Well okay. It’s not actually a movie called Independent Film that I’m going to talk about, but the genre in general.
I love Robert Downey Jr. I’ve been a big fan of his for longer than I care to admit, because it dates me. A lot. Heh. Recently, there was an article/interview where he said that he would never do another independent film, “Because they’re exhausting and sometimes they suck and then you just go, ‘What was I thinking?’” And then he listed what seemed like every grievance he’s had in working on indie film in the past, ending with, “Actually, most of you are kind of inexperienced and lame.”
It was, quite frankly, a kick in the teeth that independent film does not need. Obviously everyone’s entitled to their own opinion but as an insanely popular actor and filmmaker, RDJ’s words carry so much extra weight than if they’d come from someone else.
Some independent films suck. There is just no getting around that. And sure. Some people are going to be assholes during the process because they’re arteests but are really just dicks with a ‘vision.’ I’m not talking about student films which are supposed to suck because they mostly don’t know what they’re doing but think they know everything because they’re, you know, students. Sometimes, someone gets $5k, $50k, or even $500k and proceed to make the worst new film ever whether because the story/writing sucked, the direction sucked, or the actors couldn’t act. Occasionally there’s a perfect storm and everything sucks all at once through the entire ninety or more minutes. It happens. As a fairly avid indie film watcher, I would even say it happens on a fairly regular basis. I can think of four indie films that made me groan and/or grimace through the whole film just in the last year. And those are the ones that get actual distribution which a good many don’t, so the number of bad indie films is likely much higher.
But that’s the purpose of independent film: the right to fail trying to bring a vision outside of corporate entities/studios to life. These are films that would never get made if the studios were in charge of every single movie made ever. I’m not dissing studio movies. I love (most) studio movies. I’d love to write for them (I have a few in my ‘writer’s drawer’ ready to go right now, matter of fact) and reach millions of people in a single weekend. But there is definitely a type of movie that studios finance and they’re the ones with a bottom line of millions or billions of dollars; the tried and true formulas that work because, well, we’re human and we like predictability to a certain extent.
In dissing independent film the way he did, RDJ ignored all the gems that get made. Visions from filmmakers and writers who would never have gotten their voice produced from a studio because it doesn’t conform and/or doesn’t have a star pre-attached to make sure it gets made. Indie film explores the whys and wherefores, not just the how, what, and when. We see the world inside us instead of the world around us. Frequently, the monsters are us instead of creatures or aliens. As uncomfortable as that can be, it’s a necessary view.
Hollywood needs independent film. Everyone needs independent film. The world would be so much less without it.