Studio vs. Independent Film - What Are The Differences?

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Film Funding

Money is a key element in the studio vs. independent film debate that can make or break any production. Studio films secure a variety of monetary resources that make their production possible. The funding of studio films can come from private investors, film production studios, presales, product placements or a combination of sources. During a studio film’s development stage, presales can grant distribution rights of the finished project to foreign territories. These presale arrangements allow movie theaters, television networks and home video companies in foreign territories to make studio films available for their audiences during a specific timeframe. The resourceful nature of Hollywood funding is what helps producers secure money to meet multi-million dollar film budgets. Studio films also tend to include the involvement of famous actors, directors and Hollywood companies which make these projects attractive to investors.

Independent films are less likely to secure funding using the same methods as productions supported by major Hollywood studios. There are many reasons why money is difficult to find but lack of a star cast has been among the top hurdles for these types of films. Many directors or producers of independent films fund these projects using their own money because they have limited resources for film production money. Directors Spike Lee and Robert Rodriguez both made independent films outside of the Hollywood studio system before they became famous. By his own account, Rodriguez temporarily became a human lab rat for many scientific studies to get money for his first film, El Mariachi. Lee collected empty soda cans that were then sold to make money to spend on his independent film, She’s Gotta Have It. While money is not easy for some producers to obtain in the studio vs. independent film debate, funding remains possible on either side of the production spectrum.

Film Production

The production stage of filmmaking is another area where many studio films have an advantage over independent film projects. Production teams working on a studio film have access to remote locations around the world that helps add visual appeal for their projects. Hollywood studios also hire professionals who specialize in creating rain, elaborate set designs, combat, explosions or any other ideal element that helps to increase a film’s entertainment value. Independent film producers with similar needs would not likely survive in this scenario. Equipment expenses alone could potentially bankrupt an independent film before production starts. Many independent films consist of simplistic locations and minimal effects or stunts.

Men and women who produce these projects usually rely on donated goods, services and locations, which limits their options for fancy production elements. These production restrictions helps to separate quality independent films from amateur projects because the director and film crew members are forced to be creative when filming scenes. Production resources or lack thereof can cause producers to choose the side with money in a studio vs. independent film debate. There are downsides to depending on fancy effects and exotic locations when measuring a film’s potential for success. While studio films have access to advanced sources of special effects, props and expensive locations, some independent film productions still prevail using spectacular cinematography, editing and acting performances.

Film Distribution

Studio films are often produced by entities that also own a distribution company, providing an automatic sales outlet. Their credit list of star actors also gives studio films an edge when producers seek to expand their exhibition territories. A wide calendar of distribution opportunities help studio films make their production budget money back plus profits. Since they are made outside of the Hollywood studio system, independent films have a tougher chance of obtaining distribution opportunities. Producers submit these projects to film festivals and markets with the intent on attracting distribution offers from larger studios. While thousands of independent films are submitted to festivals each year, only a few get accepted to be shown and an even smaller percentage is granted theatrical distribution.