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This enables studios to 'test' more experimental films, taking the more successful of these to greater box office success without risking the reputation of the major sponsoring house. Film expert Bruce Kawin (1992) suggests that the term 'independent' has been used to refer to a wide variety of different types of film. There are those producers who are completely independent from the major studios, creating their films on their own and then selling studios distribution rights and those who create films on home video cameras and attempt to distribute or not on their own, both generally supportive of mainstream social power structures. While these are technically independent films, Kawin and others prefer using the term independent film to refer to producers who work outside the mainstream in terms of representation or as a means of strongly questioning the status quo and might instead be called the avant-garde. As a form of classification, the term 'independent film' has been applied most frequently to those productions which have an unusual, divergent or 'quirky' character. In attempting to pinpoint the concept of the independent film and its characteristics, some of the more common formal traits of independent films will be identified and then examined as they appear or don't appear within the film Little Miss Sunshine, an independent film that could be argued to represent a form of cross-over event between independent film and mainstream because of its social perspective.
e common characteristics of independent film in America can include its 'quirky' character, the sense of its message, a sense of innocence and/or irony in this message delivery, unique camera angles creating what might be considered amateur professionalism with carefully orchestrated characters and scenes and a generally lower degree of post-production editing. Thus, independent film can be characterized through its plot, technique, tone and social commentary. By 'quirky', most film experts intend to mean that the film conveys slightly odd renditions of the familiar mainstream tropes rather than completely radical swings away from what one might expect. These may take the form of an unusual combination of characters, slightly strange variations of relationships or objects or somewhat different methods of presenting the audio or visual material. What is unique about the 'quirky' is that it is, as James MacDowell claims, "crucially, a comic address that requires we view the fiction as simultaneously absurd and moving, the characters as pathetic and likeable, the world as manifestly artificial and believable" (2010: 4). While the world presented in independent film is strange and different, it is still presented as relatively safe and non-controversial. In keeping with this concept, MacDowell says many independent films will include musical scores that carry connotations of sweet and simple, high in repetition, higher on the musical register and frequently within a waltz time signature as a means of encouraging an association with childhood. A strong connection with the child-like or the innocent is carried throughout the visual presentation as well. However, other experts such as Jeffrey Sconce (2002) claim a strongly ironic or nihilistic approach within the independent
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