The Garcia Girls Go To The Movies

The Life and Times of the Indie Film

In The Garcia Girls Go To The Movies

By Elena Pullin
March 21, 2016 at 2 a.m.


An Independent Film is defined as a film produced solely or mostly outside of a major studio along with being distributed independently. 

I define an Independent Film as storytelling in its purest form.


Independent films are often quickly identifiable by style and content.  Some would say that they have a lower quality style due to the low budgets they have to work with.  These same people are usually also of the opinion that the content of the independent film is significantly different from films put out by a major studio.  Another, actual, difference is the marketing of independent films.  For most, if not all, independent films there is limited release for them.  They mostly first meet an audience through film festivals.

Films were first referred to as independent films after the 1908 formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), also known as the "Edison Trust".  The MPPC was basically one big gang run by one man, Thomas A. Edison.  Anyone who chose to operate outside of the MPPC and outside of Thomas A. Edison's pocket was labeled as an independent film.  Edison owned almost all patents having to do with motion pictures.  Because of this, those referred to as independent filmmakers were met with trouble, legal and probably otherwise. 

Here they came!

To get away from Edison and the trouble he and his movie cartel studios were bringing down, independent filmmakers not only started building their own cameras and made Hollywood, California their new base of operations.  Moving out to California had several appealing aspects to it.  It was a vast land of plenty of various locations with beautiful weather for filming.  Also, and probably most promising aspect, it put an entire country between the independent filmmaker and Edison, who was based out of New Jersey.  The original East Coast vs. West Coast.

Between 1912-1915, Edison's gang was disbanded by the Supreme Court.  The court decisions both helped and didn't so much help the independent filmmaker.  It legalized independent film making, but it did not exactly help with regards to the "understood ban" an independent filmmaker faced from Edison and his boys.  So the move out to the West Coast continued for the independent film. 

In the mid-1930s, the movie studio developed.  There were five major studios, known as the "Big Five":  20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Paramount Pictures, RKO Pictures, and Warner Bros.



 

 

Later on, three more came about known as the "Little Three":  Columbia Pictures, United Artists, and Universal Studios

So instead of one big gang laying claim to all motion pictures, there were then separate gangs fighting over the same bone.  These were the be all, end all of movie studios.  Any other studio, though worth their weight, were referred to as "poverty row".

The "Big Five" and the "Little Three": soon became so big that the independent filmmakers began to again seek out their independence.  There were more law suits and more court hearings.  A new group, Society of Independent Motion Picture Procedure (SIMPP), stepped in to help fix a lot of what needed fixing.  After doing so, the group then ceased to exist.  Thanks to the efforts of SIMPP and the dawn of the portable camera during WWII, practically anyone with a dream and access to a camera could freely set out to make it happen for themselves.

Being able to make something out of nothing is only one of the attractive aspects of independent films.  Other attractive aspects are the ability to take risks and to explore outside the confines of a movie studio.  Because of this, audiences were then brought films that pushed and went beyond the realm of studio made movies. 

The Last of Its Kind

The independent film had become its own industry and continued to be openly accessible to all audiences until a film titled "Night of the Living Dead" came out in 1968.  Not only did 1968 bring this horror classic to audiences, it was the year that brought about the birth of the MPAA rating system, restricting access to films based on the age of the audience.  This had an impact on the audiences that independent films could reach, to a point.  This didn't effect the risk taking with content and storytelling that made "indie" films their own industry.

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Two breakthrough indie films came out in 1969 that clinched a spot for the indie film as its own industry.  The movies "Easy Rider" and "Midnight Cowboy" were ground breaking indie films that won awards for the genre, including an Academy Award, introducing audiences to the true talents of Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson.  Now, "Midnight Cowboy" had some attachment to some major studio, but it still credits itself and is credited to the indie film industry.

The birth of the Festival!

The line between independent film and studio film began to become less defined the more the indie film was acknowledged and included.  Until in 1978, Robert Redford put together an effort to redefine and encourage the growth of independent films as their own independently unique industry.  These efforts would then result in the birth of the Sundance Film Festival.  Other festivals would come about and become the regular outlet for indie films. 

to One End of the Lone Star to the Other!

Today, you can find a film festival going on almost anywhere, especially in Texas.  Stretching from Dallas (or further) all the way down and across to our very own Victoria, TX (or further), you can find a film festival going on one weekend or another debuting handfuls of independent films of every type.  These festivals provide an atmosphere of storytelling at its finest.  They're a place where the independent filmmaker makes a name for his/her self and witnesses, along with the audience, their hard work brought to life.

1978 was the start of the film festival for indie films, but the 1990s was the birth of the second biggest indie film movement after the initial movement out to Hollywood.  Movies such as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "Sex, Lies, and Videotape", "Clerks", "The Mask", "Dumber & Dumber", "The Shawshank Redemption", and

the unforgettable  "Pulp Fiction". 

These films brought with them names such as THE Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Uma Thurman, and so many more.  The independent companies that started emerging and making names for themselves began to attract larger companies.  As a result they were soon bought out.  Though bought out, these companies stayed true to the indie film at heart and still produced films that carried with them the strong, familiar characteristics of the indie film.  They still took risks and told stories without restriction outside of the MPAA.

I have always been a fan of the indie film.  Who can ever forget the amazing titles that the indie film have brought us?  I admire the drive of the indie filmmaker.  Someone setting out to tell his/her story his/her own way.  I view the indie film as storytelling in the purest form.  People out to make it happen and to keep making it happen.  There are some that may view the indie film as only a stepping stone to the "big time".  I completely disagree.  I remember Lions Gate Films before it was the well known Lions Gate of today.

  Then and Now  (horror & violence)  (other)

Regardless of where you take that first step of the many steps in your career, you dictate in which direction your steps will be taken.  Indie film isn't just a stepping stone to the rest of a career.  It is a full fledged film industry in its own right.  I love the indie film for all it represents.  From the beginning, the indie film has been, in a sense, the "working man's" industry.  It didn't come easy.  It came by the sweat of the brow, hard work, unbridled determination, keeping your whits about you, being a visionary, and seeing that vision through to the end.  That is something to be admired and given a fair chance.  If you've never given them a chance, take a chance now on the indie film.  Don't knock it until you've tried it.  Here is a list of film festivals held in Texas.  Find one near you and check it out.  You can also research independent films online with say Google, for example, and find some titles that you can either purchase or rent on, for example, Amazon or your local Hastings.  Enjoy!

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