Story is free http://bit.ly/948TJP
Writer John August suggests that the lack of real plot in many indie productions is a consequence of the “small and independent” focus: story is perceived as too expensive to produce (and it can be if you go too big).
A lot of story can happen even when you’re constrained to a few locations. Hamlet takes place in a few rooms. So does The Usual Suspects. Both Go and The Nines pack a lot into each of their three-part sections. And while Sex, Lies and Videotape might seem low-plot, the story keeps forcing characters to make choices and face the consequences.
In meeting with the screenwriters at Sundance, I challenged them to look for scenes in which characters were talking about things and show them doing those things. Often, the omitted scenes weren’t more expensive than what they would replace — but they were more difficult to write. The beginning of an affair is trickier than showing it mid-course. A trapped child is uncomfortable to write, but compelling to watch.
The writing is always going to be the least expensive but most challenging part of the process. Making a low-budget movie is a study in compromises. Story shouldn’t be one of them.