FLORENCE — Wade Woods got his start in filmmaking as a youngster using a shoulder-style family video camera.
With no access to editing equipment, the scenes he and his friends dreamed up were shot in sequence.
Now when Woods works on film projects, he has access to proper lights, editing software, multiple cameras and a long list of other tools of the trade.
"It is no longer Sony Handy Cams and work lights from Lowes," Woods said. "Now, if you are a young talent, you can produce some competitive projects. That same talent 10 or 15 years ago would not have been able to get their hands on the equipment needed to create what we are seeing today."
Woods credits that accessibility to the rise of truly independent films in recent years. In a sense, anyone with a camera can be a filmmaker, Woods said.
Adding to the allure of indie filmmaking is the commercial success of big screen independent films.
In 2012, independent films took home 12 Oscars including best picture for "The Artist," best actor to Jean Dujardin, of "The Artist," and best actress to Meryl Streep. Independent films garnered 24 nominations and four wins in the 2013 Oscars, according to indiewire.com.
The vast majority of independent films won't reach that level, but the ones that are done well inspire and motivate.
Woods said after leaving the Wednesday night's screening of "Muscle Shoals," the documentary that recalls some of the Shoals' storied music heritage, he was invigorated.
"My film is a labor of love, like ‘Muscle Shoals' was a labor of love for those guys," he said. "Seeing the beauty that was created in that film, fired me up."
Woods is working on a documentary titled "Thousand Miles Together" that examines how the events of Sept. 11, 2001, united Americans from Muscle Shoals to New York. It's not a quick process, but he's committed because he said he can see how good it can be.
"I challenge myself to be able to do what those guys did," Woods said.
There is a downside, however, to the "everyone can be a filmmaker" mindset.
Jason Flynn, co-director of the George Lindsey/University of North Alabama Film Festival and assistant professor of film and digital media production at UNA, said the Internet has fed the explosion of independent filmmakers. It gives people a direct route to an audience.
"It has been really good for some people who do have a product that can spread widely because at the core there is a good story that connects with an audience," Flynn said. "But there is also just a lot of junk. That's the downside. The junk."
That's where film festivals come in. There, films are vetted.
"As a film collects laurels, it shows the project has been vetted by different places," Flynn said. "Once it's been vetted several places, it shows there is likely some value in it."
Local filmmaker Wes Wages is working on a series of short documentary films, "Made in the Shoals," which highlight life in the Shoals. He's also in the early stages of a documentary about passion-based education as an alternative to a traditional college education.
"There is no motivation like seeing someone being successful," Wages said. "It makes you dream bigger. I'm not necessarily out there to get an Oscar, but it makes me think I can make a film that is worthy of being at Sundance."
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@Times Daily.com.
Screening venue is in room 131 of UNA Communications Building.
For a full listing of films to be screened, visit lindseyfilmfest.com.