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The Indie film Versus The Blockbuster Movie

How does the budget impact the story?

Blockbuster film set versus Indie film set
Hannah Jane Ormrod Hannah Jane Ormrod

Over the last few years, we have seen breakthrough films take over our screens. Underdogs have come and made their impact on the industry in ways we’ve not seen before. The question must be raised, if the big high budget films we are used to seeing take over our screens, are they really what we are looking for in this modern world? How big of a difference is there between an indie film and a blockbuster?

Indie Film

Indie films are simply independent films. This means that they do not have a massive studio backing them, they are often independently funded. There are many ways that producers and directors can go to try to fund their films and get them made. Often, they resort in crowdfunding, which is where the public can donate money to get the film made, in most cases in exchange for benefits of gifts. For example, a signed script, a video message, a zoom call etc. the more you give the more you receive.

Indie films tend to have more of an emotional connection with the audience, the films stories have a depth to them, that can sometimes be missing from blockbusters. The films are often intimate with artistic cinematography. These films appeal more to a specific audience and are made to reach those they need to. The audience matches the film, the film does not mould to fit the audience.

Below are two examples of Indie film, they show the contrast of genre you can get whilst still remaining independent. You can also be incredibly commercially successful and recognised for your work away from the studios despite the extra hurdles to overcome.



Aftersun Movie posterAftersun is an Independent film both written and directed by Charlotte Wells starring Oscar nominated Paul Mescal as Calum and young actor Frankie Corio as Sophie. It follows the story of a young father and his daughter on holiday together. Their relationship is at the heart of the story. As we see throughout the film, Sophie opens up to her father about dark feelings and him relating to his young daughter. Aftersuns depiction of fatherhood, both the highs and lows, is one that pull on heartstrings.

The film is shot mainly on 35mm film with the occasional feature of camcorder footage which is apart of the storyline of the film. This gives the film a sense of intimacy through nostalgia. The film is shot on location in Turkey meaning that there are  no green screens, after effects etc. When watching you often find yourself so encapsulated that you forget its a story make it a truly authentic experience.

Aftersun follows a structure which initiates conversation among the audience. It has an ending that is open ended and up for interpretation. One can either give it a dramatic and tragic end or a fairytale end but it is certainly not an ending you will forget about easily.

Budget: Unknown
Box office: 8 million USD


Moonlight PosterMoonlight is a film directed by Barry Jenkins. Best picture winner 2017 is a coming of age story of a young African American boy played by three actors at different stages of his life. Alex Hibbert as a young boy, Ashton Sanders as a teen,  and Trevante Rhodes plays him as an adult. It depicts the character, Chiron, growing up in the rough areas of Miami while tackling heavy subjects that cloud his life search as race, sexuality, addiction, and poverty.

Visually, the film stands out with a unique colour palette. It’s a combination of both natural lighting and one of vivid covers which gives these scenes a paint like feel.  The camera remains in the personal space of the actors for a large sector of the film which leads to a sense for intimacy between the screen and viewer.


Budget: 4 million USD 
Box office: 65.3 Million USD

Blockbuster Movie

Blockbusters are movies made by large studios with the main intention to enrapture audiences and make money. They tend to have a very broad and targeted audience. This is in order to give the studios the best opportunity at getting the most ticket sales, streams etc. They have a large budget, and this is often evident in the cinematography and the postproduction. Blockbusters are known for there special effects, SFX, big action scenes, stunts. They are often associated with franchises as they have the most potential of creating a cult like following leading to more business opportunities. The movies tend to be packed with big named actors to help capture the audience’s initial attention.

These are big name films that are often thought of as the greats as a spectacular. When it comes down to the storyline and heart of the film there can be a distinct lack of focus on the story side of things. This is not to say that the story is not there or developed sufficiently just that it gets lost under the mask of the big budget blockbuster title.

Blockbusters are neither a thing of the past or of the future but something that has been around since Jaws which is widely considered to be the first Blockbuster.


Avengers Endgame Poster

Avengers is one of the most profitable franchises of all time, with the most recent film, Avengers Endgame knocking Avatar, another record breaking blockbuster, off the top spot. It was the fastest film to reach  $650 million. 

The film appeals to the masses for a number of reasons common among many Blockbusters: Strong characters- Well known to even those who don’t follow the franchise. Star Power- Award winning actor, pre established to begin with and slowly included more young talent, launching their career. For example, Robert Downey Jr and Tom Holland.

The Avengers franchise is based on the comic books of the same name and features a team of superheroes fighting together against large threats. The movies are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a massive, interconnected series of films that have become a major force in Hollywood.

Budget: 356 million USD (2019)
Box office: 2.798 billion USD


Jaws Poster

Jaws is said to be the worlds first ever Blockbuster paving the way for future studio productions. Despite the film premiering in 1975, it is a household name with almost anyone being able to identify the iconic soundtrack. Directed by multi award winning director, Stephan Spielberg it follows the story of a Shark attack at a popular tourist destination. Locals take it upon themselves to ease the nerves of town residents and tourists and attempt to pacify the great white shark.

The film is known for its suspense, this is aided by the cinematography and the grownd breaking special effects used in its production. Jaws features many handheld shots creating the feeling of an unstable environment. The colour contrasts greatly when above and below water. Above is bright and colourful reflecting the holiday bliss of the tourists before the attack and the underwater scenes are dark and murky which show the fear of unknown whereabout of the deadly animal by those involved in the case. Special effects at the time were mainly non existent but Jaws made use of rigs, stunt performers, animatronics for the Shark- known as Bruce.

Budget: 9 million USD
Box office: 476.5 million USD

Indie Film vs Blockbuster

Both types of films are undoubtedly still pieces of art in their own way. They capture and inspire audiences all across the world in so many different ways.  The indie film versus the blockbuster is an unfair and incomparable battle that could not be won. Both are made with different purposes in mind, this reflects on the story telling. You also notice that almost every director of a blockbuster has once made an indie film even if in the early days of their careers, this does not affect the quality of these early works but they could perhaps be considered as more of a passion project compared to a way to entertain and make money.

Have a look at the newest releases and see if you can identify whether the films are Indie or Blockbuster here.

Hannah Jane Ormrod

I am Hannah Jane, a 21 year old 3rd year Media and Anthropology Erasmus student, from Maynooth University Ireland. My main interests include Film, Theatre and Ethnography