Monday, March 1, 2010


I've been reading lots of film-making blogs this week, mostly from either independent film-makers who have made a reasonably successful film or from indie film-makers who have made a not very successful film, but are happy that it's 'done it's job'. By 'done it's job', people usually mean that it's announced their arrival on the film-making scene...hopefully enough to enable them to get finance for their next film.

Some of these film-makers have a problem with the label 'indie'. I think they see it as a form of pigeon-holing.... as if being 'indie' is a millstone that will hold them back from making bigger and better films or stop 'serious' investors investing in them.

So what is 'indie'? Well,  'indie' means you work outside of the studio system... you don't tow the corporate line as much as some... but that doesn't mean all 'indie' people are the same. My indie film was made with no rules, no deadlines apart from the ones we imposed on ourselves and no one telling us how they wanted things to be. At the other end of the spectrum, there's indie films being made for several million pounds with as much administration and regulation as any major studio. So what's it all about? How do i define indie and why do some of us revel in the label while others shy away from it?

Some people think there's a certain amount of self preservation here. If we refer to ourselves as 'indie', it's like we're wrapping our output up in some kind of security blanket. If someone says it's sub-standard in any way, we can retort with the fact that it's an indie production and that corners have to be cut or it doesn't get made at all.  A lot of us are 'indie' because we have to be. No one picked up our script, so we made it ourselves. Sound familiar?

I'm not saying that making your own film is admitting defeat. (or not) But i am saying that all too often, indie status is used by default, not by design.  Let's not be afraid to tell the truth here. I made my film with my mates because that's what i wanted to do...and i had no idea how to get anyone else to do it. I'm a control freak... i wanted to be in charge as much as possible and i know a lot of other film-makers are the same.  Sure, we're all secretly hoping that out first no-budget feature will be the surprise hit of Sundance and we'll be thrust into the limelight and given 30million to make our next movie... but in reality, we know that this is paying our dues. We're learning. I learnt a shit-load making 'Shoot The DJ'....and it wasn't what i thought i would learn. Yes, i learnt how to shoot better, how to light better and how to edit better....but i also learnt how to to schedule, how to delegate and how to make decisions when they really need to be made. Film-making is more about problem solving than anything else i've ever been involved in....and that to me is what defines my particular type of 'indie'. There's no department heads scratching their heads the night before the shoot..there's me....i have to make sure there's food on set, i have to organise transport for the actors, the make-up girl and the sound man... i have to make sure there's enough tape/cards for the camera..  As the budget goes up, the more these jobs become someone else's problem...until eventually i just turn up and shout action and cut...and that is when i'll stop considering myself indie.

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