Independent Film is Back in Business

This year, Sundance was booming with buyers. Over 38 films were sold; many of which were well reviewed and oozing with box office potential in a mainstream market. In addition to the financial prospect of this year’s films, there were also some well regarded, possibly star-making turns by a few up and coming actors; most notably Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley).

Among some of this year’s critical winners are Martha Marcy May Marlene (starring the breakout performance of the aforementioned Elizabeth Olsen), Being Elmo (a documentary following the man behind the iconic Sesame Street character), The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (a documentary by famed Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock about product placement, financed completely by product placement), and Win Win (a Paul Giamatti starrer, about a family that take in a 16 year old boy, by acclaimed director Tom McCarthy).

The Current Industry

In recent years, the film industry has seen a huge growth of interest in big, summer blockbusters. Studios have been clamouring to secure the rights to every comic book franchise, video game, high-concept novel, and even popular board games. Movies filled with visual effects done by great companies like VFX Los Angeles. So, in turn, there has been a significant loss of interest in the independent community. For a few years now, the idea, “you can’t sell a drama anymore” has been floating around and seemingly becoming truer.

The super-franchise that Marvel and Disney have started with Iron Man and plan to “end” with The Avengers is a prime example of the great investment some companies are making in this boom of big pictures. For those that don’t know, the idea is to have a solo, origin movie for each character of The Avengers (a sort of superhero super group) that includes Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, and a few others. Then, all of the original players (save for Edward Norton who is replaced by Mark Ruffalo) come together for one, ultimate blockbuster extravaganza.

Its cinematic events like these that have cast a huge shadow over the independent film market. How is an intimate character drama supposed to compete with the latest Transformers film? It can’t. And, really, it’s not trying to most of the time. But, what the studios can do is suck away the interest and intrigue from the independents. Of course, this is just a fad like any other, but right now we’re in a very special part of this story: the comeback.

The Change

If you look at this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominees compared to last year, you’ll note the difference in independents versus studio pictures. The Best Picture nominees of the 82nd Academy Awards are as follows:

 

  • The Hurt Locker

 

  • Avatar
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up In The Air

This year’s nominees are:

  • ·Black swan
  • ·127 Hours
  • ·The King’s Speech
  • ·Inception
  • ·Winter’s Bone
  • Toy Story 3
  • The Kid’s Are Alright
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit
  • The Fighter

If you notice, this year has 6 independent nominees as opposed to last year’s 4. It may not seem like much, but jumping from the minority to the majority in one year is a big leap. Now, I’m not saying that the Oscars are the end all and determining factor of what’s hot or not, but this does represent a giant leap in interest and value of an independent film. Not to mention, films like Black Swan have been great successes with both critics and audiences alike.

So, this leads me to my point: independent films are making their comeback. I’d expect to see a lot of independent successes in the next couple years, leading to many filmmakers creating smaller, more intimate pictures, and, ultimately, setting off a new boom of indie films. How do you foresee the future of film?