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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old April 17th, 2005, 01:30 PM   #1
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What makes indie indie

I have been having a discussion with my partner on what makes an indie film indie (art) vs when does it become "hollywood".

The main point of interest is camera moves: Do not using jibs, steddiecams, and dollies make for art or an "indie" look. Or do most indies just not use these (hollywood)devices strictly because they can't afford to and if they had them availible would have more moving shots in their "art".

I would be very intersted on you guys' thoughts,
Kevin
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Old April 17th, 2005, 02:41 PM   #2
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I always resented it to call things 'art'...
I know some movies are offcourse more artfull then others, you can look at for example A Clockwork Orange, and look to those symmetric compositions, and if you compare that to for example a standard action film (xXx or something) well, you notice the difference...
Maybe it has not to do with this or that cameramove, but a style? Does the movie has an own personality?
Isn't it so that something with an own personality, really distinctive, is art?
I don't know, I'm just talking, it's just... there will be always discussion about 'what is art'...?
I for myself love movies where I can feel the passion, and the least I expect from a movie is some technical capiblities (editing) or acting performances, those are really important to me. Then I think: was I drawn into the story? Did it move me?
If it moves me, I like it. In that aspect, I love Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as much as I love for example Steve+Sky (a little indie film made here in Belgium).

If you see then thousands of explosions in a movie, well, you can safely say: wow, there is a lot of chance it comes from Hollywood, who had the budget...
But why couldn't a movie with many explosions or big budget be an indie?
I, personally, many times love mainstream movies, but with a little more edge (Se7en, Schindler's List, The Machinist). I don't know with some of them if it's Hollywood or indie. But does it really matter anyway?
If a movie has great dialogue, great acting performances, soul, passion, maybe a surprising story, or a really outstanding style that fits that story, great use of sound and music, great editing,...

Don't know, it's just a very difficult question, maybe that's the only point of my long monologue :-) but it's interesting to hear reactions of course
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Old April 17th, 2005, 06:02 PM   #3
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Indie just means independent of any major movie making system like Hollywood. Unfortunately, it gets equated with low budget which isn't the same thing.

Your discussion on camera moves is really about movie making with limitations and restrictions - which isn't unique to either independent or Hollywood films.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 06:31 PM   #4
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I agree with Michael- If it is produced by a studio, it isn't indie. Pretty black and white, the name says it all.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 07:07 PM   #5
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I really wasn't looking to debate symantics... but I understand the point you guys are making... I'm just curious as to wether you think it's "more artistic" to not use hollywood devices such as dollies,jibs, and stedicams or is it just a budget constraint and the same people making "artistic" movies would employ all these hollywood devices if they could?
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Old April 17th, 2005, 07:55 PM   #6
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I think wether it is art, lies more in the story, scenery, and composition, not with what it was shot with. Just because a shot is jittery, doesn't make it art, just sloppy.
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Old April 17th, 2005, 08:38 PM   #7
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I agree... I was trying to keep my opinion out of this discussion to see what others have said but here it goes...

I'm from the school of use what you can, plus I feel that steady cams and dollies make the shots feel more natural (When I read a book my imagination doesn't look at the scene from a tripod it moves interactively with what I'm reading)... I also think at the indie level nice camera work can help "distract" the viewer from focusing on a bad actors lack of skill.

Now their are pleny of examples where it doesn't matter what it looks like it's art... Kevin Smith, besides clerks (it is pure "indie" to me) most of his stuff is pretty static shots but you don't get the impression of that because the dialog, characters, and actors are pretty good. Those of us that don't have the dialog/character creation skills and the actors to pull of such things can use what help when can.

Am I off or does that make sense and most guys would use all these toys to tell their stories if they only had the means?
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Old April 17th, 2005, 10:44 PM   #8
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I appreciate what you mean. Many independent films have a certain feel to them, though that feel is not unique to Indie films and I don't think it's tied to any particular technique or types of shots.

I'd call it a clarity and rawness of expression. Things are clear and simple, and not overly edited or polished. In those films, there's not much between the idea/image and the audience. I think those films are the ones that resonate in your head a long time after the ending.

In contrast, many films throw so much money and resources at a particular idea that it gets lost behind the glitz. Or worse, a bad/boring idea is glitzed up to be more than it really is, to no real purpose in the story other than to make it look cool. Those movies look good in a trailer or in the theatre, but once it's over, it's forgotten.

One of the best "art" films I rented recently was Kurosawa's Dreams. It has that clarity and rawness of expression that I'm talking about. Nothing special about the stories or dialogue, but the ideas and images were just clear, simple, and raw.
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Old April 18th, 2005, 12:17 PM   #9
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As stated before, Independent is not the same as low budget. Or outside the Hollywood system. It's a state of mind and a clear vision to make a feature that does not pander to established storytelling techniques (market proven...). It's a willingness to go where others fear to tread, be it internal or environmental (not talking about ecology here). It's about honesty. It's about having the courage to explore something that might actually upset your audience, or require them to think for themselves. It's not about being political, or anti political. It's not about being self rightous and condeming.

Are you making something that is simply a low budget version of Hollywood drivel? Then you are not an independent film maker, you're a poor hollywood wannabe.

If you have final cut decision (very rare), you can be in the studio system and make an independent film, but usually you have to be way outside to avoid interference from all the busy bodies that want to 'improve it's marketability'. Remember, with millions of dollars on the line, hollywood investors are very timid. Low budget independent gives you a certain freedom if you couple it with talent.

It takes courage, because you can pretty much count on the fact it will only run in arthouses and on the internet if you are lucky. Even the most famous (Cassavettes) had a difficult time getting distribution. And now days it's even harder to make back your investment thanks to DV. (Festivals are overhwhelmed with bad to mediocre entries).

But there is hope....

One thing independents have begun doing is taking their movies on the road with a computer, portable sound system and a portable digital projector and booking themselves at places like libraries and even book stores. Takes dedication and lots of hard work.

Study the great independents and their films,but also read lots of good books. It's become increasingly apparent that many filmmakers are simply copying other films they've watched, and further distilling and dumbing down their content. Remember... life experience counts the most. Get out and join in the human race. Travel, study, learn to listen, learn not to judge...pay attention to your surroundings...

and don't worry about which camera you use.
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Old April 18th, 2005, 06:45 PM   #10
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I thought that was just called a good movie *shrug*

isn't it sad that you have to call it "indie" if you make a movie that falls out of the cookie cutter :(
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Old April 18th, 2005, 10:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Richard
I thought that was just called a good movie *shrug*

isn't it sad that you have to call it "indie" if you make a movie that falls out of the cookie cutter :(
Good movies don't have to be 'independent'. Not sure what you are getting at.
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Old April 19th, 2005, 05:25 AM   #12
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>>I have been having a discussion with my partner on what makes an indie film indie (art) vs when does it become "hollywood".

The main point of interest is camera moves: Do not using jibs, steddiecams, and dollies make for art or an "indie" look. Or do most indies just not use these (hollywood)devices strictly because they can't afford to and if they had them availible would have more moving shots in their "art".

I would be very intersted on you guys' thoughts,
Kevin<<

This is a weird way to define something as being “Indie” or “Hollywood,” because these terms have NOTHING to do with camera movies. Instead the terms are a way to differentiate the financing and distribution structure of certain films.
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Old April 19th, 2005, 08:49 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Carney
Good movies don't have to be 'independent'. Not sure what you are getting at.
What you described as an "indie" film is what I would describe as the basis of a good movie... "one that challenges the audience" blah blah blah.

There is nothing challenging and rarely anything good that comes out of the cliche cookie cutter productions that are put out every year.

Hope that clears that up for you
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Old April 19th, 2005, 08:50 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Gipson

This is a weird way to define something as being “Indie” or “Hollywood,” because these terms have NOTHING to do with camera movies. Instead the terms are a way to differentiate the financing and distribution structure of certain films.
So why not answer the question vs banter the symantics of the question :(
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Old April 19th, 2005, 09:02 AM   #15
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Mel Gibsons' Passion was an indi.
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