Once upon a time, the term ‘American independent cinema’ designated an approach to filmmaking that was personal in outlook, regional in sensibility and European in aspiration. The goal of the movement was to learn from the European Art House movement of the 1960s and apply those lessons to films that looked beyond shoot-em-ups and courtroom dramas to what it really meant to be an American in the 20th Century. While the movement produced a wide array of different films, it is best known for its most successful work: Stephen Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989).
As Peter Biskind notes in Down and Dirty Pictures (2004), the astronomical amounts of money generated by Sex, Lies, and Videotape kicked off a boom period for American independent film. Suddenly, American indies were big business but in order for them to stay big business it was necessary to replicate that success over and over again. The film industry has always reacted to unexpected success by repetition and the success of American independent films were no exception to this and so a template began to emerge allowing studios to keep making the same films for the same audience over and over again.
Here is my guide to creating an American independent film: