While the term "independent film" can certainly be used to describe a project made outside the movie industry's regular channels, notably in terms of funding
, it now is more often applied to a film's content,
not its financing
-- as does the contrasting term, "Hollywood
Screenwriter William Goldman points out the distinction in his book, Which Lie Did I Tell?: Hollywood films give us stories with feel good endings. The good guys triumph over evil and true love conquers all obstacles. The stories are meant to reassure and comfort us. They "tell us truths we already know or falsehoods we want to believe in." Independent film questions this view of storytelling, by showing us worlds (perhaps too much like our own) where banality, evil, or even randomness prevails. Independent films want to show us "truths we don't want to know. In other words, they unsettle."
Content, of course, is not independent of financing. A Hollywood film will more likely stick to a known formula in its storytelling, to improve the odds of pleasing an audience and thus profits. Independent films, with smaller budgets and/or entrepreneurial funding mechanisms, may be able to push the envelope in terms of storytelling, and make aesthetic choices that don't have to pander to audiences or investors-- a filmmaker's vision may include other elements besides story, and so the plot of an independent film may take more detours, meander, or dead end. Depending on the film and filmmaker, character, color, mise en scene , or even sound may have greater importance than the plot.