Low Budget doesn’t have to Mean Low Quality

Newman goes into chapter two with the idea of trying to explain what helps to shape the credentials that make a film indie at any given point in time. He makes continual reference to the “institutions” that shape what indie is in this chapter. What they represent are the channels through which indie films are shared and experienced, which for the purpose of this chapter are film festivals. Newman asserts that these cinema institutions, or film festivals, help to shape indie as a cultural category by the “legitimacy” indie films gain separate from and “in comparison to Hollywood” (Newman pg. 49). Essentially, it is indie films ability to be successful outside of the mainstream that helps to dictate their uniqueness as a cultural category.

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Films festivals help to create and maintain what is to be considered indie. The way in which these festivals shape what “indie” is occurs in the selection process of what films they allow into their festivals and what seems to be the basis of their selections. If they want to alter what genres or aesthetics are viewed as “indie” then the selection committee can start to accept different material for the festival. Newman seems to embrace this idea of selection because it gives the viewers and people involved in the indie film world to define their own work. Also, since the indie scene is meant to be a “parallel to Hollywood,” these selection committees can make sure Hollywood doesn’t try to infiltrate by not accepting their films (Newman pg. 55).

As far as the institutions he included I think he could have made an attempt to show which indie films end up at the movie theatres and how they got there. Not all movie theatres, in particular those with just a few screens, show indie movies, but there are an array of them that do towards the more urban centers of states. Other than that, Newman seems to touch base on most of the important institutions.

The issue with all of this is that there doesn’t seem to be any form of responsiveness when it comes to what is actually accepted as indie. As Kenneth Turan put it, it feels like the selection process only accepts “’films that feel as if they’re making the cut because they will never reach a wider audience’” (Newman pg. 55). From the outside looking in, it appears that the movies shown are just obscure movies that, had they been released any other way, would have been laughed at due to their shoddy camera work and poor sound quality. There is nothing wrong with doing something small scale, but it seems like low quality is being accepted over low budget a large portion of the time.

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2 thoughts on “Low Budget doesn’t have to Mean Low Quality

  1. I agree with your last paragraph. I really wish festivals would publish (or do they already?) their criteria for what they consider “indie.” Is there a checklist of some sort that could help us understand why they choose what they do?

  2. The Newman quote from pg 55 about how he thinks some of the movies make it into the festival made me want to scream! I whole heartedly agree with your last paragraph and wonder how long it will take before indie culture will begin to stray away from recognizing a film even though it was created poorly. I understand that money is not a luxury that every movie endeavor has but like you said low budget doesn’t have to mean low quality. Here’s hoping the culture finds a way to raise standards without having to shun great artistic pieces because of budget though.

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