The Future of Indie Film Studios in Times of Crisis

Erica Ostlander discusses the current landscape for indie film studios and how they can and are adapting to the current crisis


Image(s): Daily News


Amidst the pushbacks of blockbuster releases and massive budget cuts for films under the reign of COVID-19, there is a unique window for indie production companies to either shine or be extinguished under the pressure of a pandemic. Back in March, when COVID restrictions were just beginning to be announced, insurance companies immediately backed out of providing pandemic insurance coverage for film productions. Independent producers turned to bond-backed financing, but even big-name Hollywood studios are unable to become fully bonded in this current economic landscape, which is one of the worst in the last century. Unfortunately, as soon as the insurance companies called off their support, hundreds of films were called off production. Some studios are taking on these hardships in stride by turning to more investors to finance their productions, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult to convince someone to support something that may never see the light of day. There is, however, a silver lining as this is allowing more small passion projects to be put into production. Studios are currently downsizing with smaller casts and have begun taking risks with unconventional scripts, and since Hollywood has pushed back major releases like Black Widow and the next James Bond film, No Time to Die, small organisations have an opportunity to reach people who are looking to satisfy their hunger for fresh entertainment. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a French period piece about the forbidden romance between an aristocrat and her commissioned painter and is now one of the most-watched films in 2020, grossing an unexpected amount of large financial gain. This proves that niche movies are now being seen by more eyes, but the question is whether they will have continued support from digital streamers who play a key role in supplying entertainment in 2020 and the recruitment of investors.


Digital streaming is a new era of film, and many studios are turning to Netflix and other streaming platforms to keep their studios afloat and convince skeptical investors to support their projects, but as of late, Netflix is turning to more big-name films due to an increase of competition with streaming services like Disney+ entering the market. For example, the anthology series Homemade, released on Netflix on June 30th is a series of short films focusing on giving a mini snapshot of people’s lives in this pandemic. Acclaimed filmmakers around the world including the likes of Gurinder Chadha and Paolo Sorrentino, were tasked to make a film in line with the new safety guidelines and many even decided to film in their own homes. Looking through the series, one can see that these filmmakers turned to some off-beat means of production through recycled home videos, plastic figures, screen-recorded text conversations, and other unique methodologies in filming these small projects. This was meant to be a message of unity to all those struggling under great financial and social pressures but despite my appreciation for the eccentric short films, who were they actually supporting in this crisis? Indie studios are desperately searching for an outlet to gain revenue while making films they are passionate about and options are becoming increasingly slim. It is my hope that streaming platforms will soon act as the lifeboat they need to keep up with the quickly evolving nature of cinema in a crisis.