Monday, July 27, 2009

What is an independent movie?

IFC, the "independent film channel" is showing Fargo tonight at 10:00 PM ET. Now, I happen to enjoy the movie, but I wonder what makes it qualify as an independent movie.

Back in the Studio Era of Hollywood, it should have been somewhat easier to identify "independent" movies as those made without studio backing for the production, but only the distribution. United Artists, of course, was founded as a means for filmmakers to have more control over their movies, and what remained of United Artists was partly responsibly for bringing about the lawsuit which required the major movie studios to sell off their theater chains. United Artists continued to release movies that were produced in part by production companies created by actors themselves (eg. Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, with Burt Lancaster as the big name), and perhaps that should be the starting point for the independent movies of today.

That having been said, my bigger problem is with IFC itself. Not necessarily the idea of "independent" movies and a TV channel dedicated to showing them, but what IFC has become. IFC seems to be showing more and more movies that are of questionable "independent" status, and plastering ever larger bugs in the corner of the screen. And that's when they're showing movies. It seems as though a bigger portion of their schedule is being taken up by TV series that seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with movies. At least TCM's non-movie programming is documentaries about actors and directors, or interviews with them.

For those of us who are film buffs, there probably is a need for a channel for movies that otherwise wouldn't get broader attention, which includes not only the small "independent" movies of today, but especially foreign movies, including a lot of the older classics that are just as good as the things Hollywood was putting out at the same time. It just seems a shame that there's not a large enough market for that.

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