Independent Film Companies | Getting Started, A24 Films, Annapurna

Independent Film Companies

How They Got Started
Independent Film Companies

Learning about independent film companies, and how they got started is important for any indie filmmaker. More often than not, these are the only movie companies with whom indie filmmakers have the potential to work. However, the origin stories of your favorite indie movie company in the film industry may surprise you. Quite often, there are some similarities these movie companies have in common, but their stories are all uniquely their own.

Step into the captivating world of independent film production as we unveil the magic behind the scenes of an indie film company. In this article, we take you on a journey through the challenges, creativity, and dedication that go into bringing unique and thought-provoking stories to the silver screen. From scouting locations to casting the perfect actors, an independent film company navigates a complex landscape to bring its vision to life.

With limited budgets and resources, these filmmakers rely on innovation and passion to create cinematic masterpieces that captivate audiences around the globe. Are you curious about the process of financing an independent film or how these visionary directors and producers find their inspiration? We'll delve into all that and more, shining a light on the behind-the-scenes intricacies that make independent films so special.

What is an Independent Film Company?

Let's start with what an independent film company does. What are their roles in the filmmaking process? Of what, exactly, are they in charge? Independent film companies are always separate from the bigger movie studios in the film industry, like 20th Century Fox or Paramount Pictures. These independent movie companies tend to offer lower budgets when financing movies, however, it is possible some indie movies can produce a higher budget from some of the more successful indie movie companies.

Independent movie companies work hand-in-hand with directors, considering a lot of what makes a production an "indie" movie is the director's complete control over the creation and art of the final piece. Independent movie companies, therefore, tend to work more on the funding, budget and distribution of the movie. A lot of people also recognize independent filmmakers and movie companies produce a different type of movie.

These indie movies deliberately do not have the stereotypical feel many mainstream movies have. A lot of filmmakers are rejected by major movie studios if their film is too "different" or does not hit the fields and stories for which they are looking. This does not mean that the filmmaker's story or movie is bad - it just does not fit the requirements major movie studios are willing to invest in at the time. Did you know Everything Everywhere All at Once winning the Oscar for Best Picture in 2023 made it the 15th independent film to win the award in the prior 16 years? That's the kind of information we research for you and is included in our Film Business Plan.

How did Successful Indie Film Companies Get Started?

For filmmakers looking to start their own indie movie company, learning about the origin and success stories of some of the big independent movie companies out today, are always a great way to gain both inspiration and motivation. Where does the film financing come from whether for a motion picture or low-budget films? Do you turn to crowdfunding sites or major studios for financial support? Do you use a production company or independent producers? Here is how the best of the best made it.

  • Annapurna Pictures had some help in the very beginning, considering money has never quite been an issue for the founder, Megan Ellison. The daughter of a billionaire, Ellison was able to shoot to glory without the added frustrations of money like other indie movie company startups face, but that does not mean that any less hard work was put into the making, producing, and distributing of some of the most interesting movies around, such as Hustlers, If Beale Street Could Talk, Her, Joy, American Hustle, and Phantom Thread.
  • A24 has been getting more and more successful with each passing year, while increasing the quality of their work as well as their distribution reach. From producing movies like Uncut Gems, Hereditary, Lady Bird, Moonlight and The Good Project, this indie movie company has slowly reached critical acclaim in a variety of ways. A24 has also expanded into television production, with shows like Euphoria and Ramy. The three founders were all film veterans in different roles, long before they founded their own company, so they had added experience helping them at the beginning of their journey. To help them get started, Guggenheim Partners provided the company with seed money in the beginning and they also locked in a $40 million VOD deal with DirecTV.
  • Sony Pictures Classics, an autonomous division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, founded in 1992 that distributes, produces and acquires independent films from the United States and around the world. Some of their successes include: Call Me By Your Name, Maggie's Plan, Capote, Rachel Getting Married and hundreds more films.
  • IFC Films, owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc, was established in 2000 and has become a leader in the independent film industry. They offer two distribution labels devoted to bringing the best of independent and foreign films to the largest possible audience: IFC Films and IFC Midnight. Some of their most popular movies include My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Boyhood and Y Tu Mama Tambien. Filmmakers they work with include Steven Soderbergh, Gus Van Sant, Spike Lee and Richard Linklater, amongst many others.

The independent movie companies mentioned here are some of the best in the business and do quite well. Not only are they producing quality content, but are distributing it as well. They also produce movies that receive festival, critical and Academy Award acclaim. In 2015, A24 took on producing their first feature, Moonlight, in partnership with Plan B and Adele Romanski (source: Deadline). A24 fully financed the film and owned the worldwide rights.

If you are researching independent film companies because you want to send them something, ask for money, or try to work with them, we wish you luck. Like most independent film companies, they do not accept unsolicited materials. For example, here is what is on the Annapurna website, "For very super-boring legal reasons, Annapurna Pictures does not accept unsolicited material." They probably already have at least 50 projects in some phase of development right now, and sorry to tell you, they just don't want yours.

Financing an Independent Movie Company

You do not need to be the offspring of a billionaire or have an extensive career in film like the founders of Annapurna and A24. Do you need money to start a movie company? Yes, and you need a substantial amount. However, it does not have to be your own funds. Just like indie filmmakers do, you can find funding elsewhere. Whether it is from donations from family and friends or from grants given to you from people actually in the movie business, finding financing is possible.

One of the most important aspects independent film companies have in common is their ability to distribute their movie.Distribution is everything. It is always recommended to think and plan for distribution before you even start filming your movie (Read More: Film Marketing Plan & Distribution Plan). Saving distribution for the end is not recommended, as distribution is actually a very hard thing to complete successfully. Just like every successful filmmaker's beginning, every successful independent movie company has a different beginning. How they started, or how they became successful, differs. However, there is one component they all share: their ability to only produce high quality, creative movies. If you stick to your creative instinct and vow to just make, produce, or distribute art that you actually love, it'll all be worth it. That's what makes independent movie companies so great.

Top Small Film Production Companies to Watch

  • Blumhouse Productions is a small film production company that has made a big impact in the horror genre. Founded by Jason Blum in 2000, the company has produced hit films such as Get Out, The Purge, and Paranormal Activity. Blumhouse is known for its low-budget, high-concept approach to filmmaking, which has allowed them to take risks on unique and innovative projects. With a slate of upcoming films including Halloween Kills and The Forever Purge, Blumhouse is definitely a company to keep an eye on in horror.
  • Neon Entertainment is a small film production company that has been making waves in the industry since its founding in 2017. The company has already produced several critically acclaimed films, including Parasite, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2020. Neon focuses on producing innovative, thought-provoking films that challenge audiences and push boundaries. With a slate of upcoming projects including Spencer and The Worst Person in the World, Neon Entertainment is definitely a rising star in the film industry.

FilmProposals Business Plan Template for Independent Film Companies

Film Business Plan Template

Our Film Financing Packages were created by industry producers and movie investors with one goal in mind: help those who want to find movie investors and movie financing. We offer everything from DIY to a full suite of services Done For You, all designed for the indie filmmaker and backed by over 20 years of experience and 100s of filmmakers who have raised their film production funding.

Get Started with Your Independent Film Company Business Plan

One of the great things about our Film Business Plan Template is the real world examples we provide, which is one of the best ways people learn. Throughout our templates, you will see real examples of business plans that have worked in the past. Through every step and section, you'll see a component used in real life that has worked successfully for others.

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