“I Actually Slept in the Box Office”
By Emma McNeilly
What exactly is an indie film? When I was a kid I would watch all of the award shows (mostly for the amazing dresses) and there would be the indie category and I never knew what that meant! I never realized how much it bothered me until I took this class and actually found out what it was. According to this year’s Sundance Film Festival, independent films are funny and moving and tear jerking, inspirational, and weird (especially weird). There was a widespread topic base this year, from sports related documentaries to mothers falling for their friends sons to porn stars being abused to a tragically moving film about a young man’s real life. All of these films brought their own unique set of baggage to a sexually charged festival. Seriously, there were tons of news reports of the sexual nature of this year’s festival. But that is apart of the beauty of Sundance. These filmmakers have the freedom do put whatever they want into whatever story they want. They have freedom that big studio films don’t have.
Independent films are really whatever the creator wants them to be. That may seem like a cop out of an answer but its true. They can be comedies, dramas, documentaries, hybrid experimental pieces, and horror movies. Like literally, they can be anything. Now obviously there is a difference between major studio films and indie films, and that is in the money. A standard low budge studio film can be made for 17 million to 50 million. That is a LOW budget film. A standard indie film can be made for anywhere from $1500 to about 2 million. This is where the discrepancies become more and more clear. Imagine if there was no Sundance film festival. How could a film that was produced for 1500 dollars compete against a film that was made for 17 million dollars? There is really no shot for this little film. But because of Sundance it is all to possible for those little budget films to be seen by the right people. More importantly those films can be purchased by those important people. For example, my favorite film of the festival, Fruitvale; a modest film with a big story. Making a film about a real person’s life on a small budget can prove to be a big undertaking but somehow Ryan Coogler managed to wow audiences with the touching and outrageous events of New Years Eve 2009. This film was purchased and hopefully will be seen by all of the residents of the bay area. This is one way those small films can compete with those big, bloated budget films.
One of the most interesting things I experienced at the Festival was during the Q/A of ACOD. This film was made up of big name actors like, Adam Scott, Jessica Alba, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch, Catherine O’Hara, and Richard Jenkins, just to name a few. These big name actors were all in a Sundance film together, but also filmed the movie in 24 days. All of these big actors agreed to film a movie in 24 days? Really? That really surprised me. Obviously this wasn’t a huge special effects and crazy wardrobe film, but it was very wordy and very meaningful, and it was made in less than a month. It is just so amazing that a film could stick in my mind so much and have been made that quickly. But I guess that is the beauty of Sundance.
While I know Sundance was created to showcase these little indie films, it has become one of the biggest auction houses I have ever seen. Every day after the first weekend I heard that another film was purchased by some distribution house or studio. Instead of being a quaint film festival nestled in the mountains of Utah (which is what I was expecting), it is a cutthroat Woodstock type event where studios are out bidding each other on these amazing works of art. I love that something what started, as a project to get some indie films out into the public, became something that can make indie filmmakers dreams come true.
We all feel the effects of the popularity of Sundance now. Getting tickets was next to impossible for a lot of the week, which is why I very proudly slept in the box office for a night, and then spent the whole next day attending movies. Sleep is apparently the enemy of Sundance. Wish I had known that before, I would have hibernated for a week. But it was all worth it. I had the best experience and met the best people through this amazing rollercoaster (Which I also went on at the resort, it was AMAZING). I just want to say thanks to all of you for making this the best Jan Term ever! It was great getting to know all of you! Can’t wait to go back to Sundance in a few years!!! ☺
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