So, we all know who won by now. But what do the Oscars really mean for independent filmmakers? If nothing else, the Academy Awards are an opportunity to raise and discuss current issues within the industry and promote change in how we make films. As independent filmmakers, it’s important to take into account what’s happening on a wider, global scale within film production to understand how we make films and the importance of the creative decisions we make. Here are some takeaways from this year’s Oscars that are particularly important for indie filmmakers over the coming year…

Horror is on the rise…

With the success of It breaking September BO records and the rise of original, cult successes such as It Follows, there has been a recent, notable change in the genre. The last time horror got a serious look-in at the Oscars was back in 1991 when Silence of the Lambs won the coveted ‘Big Five’ awards (the third film in Oscars history to ever achieve the sweep). Get Out’s win marks a significant moment within both the horror genre and within the film industry itself. After a humiliating year for the Academy in 2016 (the year infamously dubbed #OscarsSoWhite) Get Out (released 2017) was able to champion black filmmakers and black narratives, whilst tackling the ever-present issue of race in cinema through its storyline. The taboo issues tackled within the narrative, and it’s explicit tackling of black/white relationships, has led to it being the cult success of the year for the genre. With its many nominations and accolades across various festivals and awards organisations, Get Out has changed the playing field for horrors to come. So, take the leap, be original, be daring – as Get Out has challenged preconceptions of the genre and blazed a trail for upcoming horror films to be critically acknowledged again.

Female-centric narratives are winning big – but female creatives are needed in the process…

If you think about films nominated at the Oscars this year, such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water, Ladybird, The Post, I, Tonya and The Florida Project, these films are not only centred around female protagonists but also around the female experience. However, only one of the above films was directed by a woman. It’s clear that female narratives are being cried out for with the rise of this year’s ‘Times Up’ campaign being the war cry of female creatives in the industry. So, why are so few women behind these films that focus on women in front of the camera? As Frances McDormand’s incendiary speech put so well, we all have stories to tell. Make sure that your crew represents your characters on screen and become a positive example of change in the industry. Here’s some tips on how to support #TimesUp when directing indie films.

Be part of defining a new ‘norm’ in cinema…

Back in the classical Hollywood Golden Age, it was probably okay to assume your actors would be cisgender or in heterosexual relationships. But as streaming services are storming ahead with commissioning diverse content, it’s more important than ever to disregard your idea of ‘normal’ narratives, and make sure that you help define a new ‘normal’ within your work. Who says a mute woman can’t fall in love with a fish? It’s 2018 – nothing’s off limits. Queer success Call Me By Your Name took the gong for Best Adapted Screenplay and films like A Fantastic Woman and The Silent Child have been rewarded this year, and rightly so, as they promote inclusion and ensure that their casting is representative of their characters. That’s not to say cis actors cannot portray trans characters, and the same with characters who have a disability – however, if you are not creating roles for actors that represent them, then you are also not necessarily creating content for those audiences whom you’re portraying on screen.  Unless you are actively creating roles, both within your cast and crew, for diversity, then nothing will change. Be a part of reshaping the landscape of cinema and the film industry in years to come!

Animators – keep exploring new modes of design!

Coco took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and what a success it is for transnational narratives. Following on from the success of Moana the previous year and Zootopia before it, animation is opening up new ways of expressing diversity in an entertaining and educational way. These films promote inclusion and understanding for audiences of any age, and it’s important that animation continues to create new ways for different cultures to be represented and celebrated on screen. Loving Vincent (although we all know Pixar would take it, but still…) received such acclaim for being the first fully-painted feature film – and there’s so much potential in where this can go. Animation seems to be an untapped resource for mature narratives, and it’s great to see a film like Loving Vincent in a category usually dominated by juvenile narratives, so let’s see if we can’t change that status quo in years to come…

Don’t be afraid to write about real-life situations…

The Big Sick and The Disaster Artist both found themselves in the arena for best screenplays (both original and adapted) after adapting either personal or real-life events and reiterating them on screen. And both Alison Janney and Gary Oldman were praised for their portrayal of real characters. Don’t be afraid to write about your own life or lives of people you know. Even events that may have happened around you – as long as you are invested in something and have the drive to tell it well, then it could be incredibly successful. If elements of your story lie in truth, then people can easily empathise with real-life characters and situations.

 

If you want to read more on the Oscars, here are some things we can learn from the rest of the nominated films this year.

mm

About 

Kathryn is an MA graduate in Film and Television from The University of Bristol. After moving from the depths of the countryside, Kathryn has swapped fields for filmmaking and has recently worked as a Production Assistant for Baby Cow. Kathryn continues to make informative (read: hilarious) videos with fellow Raindancer Dusan, and hopes to pursue a career in the film industry to financially support her cat.

  • linkedin