General discussion of STRANGER THAN PARADISE
Open thread

What is "independent film"?

Suarez points out that Jim Jarmusch, and specifically Stranger than Paradise, is important in the history and development of "independent film" in the U.S.

What does that phrase mean to you? How does Suarez use the term or explain its history? Who are other filmmakers you think of when you see or hear that phrase? What makes those filmmakers "independent" to you?


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Josh Noble

When I heard the term "independent films" I think of movies like Evil Dead, Reservoir Dogs, Memento, and Blood Simple. Lower budget films that represent the starting point for now famous directors. In this case, Sam Raimi, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, and the Cohen Brothers. It also represents films that allow the filmmakers to have a greater control over the project, not under the confines of the big film studio.

Josh Noble

Edit: Coen not Cohen...

Anna Markee

I don't know the names of many independent filmmakers, but I have seen quite a few films that I would say are independent. I enjoy films that are "independent" because I feel like they can be very unique and visually interesting compared to Hollywood films. I feel like the filmmaker has a lot of room to make the film exactly how they want it. Often they are not worried about making a ton of money on the movie and are more concerned with the artistic value of the film. The specific artistic vision of independent filmmakers is able to be created in an independent film while it may be excluded in a larger Hollywood production.

Lisa King

When I hear the phrase "independent film" my automatic thought is "low budget". From what I've seen, independent films tend to be a little more simplistic that the big budget Hollywood films we are so used to seeing. The filming, sound effects, and visual effects are more simplistic, but not necessarily the story.

Amy Elder

When I think of Independent films, I think of movies that are original. They are not made according to the "formula" of mainstream movies. Their directors have a unique vision that doesn't match anyone else, but their own. I also think of low budget and unknown actors when I think of independent films. Many well-known actors get their start in these films so I think they can be the "stepping stone" to fame.
Suarez says that independents used to be known as small production units working outside of major studios. He states that now independents can be known as "alternative cinema." These movies experiment with different topics and styles of cinema that major studios take and produce if they are popular. Many directors of these movies can end up working for major studios if their style works for the mainstream.

Karl Amspacher

I think that the term independent film is simple to define. To me it is movies made independently of major film studio. Since these films have less money invested into them, they have more freedom to explore themes and styles that would not be acceptable in a film with a large budget. As has been noted, independent films can launch careers, but they can often serves as career buffer. A more well known director can take a break from studio movies to make a small budget auteur film. Indie films also present an opportunity to gain cred for an actor, or to restart a flagging career.
Also, Christopher Nolan's first feature was Following

Lucas Ashland

Like others have already said, Independent movies usually aren't well funded movies because they haven't gotten the backing from a major movie studio. Directors who set out to make a film are either dealing with an odd storyline or subject matter or they don't want to be controlled by the outside decision maker of a rich movie studio. They also might have a unique way of filming a story which could be why they chose are aren't chosen to get money from a movie studio. I think the case with Stranger than Paradise is that Jim Jarmusch had an odd storyline that probably didn't look good on paper and he had an interesting way of filming the story by having really long scenes without breaks. These are just a couple reasons why he likely didn't get funded or want to get funding from a major studio.

In short, I think the major factors that make a movie independent are an odd storyline dealing with issues that aren't normally filmed and are also filmed in interesting ways (i.e. really long scenes without cuts). Some filmmakers that come to my mind are Harmony Korine, Guy Maddin and David Cronenberg.

Katlyn Sylvia

I think the term Independent film has progressed a lot from what it originated as. As stated previously, it used to be a term to define any movie made outside of mainstream studios. I think it has progressed into movies that could be considered experimental or controversial to how an audience might inherently anticipate a film to be. Independent, to me, is just another word for going against the norm.

It also frequently makes me think of 'hip' movies, and an automatic distrust of anyone who is encouraging me to watch them- is it because it's actually a good film, or is it because you want me to think you are cool and going against the grain/mainstream/popular movies. I admit, I am more judgmental of Independent films, and expect to be wowed by them in a way I don't expect from the blockbusters.


"independent film" for me brings up images of small-time creators, not necessarily actors but rather directors and producers etc, coming together to create a film without the backing of a large, established company/person. The first "Independent" film to come to my mind is Supertroopers, a movie first created by Broken Lizard and later picked up by 20th Century Fox. They started with very little in the means of money and crew but created a very successful movie.

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