Why Make Independent Films?
Independent filmmaking can be incredibly rewarding. We spend a lot of time talking about the big-budget blockbusters. These are the films that capture headlines and dominate the box office. There is, however, something special about the small films that tell stories based on characters and plot twists rather than special effects and celebrity cameos. In fact, some low-budget independent films have been highly successful and gone on to become some of the most loved by fans around the world. Below are some of the best examples of independent films that had huge success.
John Carpenter’s original Halloween stands as one of the most successful independent films of all time. It also went on to become one of the most successful and loved horror franchises in history spawning nearly a dozen sequels and reboots. It’s amazing when you think about how iconic these films are that the original was filmed with a tiny budget and very little to work with. Fun fact: The production had no makeup and wardrobe department. Unlike most productions, the majority of actors wore their own clothes in the film. Jaimie Lee Curtis provided her own wardrobe for her character, buying close specifically for the role to match the personality of Lori Strode.
The Blair Witch Project
When this film came out, it was a huge success. What made this one such a hit was that it was not only well-made and entertaining to audiences, but a successful marketing campaign made it that movie everyone was talking about. While big-budget movies dump millions on advertising, Blair Witch was one of the best word-of-mouth campaigns ever. The filmmakers were able to create excitement in the community by making it seem like it was something real, and something that you had to see to believe. This film is an incredible example of what you can accomplish with a small budget and a lot of creativity. It’s also worth noting that The Blair Witch Project basically created the wave of “Found Footage” films that took over the horror scene with movies like Paranormal Activity.
So, you might notice a theme in this list. Horror movies present some of the best examples of indie film success and we will end with another big one, but we wanted to take a quick break to talk about Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith is definitely one of the most influential indie filmmakers of all time. He has legions of fans and has created his own interconnected universe spanning multiple films. None of this would have happened if he had not started with Clerks. Clerks was filmed on a small budget mostly taking place in a convenience store and accompanying video store. The locations used were the actual stores where a young Kevin Smith worked. A man with a camera and some creativity made a film in his own little piece of the world and turned it into a long and prosperous career.
Night of the Living Dead
Okay, we told you, back to horror. Halloween and Blair Witch launched many sequels and imitators, but the original Night of the Living Dead created an entire culture that it’s hard to imagine the entertainment world without. If you have ever watched Zombie Land, watched The Walking Dead on TV or read the comics which inspired it, you have to know that none of this would exist without George Romero’s 1960s classic Night of the Living Dead. We have seen so many of these zombies stories play out in film and other media that it’s hard to imagine a time without these stories. Romero started the whole genre way back then and had limited cast and almost no budget to do it with. Fun fact: Most of the zombies were unpaid extras. In fact, they were largely local residents of the town where the movie was filmed. The movie was really pulled together with whatever Romero could get his hands on, and obviously it worked.
When you look at the above examples of film success and also remember that major studios have lost millions of dollars on huge movies that failed at the box office, it’s clear that the quality of the story and creative vision is the most important thing. If you are an aspiring filmmaker, don’t limit yourself by thinking you have to make big Hollywood connections and get someone to invest millions in your movie. With some creativity and dedication, you could make the next big thing.