Talking movies: A guide to independent movies


Independent films often have poetic, melancholy titles like Broken Flowers, Blue Valentine and Melancholia (pictured). Many of them are bummers, but in an artsy intellectual way that will make you feel more worldly and grown-up.

It’s that magical time of year again, friends, when the gnats twinkle their little wings in the mucus of your eyeballs, your sneaker soles melt into the hot-ass asphalt like long lost lovers finally doin’ it and sweat glistens and steams in every butt crack. Ah, July!

Did you know that our beloved city’s frigid meat lockers also double as movie theaters? It’s true! That’s why you (or your smaller date) are always shivering during those blockbusters. Ah, blockbusters! Blockbusters are the vanilla sex of movies: predictable, reliable, an hour and a half long. The handsome guys beat the other guys, there are some firework-y explosions and the girls find true love. Blah blah blah.

If you’re bored of this formula and would like to experiment with a movie that has a few more twists, turns and kinks, consider choosing an independent film. To help you improve your movie life, I’ve developed a handy-dandy guide to indie film, as follows, so incredibly handy and dandy that you will not only gain a comprehensive expertise, you will be able to create your own independent film immediately upon finishing reading this article. Let’s start, shall we?

What is Independent Film?

You know the category on your Netflix where one in five movie covers has two women kissing moodily on it? And then the rest of the covers have somebody really small in the corner looking at the camera and not having fun? That’s the independent film category.

Independent films are made independently of the “dependent” film studios, the studios that depend on people liking a movie in order to make money. “Dependent” films typically portray conventional heterosexual monogamous love, feature violence as a form of entertainment and explore the shallow end of the ethics pool by posing questions such as, “is good better than evil?” They are fun and popular and they make money.

Independent films, on the other hand, tend to be too thorny, sad, angry, horny, boring and generally unconventional to be successful as a “dependent” film. Independent films often have poetic, melancholy titles like Broken Flowers, Blue Valentine and Melancholia. Many of them are bummers, but in an artsy intellectual way that will make you feel more worldly and grown-up.

What are Independent Films About?

This is the fun thing about independent films: They can be about anything! Indy film is a bunch of wacko filmmakers doing whatever they want with a camera regardless of whether it is watchable or likeable … but luckily it often is anyway. They can be about the invention of the vibrator (Hysteria), a transvestite in the 19th century (Albert Nobbs), or ??? (Holy Motors).

Another fun fact is that you are 300 percent more likely to see a boob in an independent film than in a conventional film, according to science probably. You are also 500,000 times more likely to see a penis. Independent film explores things blockbusters just don’t; things like the sexual chronicles of a French family (Sexual Chronicles of a French Family), the hardships of daily life on the Oregon Trail (Meek’s Cutoff) or gay stuff (pick one).

How do Independent Films Get Made?

Here’s what’s happening this month:

Hey, but you know, blockbusters are great too. Especially when they’re outside! Summer of the Arts brings us all some family-compatible blockbusters and classics on the Pentacrest lawn at sundown … or, if it’s raining, in the auditorium inside the Natural History Museum.

Vertigo (1958)
July 20

This classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller stars a dizzy Jimmy Stewart and a suicidal blonde lady. See why they say Hitchcock is a master of suspense. Sure to send you reeling in terror!

Hairspray (2007)
July 27

Everything you want in a lighthearted musical Hairspray’s got: a plucky big girl, John Travolta in drag, dancing on tv, a historical backdrop that addresses race relations in the United States, sparkly dresses and … music! You Can’t Stop the Beat…ings!

When two adult films love each other very much, they hug a special super-tight hug and nine minutes later a new film is released. No, wait … that’s how more adult films get made. For an independent film, first a starry-eyed director/writer/creative visionary has an idea for a movie; for example a moody drama about a balloon poodle. Then Starry Eyes develops a pitch: Ophelia the lonely balloon poodle is so lonely she’s about to pop herself until she meets a lonely mystery fetishist who may just be the answer to her loneliness. Then our pal Starry Eyeballs takes that pitch to a buncha different studios, hoping one will pick it up. Obviously, there is too much loneliness in Starball’s pitch for a big studio to spend money making Ballonely Hearts, so Starballs is laughed down repeatedly until she or he decides to make the damn movie shirmself. Starballs then begs rich people for money, assembles a rag-tag movie crew and feeds them little ham sandwiches every day until the project is complete. And … Voila! A baby indie film is born!

There you have it! Now you’re an expert on independent film. Your support of weird film helps sustain wacko artists and propagates more movies outside the cookie-cutter blockbuster model we all tire of once in awhile. If you celebrated Independence Day but still can’t bring your idiot self to give independent film a chance, well then, you’re a hypocrite and an America-hating fraud. So go forth: Enjoy some kinky, mopey, wonderful independent film. And hey, if you’ve got some looney-tunes batty idea for a movie that you would probably never EVER in a million years see on the big screen, get off your stupid butt and make that stupid movie your stupid self! Good luck!

Kit Bryant lives in Iowa City with her valid alibi and several innocuous non-lethal pastimes. Outside the workplace, she enjoys sarcasm, light spanking and fleetingmoments of hope and levity. Her blog is


One thought on “Talking movies: A guide to independent movies

  1. First of all, loved the article, this author is my new go to film reviewer.
    The only thing that I must bring up is how sad recent Indy films have made me. It seems that a large number are as predictable as blockbusters. Am I the only one that feels like navel-gazing, mumble core is filling the Indy landscape? Indy films that used to represent all non mainstream filmmaking has become more and more linked to a particular sub genre. Perhaps all we need is a ferrywoman across the murky Indy river. I think that Byrant might be that guide. The films mentioned in this great article are prime examples of the medium. Hairspray, in particular, is no where near mainstream and will certainly not be predictable.

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