Film News

Independent film group InDigEnt set to close

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Producer-director Gary Winick said his InDigEnt film company will shut down in January, bringing an end to the high-profile production outfit that championed low-cost, independent and digital movie making.

In an interview on Sunday, Winick said directing his upcoming major-studio release, “Charlotte’s Web,” took 2 1/2 years and diverted his attention away from InDigEnt, which made headlines at 2002’s Sundance Film Festival with movies like “Tadpole” and “Personal Velocity.”

“I couldn’t keep it together. As of January we’re biting the dust after six years,” Winick told reporters.

“I kind of think we had our moment in time. Unfortunately there is no million-dollar film any more that actually gets in the market place and makes some money because the studios want the ‘Capotes’ and the ‘Sideways’ ... they want the $8-million film to make a $100 million instead of the $1-million to make $10 (million). That’s the problem,” he said.

Back in the late 1990s when digital cameras started being used by independent filmmakers, InDigEnt (which stands for Independent Digital Entertainment) was formed to help filmmakers working outside Hollywood’s studios make movies. InDigEnt vowed to keep budgets low, around $1 million.

In recent years, however, even independent films have become more expensive to produce as more and more stars work in them. And as the movies’ box office has improved, money from the specialty divisions of major studios has raised the stakes.

A movie such as last year’s award-winning gay romance “Brokeback Mountain” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger was backed by the Focus Features wing of Universal Studios. It was made for a low cost $14 million, then went on to make $178 million at worldwide box offices.

Steve Buscemi, who voiced Templeton the rat in “Charlotte’s Web” and who has directed low-budget, independent films such as his “Lonesome Jim,” lamented the loss of InDigEnt.

“All these studios now have their independent film arm but they’re really like mini studios,” he said. “I think it’s harder and harder. Independent film has now become this sort of marketing tool or genre where it didn’t use to be that way.”

Still, Winick held out some hope for the future.

“I think the good news is that the Internet, it’s not there yet, but it’s going to shift something to get independent film back where it will become lucrative again,” he said.