The phrase “independent film” is a curious item. To some, indie film involves a gaggle of bona fide Hollywood stars and celebrities featured in a weird or unlikely movie, either an unforgiving drama or a surreal mind bender; think The Wrestler or The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. To others, an independent film simply consists of a no-name cast as well as a no-name director; films like Stranger Than Paradise and She’s Gotta Have It come to mind. And to others still, independent cinema is all about budget; the cheaper the film is to make, the more indie it is considered to be.

So what might be considered truly independent as it relates to today’s culture and aesthetic mores? It could be argued that the true independent spirit of the visual arts can be found at scores of amazing film festivals around the world. It is true many of the top-ten film festivals or even the top-fifty cater to celebrities, distribution deals, and Hollywood mojo, but there are awesome festivals which lie beyond the money and strictures of Sundance, Berlin, and Tribeca. As it is, many of the filmmakers who submit to these lesser-known fests could give a rip about what is supposed to make a great film. These are writers and directors who aren’t necessarily looking for studio financing or William Morris Agency representation, but instead are hellbent on making a personal, singular, uncompromising, and mind-blowing film, travel from festival to festival like celluloid hunter gatherers picking up resources, advice, talent, and wisdom along the way. They are primarily interested in showing their films and communing with fellow independents who are either bored or unsatisfied with the normal cineplex fare.

There is much to admire about the structure of big-budget and low-budget Hollywood films. The hero’s journey is a tried and true technique which has yielded great, thrilling, and heroic films as well as enormous remuneration for everyone involved. But there’s something to be said for throwing the rules out the window and going with your gut, being experimental, and not making choices based on the return of investment. So, for those interested in something different, something strange but true, some out of the blue, something new, your local film festival may very well be what you’re looking for. Many folks who aspire to star in a film festival film have never actually been to a film festival! Get out there and support the independent spirit and the working-class filmmaking community. Maybe you’ll make some contacts of your own, and maybe you’ll be inspired to make a truly unique and inestimable and legendary independent film!

Actors who have indie roots include George Clooney whose first film role was in the horror comedy Return to Horror High; Ryan Gosling’s first major film role was in The Believer which went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance; Jessica Chastain starred in the indie film Jolene which won her accolades from the Seattle International Film Festival; Matthew McConaughey got his break in Dazed and Confused; and Ellen Page’s first performance in a feature film was in the somber Canadian indie Marion Bridge.