Here's a bold prediction of what at least one aspect of independent film-making may become in the near future. This, of course, won't hold true for big studios or even all aspects of how movies, independent or otherwise, are made but we're already starting to see the spark of something that will become more common, very soon. We're seeing individuals who are figuring out how to tell contained stories with good production value, by themselves, maintaining their own inventory of equipment, and writing scripts around what they already have access to but I believe that there is another factor starting to crest over the horizon. It involves the kind of creatives who can do it all. They are their own writers, producers, directors, cinematographers, audio engineers, editors, and visual effects artists. Easy? No. Do they thrive on doing it? Without a doubt.
Instead of budgets being allocated to production, that money will go mainly toward the individual filmmaker as a salary. The tradeoff will be that they'll be dedicating sixty to eighty hours a week at all stages of the movie's creation. They'll keep some petty cash to pay the actors or voice talent (some projects will be animated) and also for odd tasks that they may need to delegate.
While these projects won't be indistinguishable from big Hollywood movies, the use of high-quality consumer equipment, open-source technology, stock audio/video assets, and AI will bring them up to a level that will more than satisfy audiences. It will take film investors a while to come around to this idea because the traditional means of film-making are so ingrained in people's minds but I imagine it will resemble funding a musician to go into a studio to record and mix for six months to a year, like in decades past. Just swap a musician for an indie director working remotely from home with his limited cast. Actors, wishing to make themselves more accessible and desirable will set up their own satellite home studios, with cameras, audio equipment, and green screens so that they can give directors footage of their performance to be composited into a scene, thus eliminating the need for hotels and craft services. A day of shooting might look a lot like a Zoom conference.
Self-distribution will also become a one-stop shop for filmmakers. This is already happening with new sales platforms like Filmhub, where you can upload your feature and get picked up by a multitude of VOD platforms like Tubi, Apple TV, or Amazon, without having to share your intellectual property rights with a distribution company and keep the lion's share of your earnings.
This new mode of film-making won't be for everyone, will probably meet much resistance and even laughter to start. However, with sweat equity and ingenuity the end result will be a new form of film and filmmakers who will own and control their stories without any studio interference while enjoying the newfound flexibility of the digital streaming medium.