Remember “Get Out” by Jordan Peele? The movie arguably changed the landscape of the horror genre. The low budget independent film went on to win the 2018 Oscar and make $255 million. “Moonlight,” an independent film made for $1.5 million, won the 2016 Oscar for best picture. “Parasite,” a Korean black comedy thriller exploring social inequality, also won the Oscar this week. Independent films are on the rise, as a counterbalance to big studio movies and franchises. Not backed by a major studio or production house, they allow emerging filmmakers to be more experimental, have more creative control, and focus on more complex narratives.
While making an independent film affords creative vision, with the potential of a low investment and high reward, the flip side to this coin is that because there aren’t big studios and production houses backing them, it can be hard for them to secure distribution. Independent movies can earn Oscar nominations but only have limited release in theaters. This means that although these great films exist, there aren’t many platforms where viewers can see raw visionary cinema or discover emerging filmmakers. If you are one of these viewers, then IndieFlo might just be for you.
Nicole D’Souza is building IndieFlo as a platform to showcase independent films. D’Souza is a senior majoring in Women and Gender Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences with a concentration in film and media studies. “Today, in Hollywood or mainstream film industry, there are a lot of remakes and adaptations, but I consider Independent film to be original stories,” opines D’Souza. According to her, independent movies haven’t had a suitable arena where a viewer can collectively view them.
D’Souza who had always wanted to have a career in independent films, realized that these films are rarely as popular as mainstream films. “I always wanted to be an independent filmmaker, but then I realized that a lot of these films go unseen. There is really not much marketing for independent films in the United States.” She has a point. According to Filmproposals.com, the film industry, encompassing genres like comedy, horror, action and indie, grew from $88.3 billion in 2013 to $110.1 billion in 2018. Naturally, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have each taken active steps to capitalize on this growth. They’ve either taken on new distribution contracts or started in house productions of film and TV series like ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Jack Ryan.’ However, despite this massive growth, indie films still make up a small percentage of growth. Filmdaily’s Amy Roberts, titled her article on this phenomenon, ‘Netflix and shill: Why the streaming services are where indie films go to die’
D’Souza aims to create a streaming service catered exclusively towards indie films. As an independent filmmaker the process to have your film on her service would be simple. You would submit the film through FilmFreeway.com, after which the IndieFlo team would then curate films to assess quality. Then IndieFlo would decide to either add the film to the menu or not. In this way, the process works much like a festival application.
D’Souza says her passion for cinema began in childhood. Growing up in New York City, but originally from India, she spent time in the realm of Bollywood, because her father’s work regularly exposed her to Bollywood film making. She had noticed that Bollywood wasn’t an original storytelling business. Many of the films in that industry were either ‘inspired by’ films from other film industries and or featured similar narratives. Once she moved to the United States, she realized that Hollywood storytelling was much of the same. However, she found herself drawn to the regional films and stories due to their original content. Unlike the films on the big screen, D’Souza observed that this kind of content was much more interesting and engaging. Many of the television films she enjoyed most were indies, which would eventually lead her to come up with Indie Flo.
Her idea is still at the conceptial stage, but she has come a long way since coming up with the idea. She is working on assembling tech talent and funding to help move it to the next stage. She also notes the helpful hand that the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University has lent. D’Souza who had initially walked into the LaunchPad with nothing but an idea, has begun to work on implementation. She has brought on new members who are currently making the idea a reality through computer wizardry and effective marketing. She hopes to the have the initial platform up and running a year from now.
For other indie film aficionados, this could mean an end to mindless Netflix scrolling, and an easier way to find an entire catalog of quality independent films which are engaging. She’s hoping IndieFlo will be the first glimpse at future award-winning filmmakers, and a chance to catch a rising star.
Story by Krishna Pamidi, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow