I was having an interesting heated argument friendly little discussion over IM yesterday afternoon with one of my Cinematical colleagues about what exactly designates a film as an "indie" film. Does it have more to do with the money spent on making it, or the artistic style of the film? Is a film an indie film if it's financed by an indie arm of a studio, like Juno? Or does it have to be financed by filmmakers on their credit cards, ala Four Eyed Monsters? What if it gets financed independently by a rich guy, like Little Miss Sunshine, and then bought by a studio for $10 million? And if an indie film gets bought by a studio and goes on to get Oscar nods, has it "sold out" like an indie band hitting the Top 40?

As you might expect, it was Juno that started this whole discussion. To me, Juno is clearly an indie film: it was financed not by Fox, but by Fox Searchlight, which is a studio arm set up specifically to buy and create indie films. Artistically, it certainly feels "indie" to me, although crossover hits like 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Little Miss Sunshine have helped to blur the line between indie comedy and mainstream. If Jason Reitman had gotten independent financing for it instead of getting it done through Searchlight, I don't think anyone would question its indie status. I understand, though why some folks feel a film like Juno, which had the benefit of backing by a studio to get it made, and a tremendous, well-executed marketing push, is straddling the indie line.

Personally, I see Juno as nothing but great news for other indie films, and I think Fox was smart to recognize both the power and passion of indie filmmakers, and that they don't know how to make indie films themselves. Partnering with filmmakers like Jason Reitman, who have both a solid background and a good eye for what works, especially with indie comedy, allows Fox Searchlight to target the indie market with films that are likely to also appeal to a broader audience. They've found a niche that works, they're both making and acquiring good films, and if all that expands the audience for indie films in general, opens up the popcorn crowd to checking out more indie fare, and ultimately paves the way for more indie films to be funded that's a good thing.

What makes a film an indie flim? Let us know what you think in the poll, and make your arguments in the comments.