Posted by: markfender | April 1, 2014

How to Identify an Indie Film

You know a big-budget, mainstream release when you see it. But you might not recognize an indie film.

drivingWe’re not talking films made outside of the studio system (Many indie films are made within that same system). We’re not talking about the sorts of things that you might see at Sundance of SXSW. We’re not talking about the bold new vision displayed by truly inventive filmmakers. No, we’re talking the shallowest, cookie-cutter notions of what an ‘indie’ film is.

An immediate red flag is if the writer of the screenplay is also the director. Another red flag is if the movie stars no one you’ve ever heard of, except for one ‘minor’ named actor. But you might have access to that information before you begin the film and some films skip credit sequences entirely.

No, the best way to tell if you’re watching an indie movie is this: within ten minutes of the movie starting, the main character will travel. This will involve driving in a car or being a passenger in a car. Some movies distinguish themselves by having the protagonist ride a bike or take a train trip (never an airplane, however). This scene may revolve around the character moving to a new environment. Or, it might have nothing to do with anything. Regardless, the character will travel and, this is important, look pensively out the window.

But, here’s the really important bit: there must be an indie song playing while the protagonist does this. It should be from a band you’ve never heard of, and will never hear again. It will perfectly encapsulate the character’s emotional journey, as well as sound like the worst example of the local band no one’s ever heard of toiling away in the local clubs until a death of obscurity. It will leave you wondering which band member is friends with the writer/director instead of heading to iTunes to see if you can buy the soundtrack. Meanwhile, the main character looks out of a traveling car’s window and contemplates deeply serious things.

Join me tomorrow when I discuss three indie films that don’t do this. And are, therefore, good.

 

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