|Still from Ben & Grant's first film Dreams of The Wayward shot in Knoxville, TN.|
An "independent film" is simply defined as a movie that is funded and created by a means outside of traditional studio involvement. Making a film can often be an expensive endeavor, but thanks to the digital revolution that has swept through the film industry, it has become a less expensive venture and a more tangible opportunity for non-insiders to create the stories they want to tell.
|John Cassavetes working on The Killing of A Chinese Bookie (1976)|
In 1969, Independent filmmaker John Schlesinger won the Academy Award for best picture for his film Midnight Cowboy - an NC-17 drama about a male prostitute (Jon Voight). A story like this was atypical at the time (and is still an edgy piece today), but it's a perfect example of the many facets of independent filmmaking. It's an art film that features some of the more marginal corners of society, but its story-based content makes the protagonist's journey more colorful and true.
Looking at independent films from a distance, the mainstream movie audience could easily misinterpret the intent of these movies as "dirty" and unnecessarily immoral - when in reality, there are so many life lessons to be learned from these works. Recently, Nashville native Harmony Korine's latest film Spring Breakers was released theatrically across the nation. The film is marketed as one would imagine a film with that title would be - sex, drugs, and parties - when in reality, the film is an indictment of that culture. Yes, many independent films indulge in content of that nature - and some have good intentions and others have bad intentions, but the same can said of contemporary Hollywood films.
For now, Ben and I aren't making films about male prostitutes (nor do we currently intend to), but there is so much untapped potential in our hometown of Knoxville, TN for serious films to be made. It's easy for the South to get underestimated for story potential - and a lot of times the talent that doesn't migrate to Hollywood isn't as respected. It's almost expected that films made in Tennessee will only be about farm life and romanticize the South - which a lot of films made here are about that kind of stuff, but they don't have to be.
We had made short films before, but approaching a feature film was a different kind of beast. The process was a challenge on several fronts: naturally, it's a long-time struggle and commitment to create a singular film, making a feature-length film is a process that is not a perfect science, you don't know that you can make a feature film until you actually finish it, and until you finish the film there are no guarantees that the film will "work" until it's been edited together (in addition to all the struggles with financing and the logistics of actually shooting). We are currently trying to submit our film into film festivals (the festival submission process being a learning experience all by itself), but while we are waiting we are already preparing for our second feature film, The Days That Follow, which will begin shooting in Knoxville this July.
Making our first feature was an incredible learning experience, but now that we're moving onto our next film, the slate is clean as we approach a new story and try to bring it to life as well. Knoxville is our home - in the same way that Portland, Oregon was Gus Van Sant's home when he made his debut film Mala Noche in 1986 or how Austin, Texas was Richard Linklater's with It's Impossible To Learn How To Plow By Reading Books (1988) or Slacker (1991). Will our new film work? We hope so, but we honestly don't know - it's all a risk... Naturally, a risk worth taking.
Photo of John Cassavetes: http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2683-cassavetes-at-work
Info on Dreams of The Wayward: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2329110/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1