Is it still indie?

    According to Hesmondhalgh the relationship between the institution and the aesthetic in indie is the way that the institution lets the musician do what they want. They let the musician explore more compared to mainstream music. Yet, this usually only happens if the label isn’t under a bigger label company. Since, the bigger company will most likely want to focus on the music that will lead to bigger profit. Causing the musician to change its music sound to something more familiar. 

 

   This relationship, between the music and the institution, compared to the relationship that the film industry and production institution have is fairly similar in the sense that they both stay away form what is mainstream. They let the artist explore and usually try to send a message to the audience. Both try to build a reputation causing them to only focus on projects that revolve around their “theme/ type of indie genre”.

 

    Another similarity is the way that in both institutions of music and film, the independent industries get bought out by bigger companies in order to get more money to produce more and have a wider range in reaching  out to the public. Although they do get bough out they still try to keep their reputation. Some examples of this are Miramax which was bought by Disney for the film industry and Creation which was bought out by Sony. With being under their wing the indie industries are able to go on beyond borders to promote their creations in other countries. 

   

   We tend to categorize indie movies by their aesthetics more than anything.  Yet, indie, music, is now, “…generally used to describe a set of sounds and an attitude, rather than an aesthetic and institutional position.”

 

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Taste of Independence

During the “laboratory period” of 1948-1952, the TV industry was able to get a taste of what independence really was. The main production that changed what the TV industry is today was Desilu, co-owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, who created “I Love Lucy”. 

   This production company was able to get the freedom for a TV industry to the equivalent of what you would see now in the film industry.  The production company was able to set the bar of how much freedom a company could have. Yet, after this set period the network industries got organized and limited the freedom of many TV productions.

   The thing that really shocked me about how much power and independence Arnaz had in the TV industry back then, was when he asked CBS to “let Desilu have full ownership of [I Love Lucy] after its initial network showing, instead of the original agreement of a fifty-fifty split between CBS and Desilu”,  and of course CBS agreed. Now you don’t really see this now,  even in the film industry. Many productions sometimes ask their directors to change things from the movie and not the other way around. Yet, they had the control when it came to this series. An example of this was when Miramax asked Soderbergh to change his trailer, but in the end Miramax took full control of the advertisement. 

   Another difference between this company and a film production would be the amount of money that goes into the set work. For instance “I Love Lucy” had a set budget of $19,500 per episode, but because CBS wanted the “live-audience” dimension, they agreed to give more money out, pushing the budget to $24,500 per episode. With this it could be seen that financially the series was well. Now compare this to a film production, where the director is given a budget and has to abide to it, unless it can find extra funds outside of its production company. 

      One of the similarities that you can actually see for both Desilu and a film industry now is the freedom that they have to be creative, Arnaz even said it himself. The only reason he wanted to take full control of the series was to be in total control of the way the series would go, creative wise. As for the film producers, well that is the main reason that they decide to create an indie film. 

   For both the film and TV industries it seems as if they switched roles in independence over the past few decades. With TV productions having to loose much of its freedom and independent film industries gaining demand. 

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).