Indie films now are bigger than ever. That was the takeaway at today’s CinemaCon panel for “The ‘Independent’ Game: Based on a True Story” panel which was comprised of Sony Pictures Classics co-chiarman Tom Bernard, Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore, director Jay Roach and AMC Theatres president of programming, Robert Lenihan.

While Hollywood gets a bad rap for shortchanging actresses over 50 with great roles, Moore credits indie films for keeping her career going.

Tom Bernard Julianne Moore“Working in the indie space has helped my career longesvity. There are (good) parts out there (for women). When people talk about better roles for women in Hollywood, Hollywood isn’t in the business of creating parts for actors. They’re in the business of creating a product. It’s about making a package. If you want interesting parts, they’re not gonna offer them to you.” As an actress who segues between blockbuster fare such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and indie fare such as Still Alice, Moore defended her choices, “You need a commerical profile so that investors will invest in something smaller that I’m in…you can’t make a living doing just indie films”

Moore heralded both the investors behind indie films, as well as the passionate atmosphere that exists on the set. “I remember that there were nine investors on one film I worked on. We were held together by a shoestring, but it’s people who are interesting in film, the actor or the story. (Indie films) are highly personal (for investors),” added Moore.

Moore credited indie films, specifically Safe which was made for $1M for launching her career. “There was this exciting idea that we didnt’ have the pressure to earn money back. With indie films you don’t need a name director, or star, you just throw it together, knowing that if the production makes its money back — that’s enough. Indies have been a very successful model,” said Moore.

trumboRoach, whose Trumbo about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is being released on November 6, equated his work on his first indie feature to his experiences working on HBO films Game Change and Recount. 

Speaking about indie films, Roach said, “It’s a producer’s world. They found the financier and then it becomes a matter of just make your movie. It’s a labor of love, nobody is getting paid much, the cast is barely making their fees and everyone is working on the film because it’s something they love. There’s no fear of a big weekend or big ratings — in that way it’s similar to HBO.”

Roach also shared how amusing he found the “sing your supper” aspect of the indie pre-production process. “When were up in Toronto we had to pitch foreign distributors; it’s almost like a junket. We showed a teaser reel of a film — that wasn’t even our film — rather clips of films that might be similar to yours. We needed to earn these people. They needed to make their money back and they’re risking it on a non-entertaining idea.” Roach also gave a shout-out to frosh indie film distributor Bleecker Street ,who is handling his film Trumbo, in allowing him to make the film that he wanted.

Speaking to the business component Bernard said, “The relative health of the indie space right now: There are more theaters playing indie film than ever before, and I’ve been doing this since 1977. There’s a steady diet so that audiences know that 52 weeks a year there’s product they like.”

Recently at the box office as tentpole fare such as Furious 7 and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 has dominated to the top of the charts, indie arthouse pics have been breaking through as their distributors take advantage of providing the audience with intriguing, smart alternatives, read It Follows, Ex Machina, Danny Collins and Woman in Gold.

Bernard also gave props to the big chain exhibitors for not programming films that go theatrical-VOD day and date. “The fact that Cinemark, Regal, dont’ play movies that are on VOD is important for the marketplace to keep it thriving,” said Bernard whose company sticks to the traditional platform rollout for its indie fare.

But another big reason why we’re seeing an indie boom per Bernard: It’s cheaper to make movies in today’s climate. “In the 1980s, it was  expensive to make a movie because of the unions. But in the ’90s, the unions made a deal to allow their members make indie movies at a lower rate. So, the mechanics of making a movie today are incredibly easy.”