With the advent of easily accessible streaming video and other forms of rapid digital distribution, it is easier than ever to enjoy independent film. No longer does one have to go to a film festival or an arthouse theater to view these films, though still great options! But why would you want to watch a film by a director you’ve never heard of, starring actors that you’ve never heard of, with a low production budget, and likely minimal explosions?
I’ll give you four reasons…
Things get weird.
Things can get weird in mainstream films, especially as of late. Some genres, especially variants of horror and thrillers, are prone to being weird and often confusing. Indie films do not have a monopoly on complexity, but it does have the lion’s share of being absolutely insanely weird. Want to watch a movie entirely consisting entirely of a man inside of a buried coffin, shot entirely within the darkened confines of the coffin, and only occasionally illuminated by a cellphone? There’s a movie like that!
As anyone who has ever been to Portland, Oregon, will tell you: weird is wonderful. Portlandians will also tell you about their favorite band, but it’s pretty obscure. You probably haven’t heard of them.
Necessity? No. Being broke is the mother of invention.
Restrictions or obstacles demand that we think in new and innovative ways.
The confines of a tight budget often force film-makers to think in new ways.
Making movies is expensive. The base cost for producing a feature length film has been reduced with the advent of digital video recording, allowing film-makers to avoid the often absurdly high cost of the thousands of feet necessary to make a film even under the most ideal conditions.
Still, all genres of film (with the exception of documentaries, to an extent) require large amounts of money for sets, actors, costuming, extras, foley artists, and dozens of other less visible requirements in production.
Every artist typically wants to make the highest quality product that they can, but many independent film-makers typically lack the funds to shoot and produce in the way that they would like to. Instead of making everything low quality, a production team has to make a decision on what expenses can be cut with minimal impact in the film.
Say you want to make a horror film set aboard a space ship, and your effects budget is almost entirely eaten up by the seemingly necessary establishing shots of the space ship.
You lack the budget to show your Big Bad more than once or twice, but you want its presence to be constantly felt. What do you do? Sounds effects! Darkness! Running!
Tight budgets demand thinking like this, and often these restrictions can produce a film that is more thought out and ultimately more compelling than a film with a larger production budget.
It’s the director’s vision.
People have bad ideas. Investors responsible for providing tens of millions in funds (and often far more) are extremely wary of bad ideas.
Even the most veteran story teller can become fixated on a certain element that is a bad idea. One of the most obvious manifestations of these fixations can be seen in characters with absurd quirks or idiosyncrasies that do not serve the story at all. These attributes were clearly dear to the creator, and kept in solely because the creator thought their pet character with a paralyzing fear of those weird corkscrew light bulbs was really super cool.
While a director’s unfettered vision may produce things like Jar Jar Binks, the unrestrained artistry has the ability to produce the greatest works of all.
No sequels, and usually self-contained.
Film series make lots and lots of money. Even if it is unlikely that a film will be picked up for a sequel, unless the film is of a genre nonconducive to sequels (drama, romance, etc.), writers will make sure that the story has a hook for a sequel. This usually demands that the story is not entirely resolved, and this can be extremely frustrating.
Let’s not even get into the typically low quality of sequels.
Although there are some exceptions, independent films are usually original ideas. This typically means that one can fully enjoy the story without having read a book or comic book before watching the film. More realistically, you don’t have to pause the movie to look up the backstory on the film’s Wiki. Still not convinced?
You know what happens when you ask for more than four installments? Rocky V. And Fast Five.