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.
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.
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.
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.