Film & TV

Independent Minds

Why are more young former franchise stars turning to indie projects?

Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz are three of our generation’s most iconic teenage actors, and their success has only continued to grow since they first achieved their breakthrough in Hollywood. But, that’s not all they have in common, as they have all had a marked presence on the indie scene in recent years. With overflowing offers from affluent blockbuster directors, one has to wonder what it is exactly that attracts them to working with lower-budget, less experienced filmmakers and why this choice has won them praise from critics.

Potter fans will remember Pattinson as Hufflepuff’s quidditch captain Cedric Diggory in The Goblet of Fire, but the young star’s biggest break was undoubtedly in the Twilight Saga, which saw him transformed into a supernatural heart-throb. Ten years later, he’s performed in numerous smaller-scale movies, including Queen of the Desert and Lost City of Z and invests considerable effort into scouting unconventional storylines from gifted directors, who have yet to be “fully realised by the wider world”. Pattinson favours indie movies because there are less stakeholders, meaning that the directors are willing to take more creative risks and, therefore, offer increased opportunity to break free of his vampiric typecast and become someone wholly unrecognisable to the way people idealise him. His 2017 performance in Good Time as a wild, sleazy conman is a perfect example of this and brought the ambitious actor much critical acclaim, along with a nomination for Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Although Twilight co-star, Kristen Stewart, professes to enjoy A-lister Hollywood movies as much as the next person, in an interview at the American Film Festival, the actress criticised the financial focus by which many are accompanied. It’s all about sales, profits and popularity more than telling the tales the way they should be. On the other hand, independent directors generally immerse themselves into their work. Crews and sets are smaller and consequentially tight-knit, making the experience more enjoyable. Stewart has made herself known in indie dramas, with performances in Camp X-Ray and Still Alice and has even been known to turn down major roles in favour of such parts. Regardless of popularity, Kristen insists she has nothing to prove with her projects and simply selects work based on her passion for the scripts, rather than their chances of success, expenditure and resources.

Similarly, Moretz has featured in her fair share of blockbusters, namely Kick-Ass and Big Momma’s House 2, where her roles took the action-comedy industry by storm. Now, at 21, the actress is branching out into indie movies and trying her hand at more serious roles. With less access to flashy props and tech, indie movies draw attention to the acting itself, so can be a good way of staying sharp and growing as an actress. After a year-long hiatus, in which the thespian contemplated the direction of her career, Moretz admitted she is ready to widen her horizons and contribute to something meaningful, partnering art with activism. For example, her starring role in The Miseducation of Cameron Post provided valuable insight into conversion therapy camps and the maltreatment of the LGBT+ community who are sent there. Inspired by connection with the audience, Moretz has even decided to co-direct with her brother, to create a screenplay that others will be able to relate to and in order to give a voice to the unheard.

Far from simply being a stepping stone to ultimate casting, indie movies provide passionate actors with a more creative outlet and separate the two-dimensional amateurs from the talents. Getting involved with these types of productions is the perfect opportunity to form strong connections with budding artists and offers the chance of redemption for those whose credibility may have come into question, after a dud release. Moreover, they offer a chance for actors who are continually assigned similar roles to engage in different movie genres and play completely alien roles, bypassing a typecast which many leads often fall prey to.

By Hayat Goraine