Most of the general population is aware of the big film studios such as Warner Brothers, Disney, and Paramount. They probably are even aware of other large production companies which do not belong under the studio umbrella like Bad Robot (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mission Impossible, Super 8) or Scott Rudin Productions (Lady Bird, The Grand Budapest Hotel). But what most people are unaware of is the wide breadth of the independent filmmaking circuit which runs under our noses, unnoticed. Scrappy filmmakers that are creating art through limited means of funding are still able to bring compelling stories to life through visual language, just like their big studio brothers in Hollywood.
So what sets independent filmmaking apart and who are the main players? The biggest differences between Hollywood and independent filmmaking are the people and money that back up each film. Large media conglomerates such as studios have a surplus of money as they are pulling it in from all sectors of the industry. With the promise of an unlimited amount of resources, production companies are able to approach these studios with scripts to which the studios can attach big stars and directors. These films are the able to then be distributed widely and brought to many theaters all over the world.
In independent filmmaking, funds for individual films are either raised through crowdfunding or through private investors who believe in the dreams of the filmmakers. Oftentimes, actors from Hollywood will also be attached to independent films, but there are also many actors who only act within the indie-film circuit. Much of the time, the writer of the script is also the director of the film. Once the film is completed, the filmmakers must find a way to distribute their film as well, without the help of a large corporation.
One example of independent filmmaking comes from the Duplass brothers, who run their own independent production company, The Duplass Brothers Productions. Mark and Jay Duplass are originally from New Orleans. Both brothers are prominent actors in TV (The League, Transparent) but also run an independent filmmaking production company. Together they wrote, directed, and produced the films Baghead and Cyrus. The Puffy Chair may be one of their most famous films. Their filmography is known for heavy improvisations by the actors involved. They intentionally write lean screenplays that have room for dialogue change, which brings an organic sense of humor to play when the actors perform off of each other.
Through the successes of their independent films, the Duplass brothers have been able to expand into a number of other activities. They were able to co-create Togetherness, a television series for HBO, and they have also signed a four-year agreement with Netflix. Netflix will be helping to finance their films, and after a short distribution release, the films will be released on the Netflix streaming platform as well. Because the brothers are doing so well, they have started an annual campaign, called the “Hometown Heroes” competition, to encourage and aid other independent filmmakers. Teaming up with Seed&Spark, a film-centered crowdfunding company that also provides on-demand video streaming, the Duplass brothers promise $50,000 in funding each year to a filmmaker who will film a movie in their respective hometowns. Along with the money, the brothers will also be attached as executive producers. In a heavily competitive art form, their efforts to encourage other filmmakers are commendable.
Even through all of the hurdles that independent filmmaking must overcome, indie filmmakers are able to create very touching films, and they often focus on otherwise-untold stories. They may not be as well known or revered as the Tarantinos or Spielbergs of their day, but they continue to entrance us with their masterpieces. SM
Sami Masaki is a junior studying Cinema Production. She enjoys spending time with family and friends and watching movies. This past summer, she did two different film internships in Los Angeles, including one at Heydey Films.
♦ Here is IMDB’s Top 25 Best Indie Movies of All Time. What’s on your list?
♦ Women writers and directors are one of the quickest-growing demographics in indie film. Want to know more? Just check out IndieWire’s 20 Rising Female Filmmakers You Need to Know in 2018.
♦ Got a favorite? Tell us about it!