“There’s a strange sense of accomplishment in making an independent film. Everything’s against you; there’s no time, and even less money – you bring a bottle of glue, chip in twenty bucks, and hope you all make it through the day. If you manage to finish it and it actually turns out to be pretty good, it’s thrilling.” – American Actor, Director and Producer Eric Stoltz
Film festival season is in full swing this year. With a full roster of goodies in January and the ever-so-indie SXSW gleaning their favourites for showing, the world is poised for arguably the biggest festival of the year in May with Cannes. But with all the hype and all the red carpets, its good to keep your sights on what films are making the rounds and why. Taking from what we saw back in January over in Park City, Utah — home to the Sundance Film Festival, our personal favourite festival — we’ve rounding up the films we thought were interesting and compiled some interviews with the actors and directors behind them. Below, our top three festival picks and why you’ll want to keep an eye out from them when tracking this year’s international circuit.
In the category of “most underrated directors” one will find Lynn Shelton. How? We’re not sure because in our opinion, the stuff she creates always has a sophisticated and charming plot line, a well selected cast and measured dose of dark humour. (If you haven’t already, just watch her 2012 festival feature Safety Not Guaranteed for proof.)
And Shelton’s 2014 Sundance entry, Laggies, is no exception. Led by cast members Keira Knightely (Anna Karenina) and Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back) — each acclaimed for their dramatic roles — it’s no film to take lightly. Knightley plays 28-year-old Megan, who hits crisis-mode when faced with adulthood. Enter 16-year-old Annika, played by Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie), and the story begins. Below, Moretz shares her experience working opposite Laggies heavyweight cast at her young age.
How was it working with such a well-established cast and director?
Lynn was great, we had such a blast on set, and me and Keira really got along well. It was really an honour to be able to work with everyone and really learn from them. They were so great, and so open and it was really inspiring.
The film was shot in Seattle, how was it shooting there?
It was great, it was a really short shoot, just 25 days, so we didn’t get much time to really explore, but it was such a nice place.
Your character is in high school and meets Megan who is much older. What was it like being the youngest of the starring cast?
I mean, working with the cast was great, I never really felt like they talked down to me or anything. I can definitely relate to the highschool aspect of the role, so that wasn’t hard, as I’m quite young still. But it was it was really interesting exploring the [mind of a] high school teenager, where prom is everything, and the smallest things can be so important.
How did you find working in the independent film environment?
Well for one thing we didn’t have time to rehearse, but it was great to just do stuff in the moment. It’s a great way to actually bond with everyone, everything is done on the fly.
Even though the full Cannes lineup has yet to be divulged, we know there are a few that we’d like to see make their way to the south of France. On the top of this list is Jake Paltrow‘s Young One’s, which is all-star, all the way.
The film is shot in three distinct chapters, each featuring a different protagonist and unfolds like a cinematic graphic novel. The film inventively and intelligently layers Greek tragedy over an ethereal narrative that’s steeped in the values of the American West. Starring Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies) and Elle Fanning (Super 8) to name a few. We caught up with Paltrow during the Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered to talk robots and shooting in Africa.
Where did you get the inspiration for writing this script, there are a few different themes in it that come together?
There were two news articles, one was about moving the capital of Yemen due to a lack of water, and the other was about the driest town in the world in Chile. It was about all the people that stayed behind and why they all stayed for these odd personal reasons. There was water being dropped in. Also, I’ve always been interested in robotics, and I had spent some time with Big Dog at Boston Dynamics. I was really interested in trying to do a story where we were going to try and explore its sentience, if it had some sort of soul or sense of self.
It was the South African desert that doubled for America, how was it shooting there?
We were quite remote, we’d have to drive over an hour in and out every day to shoot. At one point, ii felt like nothing was going to work. On our first day we were shooting the first scene with Michael Shannon in 115 degree heat, we just kept taking it one step at a time. I’ve never had a scene stop because the lights blew. And then they’d have to drive seven hours to Cape Town to get new lights and drive seven hours back the next day. I mean, certain things would get dropped along the way.
The film is shot in chapters, why did you choose to shoot this way?
I had been rereading a lot of S.E. Hinton books. She plays with acts, so it really had to do with the books. It was really there to re-energize the audience too. The curtain call at the end has this storybook element too it as well.
Can you tell us about the robot in the film. It looks so real, where did you get it?
It’s totally fake. The torso is made out of fiberglass tubing. We used puppeteers and guys doing parkour. We tried to get the actual robot it’s based on…oh I tried. And they were great, but at a certain point there was no way. In the end, it just wasn’t a movie tool and they have much bigger fish to fry.
There are always those films as Sundance that shine down on the indie gods and say “yes, this festival is about those kooky fringes of society.” This year, that film is Frank, starring Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave ) as the eponymous lead character, frontman to the band of wayward musicians the film is following. It’s cool factor is supported by the fact that music festival, SXSW, is featured in the film. Fittingly, Frank ended up being one of the most talked about screenings at this past SXSW.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (What Richard Did), the story is loosely based on the life and experiences of the musician Chris Sievey, aka Frank Sidebottom, who became well-known for wearing an oversized papier-mâché head whenever he performed live. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) and Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) are among other lead cast members, with Gyllenhaal in the role of Clara, Frank’s guardian and wild Theremin-playing bandmate. The actress talks a moment to chat with us about her history in independent films and why she was interested in this role.
You’re known for taking on brave independent roles, what about this film and this role drew you to it?
When I first read the script, I didn’t understand at all. And at first I said no. And then I called back a few weeks later and said can I do it. It’s hard to understand the tone of it when you are reading it, but I knew there was something there. And it was great to be a part of it.
Frank and Clara have a very intense relationship, especially given that he never takes his fake head off. How was it playing a character like this and where did you take inspiration from?
For me, it was best to pretend that Michael wasn’t doing anything at all out of the ordinary with the head on, as if he didn’t have his head on. Clara and Frank are supposed to be soul mates, and it’s very difficult to be soul mates with someone with a fake head on. So it was best to ignore it.
Did you relate to Clara?
I relate to Clara, she’s just a complicated interesting woman. I think she’s really angry, but misunderstood.
Your character plays that old school science fiction sound maker the theremin, did you have to learn to play?
I did. My husband hooked me up with someone to teach me. It’s really interesting to play.
You’re an old-hand when it comes to indies. You’ve been to Sundance previously with Donnie Darko and Secretary, what’s this year’s festival experience been like?
It’s such a great festival, I haven’t been for a while. I credit Sundance for giving me my career. The most unusual and the most out there…those are the films that Sundance has picked up and supported. I’m not surprised this movie ended up here.Published March 22, 2014