I came up with this term the other day and I think I'm the first. It's hard to tell but if I am and it catches on I want residuals...
I started using it because there is a whole class of films that have no name. You have major films with budgets in the $100 mil + category. And what Hollywood calls ow budget (under $30 mil. Then there are the "Indi's" at somewhere from say $3 mil to $40-$50 mil. And then you have "no-budget" films, that all have some budget but generally not enough to pay people.
But in between there are a LOT of films being made. They have a budget usually in the $30K to $150K range and occasionally get close to "Indi" range. They are not student films (usually), they are by folks who have some experience (often) and are designed to be potentially commercial. The idea generally is to use it as a calling card. Some are shorts and some are features but the thing they have over most "no budget" films is that they have a focus on quality. Now all to often that focus is way off, they usually don't have "enough" experience to aim correctly. But the idea is to produce a professional film that would not be embarrassing if shown to a paying audience (that is not relatives and friends and crew).
The technology has come down in price and made it possible to make a film that looks great on a big screen for a small fraction of what it took to make a crappy looking/ sounding 16mm film. For all you 16mm fans, 16mm can look good but not when blown up to a full sized movie theatre screen. And it always sounds crappy. Mono, non noise reduced optical track. It's noisy has very limited range and no bass.
Back to the point.
Indi's are usually shot on 35mm, now probably more are shot on RED cameras. Either way your looking at $30K+ of camera and a lot of support gear. Mini-Indi's were born in HD video, one could argue the case for DVX-100's really being the start. But are growing up with HDSLR cameras.
My guess is that it is THE growth area in filmmaking. And what is great is that these cameras force the filmmaker to work in the traditional way. Shorter takes, double system sound, etc. Their fantastic low light capabilities means you can save a fortune in lighting and the fact that they use high quality 35mm lenses and have about the same frame size as a 35mm film means that all the creativity with focus and framing that you didn't have with "video" cameras is at your disposal.
You can make an excellent film that CAN look really good on a big screen. Of course it takes more than a camera to make a great movie, but it's a start. And because of the quality of the shots other weak areas are more apparent. I've already seen a general improvement if films coming through. The weakness of video, for narrative films, was it's strength for doc's. It was dead easy to pick one up and "just shoot". You have to think about what your shooting and how much more with HDSLR cameras and making the director think before "action" is a good thing.
So long live the Mini-Indi.
And when Sundance makes it a category I want a check!