When I was at an interview, I said when I did my undergrad, the style of films we appreciated were very different from what USC likes. USC is more industrial with a Hollywood style. But at the time, we liked independent style better. Then the interviewer asked me with a questioning look: Can you describe what is the independent film style you mentioned? I was so nervous after hearing the question, thinking I said something wrong.
I do think there is a style of independent films. Sometime the style came without a choice, but sometimes they were choices made by the director. After watching Tangerine last week, I confirmed this thought.
Independent films, most of the time will be compared to Hollywood film by the audience. It normally means films that are not produced by major Hollywood studios, sometimes art films, experimental films.
With the appearances of cheaper digital cameras, non-liner editing softwares, sound mixing software and PC. Making a film becomes more and more easier.
Using non-stars, telling stories of normal life or social issues，showing the mundane details of daily life with low budget, independent films has its unique brand. Films this year like Manchester By The Sea is an example.
As a result of less budget, independent films tend to use natural light, hand held camera or steady long shots, long dialogue or very limited dialogue.
Because of the usage of smaller cameras and limited lighting. Indie filmmakers are able to show what a real life looks like, bringing the film closer to the audience. Just like what Tangerine did. It shows the real Los Angeles which is very different from the glory DTLA in other films, thanks to the small iPhone 5s provides more instant reaction from the filmmaker with a smaller film set.
I believe the difference of the style was determined by the different usage of film technologies at the first place.