Most of us (meaning the current 20-somethings), when we were young (-er), saw films that followed a general narrative pattern. To us, these movies were great because our minds enjoyed repetition, things that were different were uncomfortable, even scary sometimes, and this applies to things other than movies. However, this narrative has gotten old for us, we wish for something new. We’re tired of the guy always getting the girl and riding off into the sunset to live happily ever after….
In general, people who have interest in indie films are people who are looking for a different way of going about telling a story. We need something that makes us say, “Oh…that’s an interesting way to do it.” When I watched Chronicle (2012) earlier this summer, immediately I was surprised at the way the camera was set up. It was meant to be a “found footage” type of cinematography where the camera is shaky and (looks) unprofessional (somewhat similar to the “Marble Hornets” web horror/thriller series). I was, at first, put off by it, but the film became more intriguing when the major conflict was introduced.
When you watch a “found footage” film, you tend to think of it as a home-video or a class project type thing. Usually home-videos don’t really involve conflict, but when you throw it in there, you suddenly pay attention. I started paying attention at this point because the movie had just introduced its narrative. Up to this point, it was just a personal project someone had done, but now, things were getting serious.
Because the conflict was unusual from the type that Hollywood generally presents, I was intrigued, and because there was no efforts made to mask the trials of real life, the characters were relatable. Every moment I spent watching the film, I bonded with characters even more. I felt their struggles, cried and laughed with them, etc. I think this is the true magic of indie films. For the most part, a sense of realism is maintained in order to help you bond with the characters.
Buffalo ’66 did the same thing for me as Chronicle did in both of these respects. It provided a new type of narrative along with different, more “class-project” (like, “I-did-this-on-iMovie” type of thing) like cinematography, as well as give a sense of realism. Another “breath-of-fresh-air” is the fact that while you can level with Billy’s feelings, you can also view his psychotic antics from a general social viewpoint through Layla. Although, this becomes complicated when she starts developing Stockholm Syndrome.
These strategies, looking for a different narrative, looking for differences in types of conflict, are just some of the viewing strategies that moviegoers keep in mind when they see an indie movie. Because indie movies usually have such a different way of showing their story, it attracts people interested in controversy and things breaking from social and business norms. In doing so, it has created a culture focused on breaking social boundaries, so that we might better understand ourselves.