A background on independent films

September 26, 2008 — by Kavya Nagarajan

Every year, six major production companies, including 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Pictures, make most of American films released. These corporations also earn billions. Usually a majority of the films that make the list of top 100 films each year are produced by one of these companies.

However, occasionally there are some films that start out small, making their premieres at film festivals, and make their way to the top. These films are called independent films, otherwise known as indie films, and are not produced in the Hollywood studio system. Some examples of famous independent films are Little Miss Sunshine, Crash, and The Queen. It may surprise you that these movies made their way to the top, despite not being produced by big companies.

Starting in the early 1900s, independent filmmakers started building and using their own equipment. The Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) tried to strongly enforce their patents. However, they were based in New Jersey, while most independent filmmakers moved to Hollywood. Eventually, in 1915, the MPPC patents were cancelled and thus independent films were legalized.

Independent films are shot on a lower budget. They do not spend the same amount of money on their cameras and other studio equipment when compared to big production companies. Some of them still turn out as, if not more, popular as a normal film that costs millions more to produce. For example, Juno was made on a budget of $6.5 million but earned $228 million. The normal budget for a film from a large company is almost always more than $100 million.

Most indie films usually premiere at film festivals. Film festivals take place in several cities all over the world. Some festivals are more focused on a specific topic or genre and feature films that are related to those. Several lesser-known films are released directly to DVD. These films are on a low budget and do not have the money to advertise much, even on just a national scale.

Most independent films are made about touchy topics. For example, Juno, was about a teenage pregnancy and how the main character dealt with it. Also, Hotel Rwanda, told of the horrifying genocide that took place in Rwanda in the 90’s while the rest of the world looked on and did nothing. These movies tend to have a different effect on viewers than the typical action or comedy films.

Although independent films cost less to make than regular movies and are not expected to do as well, they sometimes are worth seeing.