The first independent film I remember watching was Todd Solondz’s Welcome To The Dollhouse. The film was released when I was 6-years-old, so I must’ve watched way after 1996, but I can’t recall exactly when that was (for sure it was before my teen years). The film, though, made a huge impact on my tiny little brain. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I connected to Dawn Wiener on personal level, also feeling nerdy, unattractive and unpopular in a semi-suburban community.
Welcome To The Dollhouse is my favorite independent film. But when I first watched it, I wasn’t aware of the term “indie film.” Movies didn’t have budgets. Now I know better, and when it comes to films, indies are just better.
Hand Drawn Fonts
Hand drawn fronts have gotten a little overrated and cliche lately, but back when Wes Anderson was first doing it (for Rushmore), it was something pretty darn unique. Hand drawn fonts or other type of artwork take time and dedication, and that says a lot about a filmmaker and his movie.
Everyone Smokes And Looks Cool Doing It
I know smoking kills you, but I will never change my mind about it: smoking looks cool, especially during dialogue scenes.
Quirky dancing mainly applies to indie dramadies (you won’t see anyone getting their groove on in Primer). Movies like Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine and Welcome To The Dollhouse all have moments in which a character (or characters) dance quirky onstage, or on top of a car. It’s not really about entertaining the audience with outrageous movies, but more like a statement about the character’s personality.
Slow Motion Sequences
If done right, a slow motion (or time-lapse) sequence can be a very memorable moment. This moment (above) in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favorites because it captures what the characters are feeling without saying anything. It’s all in the editing.
Beautiful Underwater Shots
Underwater shots can get expensive, which is why I’m surprised to see them in indie movies. But with the right music, they always pay off.
The Soundtrack, Obviously
Soundtracks are a huge part of indie movies. The music helps us know the characters, what they’re feeling and what their personalities are like. The music then becomes another character in the movie, and a compliment to the work as a whole. It’s also a great way of discovering new music.