The tricky thing about this kind of quiet filmmaking is that it could be mistaken for conservative filmmaking. Small Town Murder Songs shows this is not true. Gass-Donnely and crew take many risks; the silence and thunder of the soundtrack, the billboard-sized intertitles that announce each “chapter”(Repent And Profess Your Faith, Live In The World But Not Of It, and God Meets Us Where We're At), and the nuance which is brought to a story which could be just as easily hacked into any number of hour-long crime dramas. There is nothing easy or comfortable about this kind of filmmaking and it is this attitude that makes it as independent as the earlier films which inspires it. The real magic of these films is that they don’t need the history of indie film to exist; I get the feeling that they would have been made regardless of whatever may have come before. These are stories told they way they had to be told.
There’s a theory of creative thinking that is called “disruptive thinking”. The idea being that by working from the concepts that are antithetical to the assumptions of any given situation you can create a radically creative solution. This contemporary “silent film” is a perfect example; by embracing the very things which standard Hollywood rejects de riguer (overproduced sound, limited thematic dimensions, and classic narrative technique) these films, and others, demonstrate that the indie spirit isn’t limited to a set of generic tropes. Independent film isn’t a movement like noir, neo-realist or dogme; independent film is a dynamic, a variable to change the total equation. Independent film is what happens at the edge of vision, at the border of hearing, and in the empty spaces between words which tell us what is said, what is unsaid, and what cannot be formed into words.