finished movie may be entered into several prestigious competitions and film festivals. Success in these smaller venues may cause the movie to be noticed by major distributors. If a film is successfully picked up by a studio or distributor, it may actually be seen on thousands of screens and the producers may actually recoup their initial investments.

Indie movies are films created outside of the Hollywood system.
Indie movies are films created outside of the Hollywood system.

Sometimes, independent films actually feature a number of mainstream actors, writers and directors who are seeking smaller projects of personal interest. Actress Parker Posey, for example, has become known as the "Queen of the Indies" for her frequent appearances in low-budget films with high artistic concepts. Mainstream actors or directors may also agree to work on a movie as a personal favor to a friend just starting out in the business or as a diversion from the usual roles Hollywood may offer them.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

miriam98

I like the fact that you can download indie movies off the Internet. Usually movies sold this way can be purchased far cheaper than you would have to pay for them in the stores, since there are no costs involved for packaging.

allenJo

@David09 - Digital video has eliminated one barrier to producing good indie movies, the expensive medium of film. However, the best indie movies succeed because they still follow the tricks of the trade. In other words, you still have to pay attention to good lighting, sound, great acting, a solid script, editing and so forth. You pretty much have to go through film school on your own. There are plenty of resources to help you learn.

I tried to shoot a glorified home movie with my kids once and the first thing I noticed—apart from my horrible acting and a cheesy script—is the change in color temperature of lighting from scene to scene. This is just one example of the kind of stuff you’ll need to learn. Your audience will pick up on it otherwise and it will stamp your film with the word “amateur.”

David09

@MrMoody - Yes, the next big hit in that same vein was “Paranormal Activity.” It was another creeper film, shot on video, and eventually picked up by the big wigs in Hollywood. I think the lesson is that digital video has put independent filmmaking within the reach of just about everyone who has a good story to tell and the commitment to put it together.

Where we live some guy shot a production using local talent and his digital camcorder for only $3,000. He sells the movie online and it has received some local press although it hasn’t made him rich. I don’t think that was his immediate motivation anyway. I think he just had a message to share through his movie and he’s built a loyal following.

MrMoody

I always remember the Blair Witch project as one of the first Indie films that really got Hollywood talking. It was a huge deal not only because it was shot by a bunch of kids, but also because they didn't even use film -- it was all digital. And of course they had all that promotion over the internet, which was a pretty new phenomenon when the movie came out. When you consider all that, I think it's pretty clear that the movie revolutionized Indie film.

anon127868

I love them. i am looking forward for art matchin and Hirokin! Hope they are great movies.

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    • The use of hand-held cameras and other low-cost filming techniques often characterize indie movies.
      By: Alexey Klementiev
      The use of hand-held cameras and other low-cost filming techniques often characterize indie movies.
    • Independent films are typically cheaper to produce than commercial movies.
      By: chaoss
      Independent films are typically cheaper to produce than commercial movies.
    • Mainstream actors may work in indie movies.
      By: Haider Yousuf
      Mainstream actors may work in indie movies.
    • Indie movies are films created outside of the Hollywood system.
      By: Perseomedusa
      Indie movies are films created outside of the Hollywood system.
    • Independent films receive little to no funding from large motion picture production companies and are often stylized.
      By: hppd
      Independent films receive little to no funding from large motion picture production companies and are often stylized.
    • There are some smaller movie theaters that choose to primarily show indie movies.
      By: serdarerenlere
      There are some smaller movie theaters that choose to primarily show indie movies.