Thankfully, independent filmmaking endures, and in fact continues to grow in appeal with the movie-going public, as is evidenced by the growing number of independent films receiving international acclaim ("Studio 'Independence' Is Often a State of Mind," Counterpunch, May 12). As we saw in the most recent Oscars, no less than seven of the top eight categories were awarded to independent features, and all but one best picture nominee were independently produced.
From an investment standpoint, filmmaking has always been a crapshoot at best, but given the insurmountable budget required of a major studio blockbuster, independent films are a comparatively minor risk to the bottom line. If an independent project shows particularly strong promise, a studio can comfortably afford backing it or widening its distribution. If it fails to draw a sizable audience, the loss is negligible.
In this uncertainty-laden arena, studios benefit greatly by attracting independent projects to their houses, and likewise "independent" divisions can benefit greatly by being taken under the wing of a major studio. At an average of a few million to several million dollars to produce, indie films are a bargain for a major studio, representing a fraction of the cost of simply casting Sandra Bullock in an action film.
And while it may appear that studios and independent companies are thematically at odds, it is in fact a symbiotic relationship. Studios are compelled to give the public what they believe they want, while independent producers are given greater opportunity to buck the trend, perhaps even alter it. In a way, the movie business now resembles Darwinian theory in reverse: The largest carnivores are anxiously looking to the littlest fish for any sign of a brilliant adaptation, and then adopting it as their own.
Consequently, we have witnessed an evolution in filmmaking unparalleled since the advent of the talkies. And while the debate over what constitutes "independence" is certain to continue, there's no denying that the growth of independents has provided a multitude of filmmakers with their best opportunity to bring their singular vision to the screen, and has helped launch some exceptional talent that would not otherwise have been "discovered." Ultimately, the real winners are the movie-going public and the art of filmmaking itself. To that end, long may the independent spirit flourish.