By Tyler Weaver
Tyler is a filmmaker and a writer. This article first appeared in MULTI-HYPHENATE a blogazine he created, featuring articles by the new wave of creatives.
Judy Berman’s article from Flavorwire, “Why is Indie Film Dying While Indie Music Thrives?” has, to say the least, stirred some argument, such as Filmmaker Magazine‘s Scott Macaulay in his response “How Cool is Indie Film?” and all over the Twitterverse.
I don’t think “indie” film is dying at all. I think it’s being reshaped – the very definition of “indie” is undergoing transformation in that there really is no single definition. Everyone has their own. “Indie” film has a bright future, but I think one thing needs to happen before that future can be bright – the abandonment of the term in all creative fields.
For many, “indie” is used as a badge of honor, “I’m an independent artist…” or a crutch, “I can’t get the money because I’m an indie.” The term “indie” is utilized and defined in so many ways that it’s lost all meaning. There’s a stigma to it, there’s a badge of honor. “Indie” is controversial. “Indie” is better. “Indie” is worse. “Indie” is quirky. “Indie” is hard core. “Indie” is real. “Indie” is a stepping stone. And worst of all – “Indie” is an excuse.
That’s just a small smattering of how “indie” is used across all forms of art, criticism, study, and pop culture (another term that should be abandoned). There’s no single definition, and that deadens the creative title we creatives work so hard at mastering.
Filmmaker. Photographer. Comic Book Creator. Writer. Musician. Add “indie” to that and see what connotations arise – both good and bad.
In Michael Chabon’s wonderful book of non-fiction essays, Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands, he writes “I read for entertainment, and I write to entertain. Period.” Entertainment is entertainment, and in spite of what we may think, we’re here to entertain, to illuminate, and to please ourselves and hopefully an audience, because unless we do that – there’s no “next project.”
Why do we have to be “indie?” Can’t we just be filmmakers? Authors? Musicians? I don’t care about being cool. I care about being good, always improving, and entertaining.
Last week, I wrote on this site, the wall between audience and creator is gone, and as that wall goes down, “indie” and “studio” or “mass produced” blur together. People want to be entertained, and we need to be there to do it for them. Once we stop, then not just “indie” film or “indie” music will die – but entertainment as a whole.
Stop labeling. Stop excusing. Make content. Deliver. Entertain. The how and means to which you get there are immaterial (studio, independent funding – oops, there’s another one). What matters is HOW you entertain. That’s your voice.
Entertainment is entertainment. Who cares where it comes from? Just be sure you’re the one entertaining and that you do so with a voice. That’s true independence, and the only kind that matters.
And as long as people have a brain and a creative streak, it’s not going anywhere.
And yes. I’m going to practice what I preach and make a conscious effort to remove the prefices “indie” and “independent” from my Filmmaker credit. I am what I am.
Tyler Weaver is an independent filmmaker and unrelenting multi-hyphenate, a regular contributor to the pulptone.com website, and is the founder and EIC of Multi-Hyphenate… which you’re reading right now. He’s currently making new things…
This Post Has 9 Comments
I couldnt agree more! So much so that I am dumping my twitter name. Never thought enough about the name when I signed up last year. I’m learning fast!
The whole “Fandependent” thing last night put me right off of wanting to be part of any “indie scene”, “posse” even more. (Which I will blog about tonight) Why do we all need to label ourselves in groups!
We are at a time where its all about personal branding. We are really really forgetting about our audience, and how they are going to find us in the future if they like our work.
I dont go out of my way anymore to look for “indie films” I look for filmmakers names that I like that are well known, and if its unknown filmmakers, I respond simply to a pitch, trailer in 15 seconds flat.
The term “indie” is too broad now. In the early days, it could mean you were going to see a more interesting movie, today, it means “mass product” And amomg that mass product, theres even more shit produced than Hollywood makes
We all need to start respecting who we are as individuals. Sure, we collobrate with the people that help realise our vision, its team work making film, but from a selling point view to a consumer, personal branding is the way.
And I am not talking about ego here, because for years I didnt even want my name out there, but now, its individual names that will stand out.
Yesterday I was in the supermarket. There was a huge bin full of cheap dvds. LOts of well known movies, big and small, but this couple were looking all through it for a specific dvd.
I heard them saying “Im sure I saw a Danny Boyle film!” They never even looked at the mass of great dvds that were cheap.
I heard them talk about “Slumdog Millionaire” I could tell they never saw many of Boyle’s other films, but were now looking. Ok it’s teams that make films, but personal brand names front films, whether star, director, producer etc.
If we want to label ourselves, lets start doing it with personal branding. Who types in “indie film” when they want to see a flick. Thats such a broad search. Build on your personal brand, and if people like your work, you want them to start searching for your name in future.
I dont want to be indie, mumblecore, fandependent, cult, exploitation, Dogme 95, whatever! It goes against the very nature of wanting to be an individual voice.
I agree. Lets dump indie once and for all. Its lost the spirit of what it used to represent. Although, I dont know if it ever really did mean “indie”, when you always had to rely on distribution
Now I have got to change @indiemoviemaker to little old me! @davidpbaker Damm! I need me an Elvis like name now! Something that will stand out!
Great post again. Thanks Tyler, Maria
Cheers for having a read! I’ve long loathed the term “indie.” Any word that has so many connotations and meanings deadens the impact of the original word, rendering it useless.
I apply the maxim I kept while training as a composer to all forms of art – if it sounds good, it is good. Doesn’t matter how it was made.
And may I suggest @davidelvisbaker? =)
Cheers again for having a read!
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David – you’re comments and point of view are always refreshing.
You bring up a good point. No one is ever going to Google “indie film” when looking for a film. So the individual brand is important, and becoming more important every day. As social media grows and morphs into something bigger it will be a person’s brand that will be their calling card.
Regarding independent film in general – today it’s rare that a film made for NO money is ‘recognized’ at film festivals or by the public. Even the low budget ‘independent movie’ “Paranormal Activity” wasn’t independent. Paramount created a demand with a huge marketing campaign that most independent producers could never afford.
And the Sundance Film Festival has created a whole new category for truly independent films this year, because over the last several years the films at the festival have all been backed by big studios with money.
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Hallelujah, Tyler, I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I’ve tried, several times, to do just that. You and David have articulated exactly what I think talent in the studio system and outside of it need to hear. My rambling, incoherent (compared to yours) thoughts on all things ‘indie’ and ‘studio’ centered on one gripe, the pseudo-rivalry of studio and independent films and filmmakers, and one simple question, “Aren’t we all trying to accomplish the same thing?”
And right here on Maria Lokken’s excellent blog, you’ve said it in a single word: entertain. The means may be different, but the end result is the same, a movie, and hopefully the pinnacle of results, a movie people want to see. My hope was to write a post successfully lobbying for a convergence of the two, for the studio people to get a little more indie and for the indie people to get a little more studio (i.e. commercial). I like your suggestion much better.
Drop the labels and stick to the title: filmmaker. Thank you Mr. Weaver, Ms. Lokken, and Mr. Baker.
Great post. Couldn’t agree more! I felt that the word “indie” brought up many different ideas, many that I didn’t feel I fit when I was promoting. So I started personal branding in 2008. Best thing I did besides making my film. To mash yourself into some sort of collective group of people who aren’t remotely the same is stupid! We are all unique. We hopefully all have a unique look at the world, unique style, perspective, etc. This is what makes each one of us marketable. That’s really the only thing that is trully marketable. The rest is just pointless babble (the whole “indie” thing).
Justin, John –
Thanks so much for your kind comments.
I have to give props to Buzz McLaughlin on the Sensation of Sight blog for putting it wonderfully (and mentioning this article) (http://www.thesensationofsight.com/part-24-musings-on-the-future-of-independent-film-distribution.html)
“What’s transpiring, I believe, is the beginning of a new golden age for filmmakers when the word “independent” or “indie” attached to who we are as artists and producers will be as obsolete and irrelevant as the word ‘motor’ is to ‘car.'”
Thanks again for reading, guys!
Licensing and Branding is a constant marketing of the name/title/company you intend to get noticed and remembered by the public. There is a reason Paris Hilton’s dog is famous… if you spent $5,000/month – you would be famous too.
Having a P.R. firm may get your name out there but it is quality of what you do that will get you noticed and in the masses mindshare.
Provide great content and make it so!!!