Independent: Film's Greatest Source of Innovation
For all of the great and creative work that happens every year in film, there is a huge lack of innovation from major studio releases. This stems from these studios slowness to embrace any type of change until it is well underway because of their fear of going away from what they are sure works for them. Fortunately, however, there is a side of filmmaking that constantly been on the cutting edge, and is the first to try new things--independent filmmaking.
Independent films are the first ones to try something new and take risks. Because of this, it is independent films and the creative people who make them that we need to look to as the people keeping the art of film innovative and fresh.
The world of independent filmmaking is radically shifting now. For a long time, independent has been synonymous with small, or deeply personal stories because of financial and technological constraints. This meant that independent filmmakers looked to be innovative in other ways, such as story structure. Now, however, technology has changed in such a way that independent filmmakers are able to be on the frontlines of new technology being used.
The biggest innovations within any industry rarely come from those established at the top. Instead, they come from people trying to fight their way in at the bottom, who come in and shake things up by doing things differently. This is why we take notice when a new business comes along and inspires people with their entrepreneurial innovation.
In the hands of major studios, large technological changes and improvements can become incredibly stale and overused. It is not that the technology itself is inherently bad, but the application of the technology becomes redundant. The reason that many filmgoers feel a great deal of fatigue when it comes to 3D films is not that 3D films are automatically bad, it's that following Avatar, it seemed that every film was trying to cash in on the trend.
This meant that there were many films that weren't made to be 3D that were sloppily converted in post-production, or gratuitous shots where an item would come flying toward the audience in order to show off the 3D technology. These betray the art that goes into making a film by degrading the overall quality of the finished product. A bad 3D conversion job makes the film look horrendous, and these shots designed solely for 3D value are almost always gratuitously long, unnecessary, and do not translate well when the film is viewed in 2D.
Innovation in film is far too often thought about as doing something better than people have done before. While it is important to continue pushing these things forward, there are other sides to innovation that are far too frequently ignored by major studio productions, doing something that is truly new, and using these innovations to truly serve the film.
This level of innovation is only going to increase as time goes on. In the past, the price of new technology has been prohibitive for amateur and independent filmmakers. This is changing, however. Now, not only can filmmakers at any level have access to a wide variety of tools and cameras, but thanks to the rapid increase in mobile technology and apps, many of these are available through everyday devices.
Even non-mobile filmmaking technology is becoming substantially more affordable and accessible for the average person. Even virtual reality cameras, which are new to the consumer market, are incredibly affordable. Spearheading new ideas and techniques in filmmaking is one of the greatest triumphs of independent films. It is their intentionality that maintains a certain level of creative authenticity. Instead of these things being tacked on at the end as a way to jump on a trend, they are used to actually serve and enhance the film at a fundamental level. While major studios wait to see if using new technology like virtual reality are marketable, independent filmmakers are doing exciting and innovative things with it.
It's time to stop looking to major studios to truly break new ground in film. Instead, it's time to start recognizing that progress is made outside of this system by independent films and the people who make them.
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For the life of me I'm still not entirely sure what people mean when they call something an "independent movie". The term itself is always used in a vague non-committal way: independent in the way it was financed? Independent in the way it looks? Independent in its subject matter? [read more]
How do we define the word 'Independent' in a cinematic sense? If we are to approach the concept from a strictly financial perspective, then the label denotes a film made separate from the studio system, funded by the director themselves perhaps, and more often than not made on a shoestring budget and with extremely limited resources. [read more]