Video release became more than another release window for a film; it gave the filmmaker a chance to alter the film. Music could be added, scenes could be trimmed, and dialogue could be rerecorded. Some films were released in longer "director's cuts." When Disney's Aladdin was criticized by Arab Americans for stereotyped characters and dialogue, the song lyrics were changed for the video release. Joe Dante used the VHS format to reshape a gag in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). The theatrical release included a scene in which it appears that the movie we're watching is breaking down in the projector. Since that gag did not work on video, Dante reshot the scene to make it seem that the viewer's VCR is mangling the movie.
INDEPENDENT FILMS, IN ALL FLAVORS
"Independent film" is notoriously difficult to define. Is an independent film one that draws its financing from outside the Hollywood industry? Miramax's Kids and New Line's Boogie Nights were considered "independent," yet the producing companies were firmly tied to major studios. But then how can films made with multi-million dollar budgets and featuring major stars be considered "independent"? Can you really put the star-filled Magnolia in the same category as the no-budget Blair Witch Project? And once the Majors began buying or creating boutique labels, hadn't the whole game become one of "Dependents"?
Hence our efforts to draw some rough distinctions. Chapter 28 distinguishes among "arty indies," off-Hollywood indies, retro-Hollywood indies, and DIY indies. These categories, imperfect though they are, try to capture some major differences of budget, ambition, and originality. Richard Linklater, director of indisputably indie films like Slacker and indisputably studio products like School of Rock, offers his own cluster of categories.
The industry has kind of splintered into two pretty distinct camps: you've got the big studio films and you've got smaller "independent-type" films. They're still considered independent even when they're being financed by a studio or the specialty division of a studio. I worry that there's just less and less space for the off-independent. Like there's the "official independent," which might be a film with name actors and costing seventeen million dollars. That might be seen as an independent film if what it's about seems far from big-studio commercial, but can you really compare that to someone spending a hundred thousand dollars making a film on their own in their town? Should they really be in the same category? The answer is no, they shouldn't be seen in the same way. And yet the category isn't big enough to encompass the range that exists when you say "independent film."
See Stephen Lowenstein, My First Movie: Take Two: Ten Celebrated Directors Talk about Their First Films (New York: Pantheon, 2008), 43.