How do you define an independent film?
— Lee Myers
Classically, an independent film was one that was made outside of the conventional studio system, be that Hollywood, Bollywood or Pinewood. But with the rise of the “independent” labels of the major studios, such as Fox Searchlight and Paramount Vantage, that distinction is pretty much moot. Also, consider that the last three Star Wars epics were made independently (by Mr. George Lucas). Any movie with fast-food tie-ins really shouldn’t qualify, in my opinion.
I’d argue that the term “independent film” should be reserved for talking about the movie itself, rather than how it was financed.1 There’s a reason the word “independence” so often shows up in proximity to “revolution” — a shared spirit of frustration, anarchy and apple-cart-upsetting. From their conception, independent films aren’t just made outside of the studio system. They are made in opposition to the studio system, with its relentless need to round off the corners and soften the blows. And in standing against the status quo, independent films help to change it.2
Of course, my proposed redefinition of independent film can’t accommodate many of today’s darling indies, which mollycoddle their audiences with a careful recipe of quirk, warmth and family dysfunction.3 Just the very term “indie” seems to embody that spirit of fuzzy cuteness. I would call on filmmakers to start feeding their movies after midnight, and let their vicious little monsters roar.