The Rapidian

Contemporary Conversation: UICA discusses independent vs indie film

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The Urban Institute of Contemporary Art's Film Coordinator, Nick Hartman talks about the difference between independent cinema and indie films, inviting community to join the conversation.
Movie theater at the UICA

Movie theater at the UICA /Courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Underwriting support from:
Nick Hartman, Film Coordinator for the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Nick Hartman, Film Coordinator for the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts /Courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts /Courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Did you know that there’s a movie theater downtown? You might not know it, but there is a cinematic gem located in the heart of Grand Rapids that film fans have been frequenting for years. The UICA Movie Theater, located on the corner of Fulton and Division, shows independent, foreign and documentary movies in downtown Grand Rapids Tuesday–Sunday year round. Audiences can see critical favorites, festival award winners, and special one-night screenings of classic films in UICA's 195-seat theater, with a state-of-the-art, Dolby© certified movie viewing experience.

UICA has been nurturing the West Michigan film community for more than 39 years by showing a diverse range of independent cinema, by programming film-focused events and creating opportunities for local and regional filmmakers to show their work. UICA’s Open Projector Night is a celebrated event that rivals film-festivals around the country. It has been running since October of 2012 and has secured a steady fan base of dedicated filmmakers and film lovers ever since its inception. Attendance continues to increase as the film community and general public seek unique entertainment options and opportunities for expression. The most recent Open Projector Night packed UICA’s 195-seat theater and guests could meet and mingle with the artists on site.

The UICA Movie Theater gives the community an opportunity to experience culturally, socially and artistically varied cinematic works that both challenge and entertain. UICA’s Film Coordinator Nick Hartman, who is responsible for selecting the films showing at UICA, talks about the difference between independent cinema and indie film.

"People often confuse the terms “independent cinema” and “indie film” which leads to general confusion about what these terms actually mean," says Hartman. "Independent cinema refers to the act or practice of creating films. Independent films are created independently which separates them from large studios like Warner Bros or MGM Studios and are often made with a fairly low budget and with little to no financial backing. Independent cinema gives filmmakers full artistic freedom and they often coordinate marketing and promotion of the film as well as securing film festival rotation and distribution. Films seen as part of UICA’s Open Projector Night Series can, for the most part, be classified as independent cinema."

Conversely, Hartman notes that indie film refers to a cinematic genre. "Indie films are being marketed as independent, because they're being made with a fairly low budget and/or are being distributed by an independent film company such as IFC, Magnolia, or Drafthouse. Again, indie films are often produced with a limited budget. Because of this, you’re probably familiar with some of the characteristics of an indie film such as B-rated actors and actresses, lower production quality, simple sets and costuming and low cost marketing. Examples include 'Boyhood', 'Juno', and 'Whiplash'," says Hartman.

Join the conversation. UICA publishes reviews by community contributors online at

UICA encourages those interested in participating in movie reviews to contact Nick at [email protected] to learn more.

About Nick Hartman:

Nick is a simple guy who loves cinema, heavy metal and skateboarding. If he isn’t in a dark room watching movies, you can find him at his favorite Grand Rapids watering hole. Nick graduated with a degree in Film and Video from Grand Valley State University and uses his knowledge to bring the best selection of films to the Grand Rapids community at the UICA Theater.


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