Q&A: Courtney Hunt

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Courtney Hunt gave up law school to pursue a film degree, then spent a decade researching the subject matter that became her breakthrough immigration drama "Frozen River." Made in 24 days in Plattsburgh, N.Y., with funding from friends and her husband's business associates, the film was snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics at last year's Sundance and has since racked up six Spirit nominations and Oscar noms for Hunt (original screenplay) and Melissa Leo (actress). She recently talked with THR's Matthew Belloni.

The Hollywood Reporter: When was the moment you realized this film might actually find an audience?

Courtney Hunt: At Sundance, there were maybe 250 or 500 people at the Racquet Club and we saw people were engaged. We had never screened it in front of a big audience. We'd only shown it to five people, all of whom we knew, so, you know, that's not exactly an impartial group.

THR: Quentin Tarantino was an early fan of the film.

Hunt: He was on the Sundance jury. He liked it a lot and he gave me the Grand Jury Prize. We talked about it. It reminded him of when he was growing up. He made a kind of connection with his own life.

THR: There is the memorable image in the film of the women driving across the river. How much did that image stamp your creative process?

Hunt: It was the perpetual image that guided every single take. Every take led to what was going to happen on that river and what that river meant.

THR: Does it feel a little weird to be going up against studio specialty releases?

Hunt: Yeah, I think the definition of indie has gotten very broad. But I still believe that a good movie can pop up anywhere.

THR: Do independent filmmakers who have had a modicum of success have a responsibility to the independent community to help nurture new voices?

Hunt: You mean like what Quentin Tarantino did? Yes, I do. It's just a matter of not being so self-involved that you can't stand up and say, "That's a good movie." If we could have more people like Marcia Gay Harden, who just stood up and said "I love it. Period." She was on my jury, Sandra Oh was on my jury, Mary Harron was on my jury. And they were all amazing and very vocal about their feelings about the film. And that's just generous and good. I would definitely do that for somebody else in a heartbeat.
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