How Indie Film Can Make 'Story' the Comeback King
With A-list talent being tied up by studios and TV shows, why not make 'story' the next big thing?
How Indie Film Can Make 'Story' the Comeback King
© Ida Alwin
By Ida Alwin /

Variety put out an article recently that struck a cord with me.   It covered the fact that superhero movies (and television) are tying up all the A-listers, making it difficult for independent Producers to secure a shiny star in order to get their deals sealed at the Cannes Festival.  The headline read that “superhero movies” are “causing headaches” at Cannes.  They’re accurate in their observations.  These flicks are causing problems for indies, but the reasoning why doesn’t go deep enough down the rabbit hole for me.


As we continue to develop our current feature film, lessons learnt along the way are not only invaluable now, but also key for our future projects.  That said, these days the film industry is in a constant state of flux for all sorts of reasons, and one can’t swing an 8K camera without hitting a contrasting opinion on which route will lead a project to glory.   One thing everyone does agree on however (and are not afraid to share) is that to get an indie film made the project needs a “star”, and it has been the most prevalent piece of advice we’ve received to date.  It is of course not the only way to get a film made but, according to the most seasoned among us, it’s the surest.


A few years back there was a British advertising campaign that addressed film piracy.  Daniel Craig took us on a tour of the Quantum Solace set and showed us all the swathes of hard working people behind-the-scenes that make the magic of film possible.  All these people’s livelihoods were threatened because of the devastating effects piracy had on the industry, he told us. The bit he left out was the fact that what threatened their jobs on an even more fundamental level was the absence of a recognizable name at the festivals.


Why are so many funding strategies built on the premise of nabbing a big name?  After all, A New Hope didn’t need a Dustin Hoffman or Robert Redford to make it the highest grossing film of 1977, in the same way that Johnny Depp couldn’t redeem Lone Ranger.  It’s simply the fact that business loves, along with the shortest route to success, an algorithm that proves its validity.  Throwing money at a tried and tested solution of securing a star is a lot easier than taking a chance on great content.


Storytelling at its fundamental core is at odds with the business of economics.  Storytelling is good for the soul; it inspires and captivates the imagination, all the while telling us something about where we have come from, and where we are going.  George Steiner articulated some discerning truths when he suggested that the business community had pillaged mathematics and the sciences for their qualities of “exactitude” and “predictability”, and the business community are not afraid to use those disciplines to kill any story that might stand in the way of international sales or beyond.


Domestic market returns are not enough for studios, persistent box office troubles means heavier and heavier reliance on sales outside the US, and familiar faces sell in any language.  But in creating broadly appealing content, we’ve lost genuinely engaging narrative that explores subjects and characters that are significant to us on a personal level.  The arts have always been about reflecting the state of our societies back at us, and film is no different.  When you are trying to appeal to absolutely everyone, any true cultural significance is lost.


Meanwhile, Studies have shown that minorities in the US, for example, yearn to see themselves represented on screen.  Yet diversity on-screen is significantly lacking with often ridiculous results.  The movies we watch do not reflect our numbers.  The irony is that greater diversity in film would boost box office numbers, and not just domestically.  The studios, who are not yet taking this kind of data in to serious consideration, are giving indie productions a massive gift; the opportunity to take up the reins where studios cannot (or will not) and tell the intimate stories of the people.  Yes, celebrities will have a role to play in pop culture for the foreseeable future, but they don’t have to be the only way to make a film sucessful.  The sooner our industry takes this on board, the sooner we can make ‘story’ the star of the show again.


At a Women’s industry event recently, Jody Foster lamented, “[Film is] where art and commerce come together, and commerce is winning”.  For now, that’s true.

4.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 12,827 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 8,564 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 7,670 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 5,246 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 5,141 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 3,049 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 2,652 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Who I'm Voting For...
3 min · 2,349 views today · Prince Ea announces who he's voting for. It's probably not who you think.
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 2,131 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 1,797 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 1,769 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
These Incredible Stories Remind Us of Our Better Selves
36 min · 1,597 views today · #WhoWeAre is a campaign to share the stories of people whose actions show us compassion and to send a message of empathy, hope and optimism. These videos will automatically...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,570 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
#Hypernormalisation - Why Heathrow Plan Is Proof We Exist in a Catastrophic Fantasyland
Matthew Adams · 1,539 views today · The British government recently gave the green light for Heathrow airport’s third runway. It was heralded by its supporters as a vital boost for jobs and growth – and proof...
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 1,186 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
'Maritime Graveyard': 2016 Deadliest Year Ever for Refugees Crossing Mediterranean
Deirdre Fulton · 739 views today · "From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiraled to one in 88," says UNHCR spokesman
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 619 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 612 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 573 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 474 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
How Indie Film Can Make 'Story' the Comeback King