Trend in the Indie Industry

In the indie music industry, Musicians are able to have more flexibility to do things outside of conventional mainstream media.  Hesmondhalgh argues the relationship between the institutional and aesthetic in indie is the flexibility artist and and musicians have to do what they want.  However, big label companies do not allow this flexibility and focus on what is popular and trendy leading to profit.

 

What the indie film and music industry have on the most common ground is they both work outside of mainstream.  They allow the artist or director to express their views and opinions into their work.  Film and music try to build audience through their work. Artists who choose to go through an independent label tend to go that route for more control and freedom over their own creativity.  Independent labels cannot offer artists money, making the artists pay for career aspects out of their own pockets.  However, paying for all the expenses means they make all of their own business decisions.  The same could be said for filming directors until they are able to get to a film festival or picked up by a mini major.

 

Another similarity is artists or directors being “sell-outs“.  Independent artists sell-out to gain commercial success.  They use independent labels as somewhat of a security blanket to build a reputation.  When they are picked up by a major label, the labels have more control over the creativity and what is published.  This is because the labels have to make profit from what they are putting out.  Indie artists most times are linked to losing the integrity and support from when they started out.  Reputation is important for getting a fan base and creating more support.  The artists are writing music for themselves – not for radio play.  Fans tend to lose that sense whenever an artists or band sell-out.

 

An indie band’s sound and style is a unique piece of work that brings it out of the same generic Top 40 music that all sounds the same in mainstream.  “Indie represents the prag- matic 1990s response to that dilemma: a tendency towards classical pop aesthetics, and ‘arm’s length’ institutional ties with the corporations. But to point to the failure of indie (amidst its many pleasures) is not to argue for a return to a punk vision of an alternative cultural praxis. Times have changed: a different era calls for a different cultural politics, but hopefully one which will take into account the lessons of earlier failures.”  (Hesmondhalgh 57)

Syndication Indication Innovation

Syndicated television holds a very special place in the society today.  TV has taken over in a role of the average person’s day.  As a child I’d watch Pokemon reruns on KidsWB and now I watch the hilarious hosting on Family Feud with Steve Harvey.  People often have a misconception of indie film because of the indie film industry.  People see indie film as pushing the boundaries and naturally expect indie television to follow their lead.  However, even though indie TV doesn’t push the edge, it is still indie.
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In broadcasting, syndication is the sale of the right to broadcast radio shows and television shows by multiple radio stations and television stations, without going through a broadcast network, though the process of syndication may conjure up structures like those of a network itself, by its very nature.  The nature of network TV is conscious to create familiarity and stability in its attempts to have syndication.  Basically, create a show that a viewer can jump into without having to watch every episode or “fringe” such as a talk show or sitcom show.  Most of these syndications appeal to the masses of families, minorities, and low income homes, or put simply people who have the time to watch these shows.  “The programs themselves are relegated to parts of the schedule long described in industry vernacular as “fringe”: late weekday mornings and afternoons, late weeknights, and scattered across the weekend- in other words, outside the time that “matters”.  Moreover, and most tellingly, advertisers, studios, and analysts have historically regarded the presumed viewers of syndicated programs as themselves “fringe”: stay-at-home mothers, racial minorities, children, elderly shut-ins, disaffected white men, and low-income households.” (Kompare 55-56)

What syndication does is set up a stable product for the networks running the syndicated programs to bring in viewership.  Syndication builds stability and appeal that everyone can relate and enjoy.  Indie television has been pushing the boundaries and innovations since the 1950s and will continue to for the decades to come.  With the rise of Netflix, syndicated shows that were maybe by some considered dead, are appealing to the masses.  In Aymar Jean Christian’s article “Indie TV and the Value of Post-Network“, he explains “Studios and networks expressed anxiety about the loss of control, with some reason. Competition is stiffer and customers more empowered. HBO, which led the cable unbundling, now has a competitor in Netflix, which has plans to exceed the premium channel’s investments in original programming. And this year fans outsmarted a studio (Warner Brothers), who assumed Veronica Mars was a dead franchise with little value left.”

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It’s a Hard Knock Life

The festival at Linwood Dunn Theatre have many films that have been lost, overlooked, or abandoned.  An orphan film is a motion picture work that has been abandoned by its owner or copyright holder; also, any film that has suffered neglect.  Film has been around for hundreds of years dating back to Thomas Edison.  Unfortunately, films aren’t made to last.   They fall outside the scope of commercial preservation programs.  They lack either clear copyright owners or commercial potential.  There is a wide spectrum of films that fall under the orphan qualifications, especially when the term neglected is categorized.  Neglect may be physical (a deteriorated film print), commercial (an unreleased movie), cultural (censored footage), or historical.

You could simply define them as “Any sort of films that have survived but have no commercial interests to pay the costs of their preservation.”  Recent interest has been drawn to these films and works because of their value of cultural and historical artifacts.  Orphan films refer to any work that is outside of commercial mainstream, from home movies to censored material to documentaries, etc.

“In this case it wouldn’t be so hard for a newcomer to sit down and enjoy the program,” said Dan Streible(check the link for Streble’s view on role of orphan films), founder of the Orphan Film Symposium. “That certainly isn’t the case in some instances; oftentimes there’s a new sensibility you have to get into.

“If you’ve never experienced anything like this before, but there is anything of the movie lover or history buff in you, this often turns people on to new ways of seeing film and they often want more after they experience it,” Streible added.

You have to consider these films and works to be “independent”.  They are rare films that have unusual and outmoded technologies.  They are eye opening, undocumented documents that are the pure essence of independently produced. All the different ways of how the film was produced and stored is truly remarkable, such as paper print.  The preservation of these films is much more at risk apart from Hollywood.  For Hollywood, commercial producers now invest heavily in the protection of their film libraries. With the development of television, home video, DVD, cable, and Internet exhibition, Hollywood sound films have protection of their preservation.  These orphan films did not have access to these protections and preservation, which increases their value.


Sex, Lies, and Videotape Saves the Day

Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a cornerstone film for Miramax and propelled it to what it is today.  It debuted at the 1989 Sundance film festival and became a sensation captivating audiences, winning the Audience Award and signing with MIramax summing to about the amount of the budget.  It only budgeted around $1.2 million.  Sex, Lies, and Videotape went on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, spreading its reputation internationally.  The film did well grossing nearly $100 million worldwide.  Who would have thought Sundance would provide a goldmine?  Steven Soderbergh‘s film revolutionized if not saved a dying, undefined Independent Film industry and springboarded Miramax.

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In class, we have talked about economic constraints and the impact they can have on the film itself.  Sex, Lies, and Videotape had an all-star cast of James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher, and Laura San Giacomo.  There was obviously some draw to the film from that.  The title itself was enough to intrigue an audience for attention.  The american public has always been wanted to know bedroom secrets of peoples lives, whether celebrities or small town populations.  Its the scandalous nature of people, its almost second nature.  J. J. Murphy mentions John Pierson’s thoughts:

Sex, lies, and videotape caught the popular imagination with its unerring delineation of the moment’s zeitgeist. The veneer of the eighties was cracking; the devastation of AIDS discouraged promiscuous coupling. The film presented a rare portrayal of a sensitive, vulnerable male, along with a beautiful, neurotic wife, a sexpot sister, and a crass, cheating husband. It was serious, thoughtful, funny and it pushed the edge of what was allowable on screen. Early on, Soderbergh admitted a strong autobiographical element, but he soon played this down since the film spoke very directly to its viewers’ own relationships – a kind of yuppie Rorschach test.”

Other aesthetic qualities from low budget were the clothes, setting locations, and audio qualities.  The clothing selected looked like clothes they pulled out of their closets.  The locations selected took place mostly in 4 different locations(3 houses and the bar) and the graffiti alley and the office.  The audio was interesting in use to me.  The phone conversations sounded like they were talking right from each other.  Throughout the movie the audio is sub-par I felt, but that is kind of a stereotype for Indie films.  The aesthetic quality I noticed is the plot was character driven.  The plot itself was very predictable and seemed very Hollywoodish and blah-ish.  The characters were the focus of the plot and the evolution and development of each character is what kept the audience engaged.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape definitely narrowed the gap between mainstream and independent.  It showed that Indie films they could be commercial successes.  Indie films scared off many potential box offices because of its niche audiences and not making any huge profits.  “The styles, subjects, and talent that defined the quality indie scene of the early 90s have now been incorporated into the Hollywood system…these films continue the traditions established by Miramax in the late 80s and early 90s: aesthetically and topically challenging films can be commercially successful with skillful marketing.” (Perren 38).

Juno is Just Right

Learning more and more things about the Independent film industry, I have a new perspective and respect for Indie film makers.  Indie has become more and more popular and catching the eye of the public in mainstream culture.  I’ve learned that Hollywood films follow a predictable, same old same old based story line versus Indie films having challenging narrative for the audience to connect with as Murphy explains in the introductory of the book, “creating sophisticated and challenging narratives that have provided a much needed alternative to an industry that at times has become less concerned with producing quality films than in orchestrating the next mega blockbuster” (Murphy 2).  Murphy emphasizes structure is the most important component that defines what an Indie film is.  Hollywood films follow a very structured formula based script composed of three parts.  What makes Indie movies special is their unique individualistic script, “From an aesthetic standpoint, the script is also the beginning of the creative process, and the first place where the filmmaker can start to express his or her individuality” (Murphy 6).  Walter, Field, and Seger theorize that all successful scripts are composed of three parts(as Field puts it):

  1. The first act- “The setup”
  2. The second act- “The confrontation”
  3. The third act- “The resolution”

I chose Juno to analyze the film’s narrative structure using Field and Walter’s structure methods.

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Juno is the “goal driven” protagonists throughout the film.  I feel like the plot for Juno does follow the formulaic recipe for a Hollywood film.   “The setup” needs to catch the audiences attention within the first 10 min according to Field.  It is possibly the most crucial part of the movie because the audience decides whether or not they like the film by that point.  Juno starts out with a 16-year old girl who is pregnant thinking about adoption or abortion.  “The confrontation” is generally longer than the first and third phase.  Juno constantly struggles with her emotions towards the father of her child, Paulie.  She goes on an emotional rollercoaster with the constant back and forth.  Finally, we come to “The resolution”.  The ending of Juno is kind of your classic Paulie rushes to the hospital to Juno’s birth giving and they close the movie with Juno and Paulie playing a guitar with a kiss as the credits roll.

Murphy concludes that Indie films “walk that fine line of having both elements of novelty and convention” (Murphy 24).  I think that aesthetically Juno is definitely Indie. The plot, the setting, Juno says Indie.  However, I believe that it agrees with Field’s three part Hollywood formula, but with its own unique spin.  Juno premiered at a film festival in Toronto International Film Festival.  It went on today show in many key film festivals all over the place.  It was one of those films that followed that winning formula for a hit cross over Indie film that became widely popular.  It is one of those tweeners between Indie and Hollywood where it could be considered somewhere in the middle as Murphy says happens with films such as Reservoir Dogs and Gas Food Lodging.

Indie Isn’t Indiana Jones?

Hey guys,

I’m new to the whole blogging thing.  I’ve never followed or read a blog before so hopefully I don’t look like an idiot.  I’m also new to Indie culture.  When the word “Indie” was said around me years ago, I would picture in my head Indiana Jones movies and figured that is what it was associated with.  I ended up putting two and two together and found out I was wrong and have always been curious about Indie music and movies.

When I think of Indie, I think low-budget, no name actor type of films that are not mainstream films and not very publicized or popular.  I have personally thought of Indie movies as a highbrow genre that would lose my interest versus a blockbuster hit like Ironman 3 with the missiles and explosions everywhere.  However, finding that “Good Will Hunting” and “Pulp Fiction” are Indie movies.  I am a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work.  He has moved more to mainstream, but Pulp Fiction was his big breakout movie to the scene.

I still have a tough time distinguishing indie from non-indie(Netflix is about the only way I know Indie).  Making movies is risky for independent producers is extremely risky because it is not as publicly exploited than blockbuster hits.  People now do not feel like getting out of their houses, especially in big cities, and want their media now.  Streaming has become a popular trend and DVDs a solid alternative.  The distribution of indie films has become even more difficult over the past years.

If you are not familiar with “Pulp Fiction”, here is a trailer: