Many times we have given too much importance to this adjective, an importance it doesn’t necessarily deserve. We strive to make indie films, indie music, or just to be indie; in a way this is due to the attractiveness of doing your own thing. Taking your pure vision and transplanting it on to the screen with no modifications, and working with only a close creative team that has a vision similar to yours is rewarding. So strong the taste for indieness has become that the line between indie and studio has been blurred, to the point where indie can be used as a marketing ploy.
Just last year a film promising all the originality of an indie film was released. The film had a budget of over 7 million dollars for its production, and twice that money for advertisement. Judging from this budget, we can safely guess that Juno was within no definition of an indie film. Nevertheless the film tried and attempted to look and feel indie, and was released under the standard of Fox Searchlight.
Has anyone noticed how each major studio has an “indie” or “artsy” film distribution logo? We have mentioned Fox Searchlight, there’s also Warner Independent, Paramount Vantage, and Sony Picture Classics amongst others. Many of these are actual subsidiary companies dedicated to the promotion of the so called “indie” films, although others are simply a branding name used to market a film. Babel was originally going to be released under the Paramount Pictures banner but was finally marketed as a Paramount Vantage product due to its artsy and somewhat progressive nature. The following year No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood were released under the same banner, all with academy award nominations.
Juno was a direct response to the success of Little Miss Sunshine, an actual independent film with half of Juno’s budget. Marc Turtletaub himself covered all the expenses, finally gaining back his investment after Fox bought the distribution rights for ten million dollars. A few weeks ago, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was released as a second follow-up to this trend. Indie is more and more looking like a genre rather than a definition of the films origins. Originally this genre involved lots of gore and sex, a fact that is referenced in Juno when Juno and Mark watch the Wizard of Gore an old school indie film, or B-movie as they used to be called.
It is strange to think however, that if we take the indie definition as a hard rule a film, then Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace or any of the new Star Wars trilogy can be considered indie. They were all written by George Lucas, directed by George Lucas and produced by George Lucas under his own studio and funding. There were no middlemen at any point during the creative process. How is that for an “indie” film? The only indie quality within it is the small romance between a nine year old boy and a galactic queen, surely something too much of a taboo for mainstream Hollywood.