Every once in a great while, a completely innovative and fresh website comes around and completely revolutionizes the way we consume a certain kind of media. Netflix did it with the way that people access to film and television series. Facebook did it by offering us a whole new way to socialize online. And Amazon all but reinvented the act of shopping. There are, however, plenty of smaller sites that have played equally pivotal roles in their respective niches. Many of which all too frequently go unjustifiably unsung.
You have to respect when somebody has the vision to create something that is brand-new – especially when that thing is as useful as it is inventive. When somebody has the wherewithal to provide you with a resource that makes it easier for you to enjoy one of your hobbies or to delve deeper into one of your interests, it can be a complete game-changer. Especially when that interest is perhaps less mainstream or widely shared as, say, the aforementioned examples of shopping or socializing.
This is precisely what makes the site IndieWire so special – particularly for fans of independent cinema. Indie films, although loved all around the world by many, are still considered a niche. That is to say that there are fewer indie film lovers than there are casual Hollywood blockbuster moviegoers. Indie films have taken on something of a cult following, typically attracting people who appreciate the more subtle and artistic sides of the cinema.
Nevertheless, prior to IndieWire’s launch, there was nothing like it to be found anywhere on the vast expanse that is the internet. Full of news and reviews of all things related to independent films, it quickly became an invaluable resource for indie cinephiles everywhere. Information and reviews that were previously much more difficult to come across (due to independents’ lack of mainstream recognition and pop culture appeal) suddenly had a convenient and efficient home page.
The site promptly rose to notoriety, receiving plenty of acclaim and praise from professional writers, film critics, and fans of indie films alike. Janelle Brown, for instance, writing for Wired said of IndieWire in 1997, “Currently, IndieWire has little to no competition: trades like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety may cover independent film, but from a Hollywood perspective, hidden by a huge amount of mainstream news. As filmmaker Doug Wolens points out, IndieWire is one of the few places where filmmakers can consistently and reliably keep on top of often-ignored small film festivals, which films are opening and what other filmmakers are thinking.”
Furthermore, Forbes also famously sang IndieWire’s praises in 2002 by applauding IndieWire (along with several other sites) in the “Cinema Appreciation” category of their “Best of the Web” list. Forbes also highlighted the site’s potential as a useful tool for independent filmmakers to network, citing its ” [message] boards teeming with filmmakers.” Legendary film critic, Roger Ebert has also gone on the record to recommend IndieWire, as well as eventually going as far as hiring IndieWire blogger, Matt Zoller Seitz as the editor-in-chief of his own website, rogerebert.com.
IndieWire officially launched on July 15th, 1996 as “the daily news service for independent film.” It began as a free daily email newsletter in the same vein as early AOL-based editorials by a small collective of filmmakers and writers from both New York City and Las Angeles, California: Eugene Hernandez, Mark Rabinowitz, Cheri Barner, Roberto A. Quezada, and Mark L. Feinsod.
Although IndieWire’s readership initially consisted of just a couple hundred subscribers, it quickly grew in popularity. By the time the fall of 1997 rolled around, IndieWire was boasting over 6,000 subscribers.
1997 was a very big year for this scrappy startup. In January of the same year, IndieWire also made its first appearance at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the most reputable annual indie film festivals of all time. Thus, they began their in-depth coverage of indie festivals, known as IndieWire: On the Scene. This new section of the publication appeared both in print dailies and on the website.
In July of 2008, however, Snag Films acquired IndieWire. Refreshed and with a larger budget thanks to a snazzy corporate acquisition, IndieWire was able to branch out and reinvent itself. On January 8th, 2009, the site’s editor, Eugene Hernandez announced a massive relaunch. The site was to be “entirely re-imagined.” Along with this relaunch came a sleeker website design, as well as a change to the stylization of the publication … IndieWIRE became, simply, IndieWire.
As of 2016, IndieWire has become a subsidiary company of Penske Media, and it currently has a staff of about 20 writers, including James Israel (publisher), Dana Harris (editor-in-chief), Eric Kohn (chief critic), and Anne Thompson (editor-at-large).
Speaking of IndieWire’s pivotal redesign, I personally love what they’ve done with the site. It is very sleek and clean-cut. A lot of film review sites can get bogged down and cluttered by trying to lump way too much information and content into one cramped space on the page, but IndieWire has avoided making the mistake of its contemporaries (thankfully).
Information is easy to read, easy to find, and the site is simple and user-friendly. I am a big fan of the minimalist approach that they took with their rebrand. A simple white background with them of blue and black overtop makes for a classic and classy feel.
At the top of the page, you’ll find a handy and convenient site menu bar, allowing you to browse any corner of IndieWire with ease. Just select from News, Film, TV, Awards, Toolkit (more on that in a bit), or More. Below that, a list of some of the site’s trending topics, and one more pace down you will see a few articles that IndieWire has deemed “Must Reads.” This site very naturally and gently guides the eye in a logical and effective order.
Of course, if you are visiting IndieWire, then chances are you are looking for high-quality indie film reviews. And they have tons of them. But IndieWire is so much more than just reviews of independent movies. There is a robust news section, for instance, where you can keep up with the inner workings of the independent film industry. Here, you can keep tabs on recent acquisitions, new and upcoming releases, box office numbers, and a schedule of film fests.
IndieWire has also begun reviewing television series. Here, they do not seem to stick to just the independents. Additionally, you will find plenty of interviews, videos, awards show beats and headlines, information on the craft of filmmaking, and podcasts (rife with useful resources and think pieces specifically for filmmakers, as well as a podcast of the same theme).
Pricing and Plans
IndieWire is 100% free to visit and explore to your heart’s content. There are no limits on how many articles you can read. There are no paywalls to speak of. No subscription fees. Just free news, reviews, and insider industry info with no strings attached.
Okay, maybe one string attached. IndieWire relies on ad revenue. But, hey, nothing good in this life truly comes free, right? And, in my opinion, having to look at a few ads here and there … that’s a small price to pay for everything that IndieWire offers – not to mention the quality of the writing therein.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
IndieWire is one of those online publications whose app is just as good as its desktop site. In fact, it is not terribly common for a film review site to even offer an app, let alone a stellar one. But that is precisely what the IndieWire app is … stellar. Available on both iOS and Android, you will not be disappointed. The same sleek, minimalist, and user-friendly design of the website bleeds right into the app as well, without a missed beat. I love how complimentary the app is to the site, too, the theme, style, and feel of it are consistent on all platforms – that’s a really nice touch if you ask me.
Suggestions that I have for IndieWire
I don’t have a lot of suggestions for this site. It is an institution of film criticism and news for a reason. But I suppose if I had to take issue with anything, it would be the ads. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea for IndieWire to consider offering a premium tier membership of some sort in order to supplement some of the revenue brought in by selling ad space. Just a thought.
If you are looking for the authority on indie films, television, film festivals, and entertainment news, look no further. IndieWire has you covered – whether you are an aspiring filmmaker yourself, or just love indie movies.