On The Park City Trail... Sundance 2010 and more: Jan. 28

Here’s something novel, I have a three-hour break between screenings. The press screenings are over, and with four public screenings scheduled for tomorrow and none today, it’s back to the wait-list before the Slamdance Awards ceremony.

So while we’re waiting, let’s discuss something that’s very important for anyone who’s a habitué of film festivals. What exactly is an “Independent film” anyway? There are lots of things that have been showing here in Park City that claim to be independent films but aren’t.

You want to know what an independent film really is? Okay. Two guys, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, received a call from a friend of theirs, a third person who would have his hands on an empty office in New Orleans in a few weeks and $10,000 so could they write a script to utilize it? They got together with their friends Amber Benson and Adam Busch, found a bunch of out-of-work actors to volunteer for a three-day shoot, and wound up with a film called Drones, which is a cross between Star Wars and The Office, and rather funny. Independent funding. No studios, no taxpayer Euros. No nothing. 

On the other hand, take the Duplass Brothers’ latest project, Cyrus, for example. There is no way in Hell this is an independent film. It’s being released by FoxSearchlight, features a cast of movie stars, a moderately large budget, and is getting a rather wide release. What’s there that isn’t Hollywood?

The Duplasses started out doing cheap, independent films that had microscopic releases, such as The Puffy Chair back in ’05, but they have graduated into the big time, and while their next attempt might be a tiny little comedy, this most certainly is not. It’s a standard issue Hollywood movie.

Another film that isn’t independent is Sam Taylor Wood’s Nowhere Boy. This early life of John Lennon biopic, produced by the Weinsteins and the British Lottery, and it is most certainly not independent. It was created as part of the British film industry and is being distributed by Icon films, an international “mini-major” outside the US.

There are plenty of documentaries that aren’t independent either. TV stations finance most of them like WBGO or PBS. HBO does a lot of them. RCN Television has financed them or they are produced by some major foreign network, such as Sins of My Father, which was made by the Colombian equivalent of CBS.  This is not an independent film. It’s not made in Hollywood, but is an establishment production. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s an excellent film, but it’s not independent.

Yeah, there are some “independent “films that are basically vanity productions like Mark Ruffalo’s Sympathy for Delicious. It doesn’t have a distributor yet, but a lot of it is done through the Hollywood system… And they’re kicking everyone out of the room.

More later…