The definition of independent film continues to evolve along with the biz. So, instead of tackling the subject again in a think piece, we took an informal survey. We asked 10 people with solid credentials in both the studio and indie worlds for their opinions on the subject.
Our panelists are: cinematographer-director Ed Lachman; producers Jean Doumanian and Ron Yerxa; helmers Marc Forster, George Hickenlooper, Bronwen Hughes and Quentin Tarantino; scribe Guillermo Arriaga; thesp Vincent D’Onofrio; and thesp-helmer George Clooney.
Our panelists’ top five choices for indie films of 2003 are “Lost in Translation,” “City of God,” “In America,” “The Station Agent” and “Capturing the Friedmans..” Here are a few of their definitions of independent film.
“ I don’t know what an independent film is anymore.
The definitions are really blurred. Miramax made ‘Gangs of New York’ — now Miramax is outside the traditional studio system, but that’s a $100 million film. That just doesn’t seem right. I know people want to define this by the economics, but to me it’s about the subject matter. Truthfully, all I can really say about the subject matter that makes an independent film truly independent is that I know it when I see it.”
— George Clooney, helmer-thesp “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”; actor, “Intolerable Cruelty”
“An indie film usually is one that’s done by young and hopeful directors and actors: people who haven’t had their big break yet, people who have a new voice that’s trying to be heard. It’s a film (where, on set, there are) no trailers to change in and where catering means sending someone for sandwiches. It’s a film where all the extra money goes toward whatever ends up on the screen.
— Jean Doumanian, producer, “Small Time Crooks,” “All the Real Girls”
“I still think the traditional definition is apt. An indie film is one financed outside the studio system.
No matter how open a studio executive is towards a director’s ideas when you’re dealing with an executive, some part of your independence is taken away. To me, it’s an indie film when the filmmaker has full power, has creative freedom over all of the decision-making.”
— Marc Forster; helmer, “Monster’s Ball,” “J.M. Barrie’s Neverland”
“ An independent film is one where the story that’s told doesn’t fit into a box.
It’s one that no one’s heard before. Making an independent film is about having faith in a story without precedent. It’s a film where there are no clear examples to point to and say ‘It’ll be like this.’ ”
— Bronwen Hughes, helmer, “Forces of Nature,” “Stander”
“An indie film is someone’s personal vision. It’s a film that’s made without studio influence, without interference in the creative process. It doesn’t just have to be defined by money, it does have to be defined by an adherence to a singular vision.
— Ed Lachman, cinematographer, “Far From Heaven”; director-d.p., “Ken Park”