So, the next 5 films on this list:
6. Run Lola Run – For those of you who are out there saying, “Yeah, you can do drama, documentary-style, and horror with indie, but not action films because they require too much special costs,” here’s a high-intensity, high-suspense, blood-pumping movie that gets its “action” from the premise and the execution of that premise: Lola has a very limited amount of time to get something done … otherwise, something she cares about will be be in big trouble. Not only is the plot an action-based one (or action-demanding — that is, to execute it action is required), but also the character is creativity-based: Lola must solve problems to get through each obstacle in order to continue the plot.
7. The Celebration – It was called “Festen” in Danish, and it was a 1998 film about a group of family members who congregate at a house on the father’s birthday. Family conflict and various relationships are the subject of The Celebration. The budget of this film was actually $1.3 million, but how they spent that much on a small cast of people in a house I do not know. You could shoot this for nothing. Maybe the money went to actor’s fees.
This film was the first to be shot under the “Dogma 95” set of 10 rules which strictened the indie requirements for film-making, at least for those interested in this movement. Dogme 95 was proposed by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration is Vinterberg’s work). The set of 10 rules supported a type of filmmaking that was cheap and stressed story, acting and theme over more expensive and elaborate film elements.
8. Shadows – In 1959, the successful film and TV actor John Cassavettes — who had taken the money he’d made and opened up a theater and put out ads for limited time free membership — made a film that had been worked out organically at his theater. The film was called “Shadows.” The subject was one most of Hollywood wouldn’t have touched in the pre-civil rights movement era: a black young woman starts dating white men, and what this means within her family.
Filmed on streets and in buildings in a city, the premise and its demands are intensified and amplified through the progression of the film. Cassavettes later made several other pictures in the same way, using actors from his theater and “scripts” that had been worked out organically by the acting troupe.
At this point I don’t care what the other films are. The most important have already been noted. So how much of a strict Top 10 list this is, I’m not too worried. Continuing:
9. My Own Private Idaho – Unforgettable scenes and based somewhat on some of Shakespeare’s better and more famous plays (those that revolve around the young King Henry IV and the father / father-figure in his life), this film cost $2.6 million dollars to make — it has a star-studded cast and was produced professionally. I would have enjoyed it just as much if it had no stars and was shot on a handheld video camera (so long as the stars were as magnetic as Phoenix, Reeves and the others). This film has a great script and some interesting happenings, some great shots and videography, great acting, memorable characters and situations. This is a film not every kid could produce because it succeeds based on a lot of quality elements — the kind of things not every film-maker is capable of — but for those indie writer/filmmakers out there it may be an inspiration for what great writing and film-making can be in the independent — and alternative — genres.
It was shot in a lot of locations, both in America and in Italy, so you’d need at least the price of a few plane tickets to shoot something like it, or transfer the Italy-element to some other location within or nearer to your country. Locations include motels, tenements, hotels, a city park, long prairie roads, and Roman outdoor architecture.
10. A bunch of films that you don’t need to watch if you know the ones already listed –For example, “Withnail and I,” a British film about some interesting characters who get into some interesting situations in the country. If the other films in this list hadn’t been made, I might cite this one. “Slacker,” a 1991 dialogue-and-normal-life film that preceded “Clerks.” Some other great films that could be made more or less with no money, but maybe not as seminal as the ones already listed: “Last Life In The Universe,” “Love & Pop,” “Linda Linda Linda,” “Lost in Translation,” “Drugstore Cowboy,” “Beautiful Girls,” “Millenium Mambo,” and “Fargo.”
11. Breathless – Yeah, I want to mention “Breathless” by Jean Luc Goddard. A lot of his films could be shot by anyone, anywhere, for no money. The remake with Richard Gere as well.
12. Naked – I want to mention this Mike Leigh film, too. Because it’s carried off excellently. Very deep and real characters, very good writing, and some laugh-out-loud humor — similar in some ways, perhaps, to “My Own Private Idaho.” “Naked” cost almost $2 million to make, but was shot in houses, streets, empty buildings at night, and a lot of the dialogue is improvised.
Once again, the films I listed here aren’t the most successful indie films or the cheapest successful indie films that succeeded; they are successful films that anybody could have made, including you.