By Rach Hopkins It has been said that every idiot with an iPhone thinks he or she is a photographer. In the case of actual professional photographers I completely understand being frustrated, however, aren’t iPhone photographers just expressing their own free creativity? Something amazing happens when a world of free speakers, free thinkers and free creators are bestowed with incredible technology. That something is the independent entertainment industry. While the iPhone photographers aren’t likely to take jobs from hardworking professionals, there are other idiots with technology who have contributed to the arts in amazing ways. Every idiot with a video camera thinks he or she is a film maker, and some of these idiots make fantastic films. Every idiot with a keyboard thinks he or she is a writer –and this is a fact I can personally vouch for- but some of these idiots write amazing pieces worth reading. The industry of amateur arts contains some incredible stories made by people with little resources who create simply because they want to, not because they are paid to. Here are three of my favourite indie gems:
1: John Dies at the End by David Wong
Did you ever see such a spoilery title? This is the story of a supernatural drug nicknamed ‘Soy Sauce’. This drug is a living thing which destroys the walls between realities for the consumer, in this case David Wong. Suddenly every moment between the beginning and the end of all time is interchangeable, every plane of reality melds into one and every bump in the night reveals itself to David. Receiving psychically linked phone calls from your dead friend via a hotdog is unusual to most; however this is actually the least crazy thing David has to deal with in this novel.
This book began as David Wong’s random short story about hunting monsters with his friend John. It was a single blog post among many he had written, but some people liked it and wanted more. The story was turned into a series, and then into a book. Someone important must have liked this book because it has since been made into a movie. John Dies at the End embraces the limitless nature of independent stories to create an incredibly unique horror/Sci-Fi that will either:
a) Mess with your head and make you want more b) Mess with your head and make you throw the book across the room while shouting “WHAT DID I JUST READ?!”
If experience a) is what you relate to, go check out the sequel ‘This Book is Made of Spiders, Seriously Don’t Touch It’.
2: For Lovers Only
If you are a sucker for romance, an admirer of the beautiful country of France, or just someone who likes watching people make out in black and white, For Lovers Only is the film for you. The story follows Sofia (Stana Katic, known for her role as Detective Beckett on Castle) and Yves (Mark Polish, not really known for much other than a few indie films but who cares because Stana Katic), two ex-lovers who have both fallen into miserable marriages since their separation. They run into each other in Paris and decide to run away together. That’s basically it. There is a lot of romantic stuff. Lots of shots with Sofia looking lush.
I am going to admit that I only watched this movie because it stars Stana Katic, who has proven through several awful films that her acting is just as amazing when the story sucks. I will also admit that there is some incredible artistic beauty in the filming and writing of For Lovers Only. As much as I hate the lack of substance in the love story side of the film, I cannot help but be impressed by the amount of depth and realism in the tragedy side of it. For the first half I wonder why I am watching, then in the second half I am being moved by words that were spoken in conversation but flow like poetry.
Katic and the Polish brothers decided to make this film out of a spontaneous desire to create something beautiful. Michael Polish, who directed the film, used a camera he already owned and the three of them paid their own fair to France. The budget for this film was zero and through nothing but an iTunes release it made over half a million dollars. This is about as indie as indie can get. It is set in a foreign country, stars fairly unknown actors, and is in black and white. If you choose to watch this movie out of curiosity, absorb it like an artwork. Then rake in your bonus hipster points.
3: Joss Whedon’s Much Ado about Nothing The plot of Much Ado is as follows: Benedick and Beatrice verbally spar while their friends create a scheme to make them fall in love. Everyone drinks and parties a lot. It is your basic romantic comedy beautifully shaped by William Shakespeare’s lovely words. This version is a black and white film in a modern setting made with only the money and resources the director had to offer. Sounds pretty indie, right?
Indie films are not just for amateurs. Joss Whedon, king of geeks, is the creator of such iconic television series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly. He directed and wrote The Avengers and is now a key voice in all things Marvel. This is a man who struggled through industry wide creative rejection to finally make it to the top. So what does he do on his two week break from filming the third highest grossing film of all time? He films a Shakespearean romantic comedy at his house. Granted this indie film has many advantages over other small productions. The director has a lot of actor friends, his house is amazing, and the script was already written for him. Some may argue that this does not count as an indie film, but I think a Shakespeare play filmed in a guy’s house over two weeks then presented in black and white fits the indie description perfectly.
Cinematically speaking, Much Ado about Nothing is beautiful. The musical score, written by Whedon and various members of his family, glides through the mood of each scene with grace and finesse. While the script is the original play the direction helps the audience to get into the flow of the language, keeping them interested regardless of their previous exposure to Shakespearean language. Another element that plays a great role in achieving this is the acting, which is fantastic. Many of the characters Whedon killed in his TV shows are alive again in this film, thanks to him keeping in touch with basically everyone he has ever worked with. It is like Whedon’s thank you gift to the fans who have suffered through every heartbreaking moment he created for them. In every tiny cinema that actually played this movie you could hear at least one hard core Whedonite say “just this once, everybody lives!”
The industry of independent arts is an excellent product of our freedom. We have freedom to write stories about monsters made entirely of frozen meat*, freedom to film a story of infidelity across the French countryside, and freedom to take someone else’s story and have your friends recreate it in your backyard. To all the bitter people complaining that every idiot thinks they are an artist, you are one of those idiots. Now go and create some art.
*this is an actual plot line in John Dies at the End. I swear I am not making it up the book is just crazy.
Rach Hopkins is a severe story addict making no efforts toward recovery. She is enrolled at UNE studying a Bachelor of Arts doing a double major in English and writing in order to feed into her filthy habit and increase the quality of her own product.