The MovieMaker Sundance Survey 2017: The Scoop on 19 Films Playing Park City at the 33rd Festival

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival starts January 19 (that’s today!) and runs ’til January 29.

At this very moment, legions of filmmakers and film-fans are traipsing through the snow to convene in Park City, Utah. So who are this year’s crop, anyway? To get to know some of them, we issued the following survey to 19 feature moviemakers (mostly narrative feature-makers, though there’s one documentarian in there). Read on for the lowdown on some of the buzziest films at the festival this year.

Index:
Alex Smith (Walking Out) / Janizca Bravo (Lemon) / Marti Noxon (To the Bone) / Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott (Bushwick) / Joshua Z Weinstein (Menashe) / Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) / Chris Baugh (Bad Day for the Cut) / Michelle Morgan (L.A. Times) / Amman Abbasi (Dayveon) / Justin Chon (Gook) / Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Coral) / Steve Ellison (Kuso) / Matt Spicer (Ingrid Goes West) / Marianna Palka (Bitch) / Helene Hegemann (Axolotl Overkill) / Amanda Kernell (Sami Blood) / Zoe Lister-Jones (Band Aid) / Matt Ruskin (Crown Heights) / Nina Yang Bongiovi (Roxanne Roxanne)

Walking Out (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

Who: Alex Smith, co-director and co-writer with his twin brother, Andrew

Logline: A teenage boy journeys to Montana to hunt big game with his estranged father and they struggle to connect until a brutal encounter in the heart of the wilderness changes everything.

The length of the shoot was: 31 days

Our crew size was: 80

Our camera, lenses and lighting package were: Panavision anamorphic lenses, Arri Alexa, 10 Ton lighting package

The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: my twin brother Andrew and I first read the story, when we were the same age (14) as the main character, David. It has haunted us since. The best stories come from the things that haunt you.

My favorite scene (or shot) in the film is: David cradling his father by the dying fire.

Alex Smith

An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: Matt Bomer was playing a very urban vampire in American Horror Story while simultaneously playing a very rural hunter in our film.

Influences or references on this film were: Virgil’s The Aeneas, Faulkner’s “The Bear” and the film scores of Popol Vuh.

The weirdest or most difficult location we shot at: There were a ton of challenging locations on this one, as it was all shot outside, in the winter, in the mountains of Montana, but shooting at the Livingston Airport in 80mph winds was pretty wild. They shut the freeway down, but not us!

The most expensive thing in our budget was: our editor.

The greatest flash of inspiration or brilliance we had making this film was: casting Josh Wiggins as our David stands out. Also the collaborative chain of creation that led to having Clyde’s hat get passed down through three generations.

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: hire a VFX supervisor early and often!

A darling we had to kill along the way was: an intense, brave and very hard-to-capture scene, featuring one of our lead characters, Cal (played by Matt Bomer) cauterizing a wound on the blazing hot manifold of his Range Rover.

I need to give a special shout-out to: Rodrigo Garcia—our godfather, guardian angel and executive produce. His belief in this project and us was the unifying conduit that got it to the big screen.

When I heard we got into Sundance I: fist-pumped the air and called my twin brother while texting my wife to call me.

My favorite film festival moment in my life so far is: the reception for our first film, The Slaughter Rule, at Sundance 2002, where we all danced to the cowboy band Wylie & the Wild West featuring the world’s best yodeler, Wylie Gustafson.

I would love to meet Gena Rowlands in Park City.

I’m most excited about seeing the film Chasing Coral this year.

My favorite moviemakers of all time are: my parents—both for the films they, together and apart, made—and for the ones they never got to make.

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1 Comment

  1. Martin M

    January 19, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    After reading a couple articles in this new issue, I am becoming convinced I should allocate some of my budget for VFX! I am writing and directing a film about a cyber relationship between a man and a woman across two different galaxies, though one is unsure which lives on Earth, and I’m struggling with transitional scenes across the Milky Way.

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