Will the Independent film continue to thrive?
Updated: Jun 20, 2021
Awards season this year saw very little big studio films being nominated, letting independent films thrive in categories like Special Effects and Production Design where usually blockbusters would take the gong.
With people stuck inside, it has forced many to seek out new content on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. And when original films for each of these platforms are released, more people see it than they would in an ordinary world.
When cinemas briefly reopened in the Autumn of 2020, few studios decided to release content at the risk of a lack of response. Tenet was the biggest release, and although it was met with mixed reviews, it was responsible for most cinema-going traffic. Saint Maud was another release in that strange period of time, a film that ordinarily wouldn't have performed too well. But with cinema-goers running out of choice, Saint Maud's popularity was given an unanticipated boost.
People are beginning to recognise that support must be given to smaller films as the money means a lot more to them than it does to the larger studios. Rocks, which released on Netflix in 2020, would ordinarily be a film to undeservedly slip under the radar, but with the start to this new decade being so damn crazy, Rocks thrived, being nominated for awards and loved by many.
But will they continue to survive?
One would hope that the affirmation that people have retained for smaller indie films will continue. As films like Top Gun: Maverick, West Side Story and the many many Marvel films are preparing for cinema releases, will people be able to put aside the time and the money for the independent projects?
In March 2019, an independent film The Peanut Butter Falcon was released. I visited my local cinema to see this on its' initial release and there were three other people in the room. This was on one of the earlier days of its short run on the big screen. Whereas upon its Netflix UK release peak lockdown, it was on the site's Top 10 most popular and it was reviewed and logged more on sites like Letterboxd and Rotten Tomatoes. People have been looking for content, but now we have to hope that they will continue to look, and remember the good times had during the pandemic when watching independent films.
Nomadland has been quite the revelation in 2021. It not only won big at the Oscars and BAFTAS but it got its' initial UK release on Disney+. And again, more people did watch it. Often the big award contenders are harder to source for non-indie lovers, but with this year putting seven of the eight best picture nominations on streaming platforms, those films became easier to consume. The return to cinemas has seen most of these seven receiving a big screen release in some capacity, but they have been met with smaller audiences than that of say, big blockbuster Godzilla vs. Kong or new Disney prequel Cruella.
Some people say that independent films are better suited to smaller screens and blockbusters to bigger ones, but to those people I say false. Nomadland would have been so much better on an initial viewing on the big screen, and the same can be said for most of the successful indie projects released so far this year.
One of the biggest indie releases of this coming summer will be Edgar Wright's 6th feature Last Night in Soho. Wright's last film Baby Driver has become more critically acclaimed and commercially loved as time has gone by. Upon its' initial release it slipped into the background a little, with little buzz or social marketing. With the director's boost in popularity since, and more respect growing for independent films, let's hope that Last Night in Soho will be an initial test and a concrete example that independent films have what it takes to survive in such a competitive industry.
Last Night in Soho is scheduled for cinema release in October 2021