Independent Films That Made It Big | Films4U
Independent films that made it big
A film doesn’t always need a huge budget and a gaggle of a-listers to be a success. Despite small budgets and limited star power, independent films have the potential to make it big and often give screenwriters, directors, and actors their big break.
Quentin Tarantino, Scarlett Johansson, and George Clooney are amongst the Hollywood names whose indie movie debuts catapulted them to stardom. This doesn’t just make independent films a great choice for any fledgling movie stars, but also a savvy choice for potential film investors because their small budgets can mean a sizable return on investment.
What is an independent film?
Independent films don’t have an exact definition, but usually they’re the movies that are made outside of the Hollywood system, meaning that their budgets are smaller and they’re filmed in a much shorter space of time than a big-budget flick.
Lacking the financial power that allows for flashy special effects or stunts, independent films usually have a sharper focus on storytelling and given that their audience is more niche, they have more scope for oddball characters and quirky plots.
Unlike big studio films, indie movies are usually labours of love which are more motivated by artistic vision than multi-million pound profits, making them an exciting prospect for any film investors who want to be involved in something creative.
At Films4U, we are experts in making money from film, which is why we invest in many independent films every year. Why? Because their small budgets and artistic potential are opportunities for an excellent ROI – let’s have a look at some examples.
Reservoir Dogs follows six criminals whose plan to rob a jewellery store goes awry when the police show up, leading the criminals to suspect that there’s a traitor in their midst. Its stars include Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen and in classic Tarantino style, the movie features lots of violence and profanity, as well as a non-linear plot.
The film is not just a cult classic, but one of the most successful independent movies of all time. As Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut, it had a very humble budget and no huge names – Tarantino was in fact working in a video shop when he wrote the movie. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and proved such a hit amongst film critics that it was distributed in cinemas over the US where it grossed almost $3 million. It proved even more of a hit here in the UK, where it made double what it did in the US. Empire magazine placed it top in its 50 greatest independent films list; Reservoir Dogs is considered a milestone in the world of independent filmmaking and is the perfect example of how an independent film can make it big.
Juno follows a quirky teenage girl named Juno (Ellen Page) who falls pregnant with her best friend Bleeker. Initially planning to terminate the pregnancy, Juno makes a snap decision in the waiting room of an abortion clinic to have the baby and then place it with adoptive parents. After browsing ads in a newspaper, she decides to give her baby to failed rock star (Jason Bateman) and his wife (Jennifer Garner). However, things get complicated when the teen finds herself getting a little too involved in the couple’s lives, as well as struggling to come to terms with her feelings for Bleeker.
The independent film was Diablo Cody’s screenwriting debut and was filmed in Canada over a period of just 30 days. Known for its quotable dialogue and catchy soundtrack, Juno became a pop culture phenomenon and completely surpassed all box office expectations. Earning back its humble budget in just nineteen days, it went on to make $231 million worldwide. Furthermore, the Spirit Awards named it as the best independent film of the year, and it won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Napoleon Dynamite is a sweet coming-of-age comedy that centres around nerdy high school student Napoleon Dynamite (John Heder) who befriends new kid Pedro, who’s from Mexico and speaks very little English. Napoleon tries to find his place in the world by helping his new friend snatch the title of class president from resident mean girl Summer Wheatley.
The film was shot in Idaho in just 23 days, with a small budget of $400 000, a fraction of what most successful movies cost. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 and proved to be both a critical and commercial success, grossing almost $45 million within a year of its release, the perfect example of how much money film investors could make by investing in movies with tiny budgets.
Napoleon Dynamite also became a cult classic, inspiring Halloween costumes and spawning a range of merchandise. It also earnt a range of nominations for various film awards, and most notably won the Best Movie Award at the MTV Movie and TV Awards.
Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation is a dreamy and melancholic romantic comedy drama that follows has-been movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) in the midst of a mid-life crisis as he films an ad for a Japanese whisky. Whilst there, he befriends a fellow American and recent college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who has accompanied her photographer husband to Tokyo. Set against a vibrant but unfamiliar Japanese backdrop, the two characters are depicted as feeling lost, both physically and mentally.
Directed by Sofia Coppola, the indie film had a budget of $4 million and was shot in just 27 days. Worldwide it made a whopping $118 million and received critical acclaim; it was named the best film of the year by 235 critics as well as being ranked as number seven on Entertainment Weekly’s top ten films of the 2000s and number 22 in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century. At the Oscars, it was nominated for five awards and bagged one – Best Original Screenplay. It also won a BAFTA and four Golden Globes; nough honours to make any film investor proud of their tasteful choice.
How you can help fund an independent film
Independent films can be a great choice for movie investors thanks to their potential for huge return on investment and critical acclaim. So if you want to invest in film, an indie movie could be a good place to start. However, as a film finance company, we know well that independent films can be hit and miss. Whilst the movies we’ve listed are examples of independent movies that were smash-hits, some indie movies are flops, so it’s important to never invest more than you can afford to lose.
If you fancy investing in independent films, or any film for that matter, Films4U is the perfect place to start. We’re a specialised company that funds, produces, and distributes movies, and we have an excellent track record of investing films that make money. We haven’t lost money on a film yet, and we are currently offering a 60% ROI after just three years.