Depth. That seems to be what separates indie films from mainstream movies. When you go to any local Cinemark and sit down to watch the latest blockbuster, action film you are there to see the give and take between the main characters and to get the thrill of any explosions or action sequences that take place. However, indie films are there for a more “enriching” experience that isn’t often there in Hollywood movies.
Indie films come in an array of genres but the thing that ties them together as uniquely “indie” is how you are to approach and understand the film. Peterson’s first viewing strategy is to remember that “characters are emblems.” What this means is that they encompass something about their social identities. For example, in Buffalo ’66 Billy shows the struggle that millions of common, everyday people go through in their daily lives. He doesn’t have a great relationship with his family, his life hasn’t turned out how he wanted, yet at the end of the day it is the little things that keep him sane and keep him going.
While individuals in indie films have a depth that other forms of media don’t, the form in which the film is presented also has an influence on the meaning of the film. Whether it is different characters being portrayed in an unusual role or playing with the time line of a movie, Newman’s second strategy is to remember “Form is a Game.” Buffalo ’66 exhibited this game in the way that they would have flashbacks through popups that appeared in some scenes. Also, the beginning where Billy was shown on the bench outside the prison but then slowly popups were added to show all the different thoughts he was having is a game that the director plays with the audience.
The final and most over-arching strategy Newman reinforces when watching indie film is to “read as anti-Hollywood.” The whole idea of indie is that it is something different from the mainstream so you would expect it to be different. The ending of Buffalo ’66 is not something you would ever see in a Hollywood blockbuster. The movie doesn’t end with fireworks or excitement; instead, it ends like any normal day, Billy finds some closure and goes to bed. In Hollywood, the ending that ran through Billy’s head before he changed his mind about killing Steve Wood is something Hollywood would have chosen over the actual ending.
These 3 strategies being so universal are what truly tie the idea of “indie” together. If you tried to use these approaches on blockbuster movies you would be more than likely disappointed. Many films just simply don’t have the depth to encompass these strategies. That isn’t to say they are lower quality or not as entertaining, it is just meant to show that indie, is in fact, unique.