Filmmakers describe their road to Sundance


"Holy Rollers" (U.S. dramatic competition)
Danny Abeckaser, producer/co-star

"The Hassidic community is not really a commercial subject, but I was adamant about making sure we tell the right story. I remember having a meeting in L.A. with a (potential) producer and he said, 'I love the whole idea about smuggling the ecstasy, but why don't we try to make the lead actor a surfer from Arizona who goes to all these raves?' I said, 'No, no, no. You're missing the point. It's about this kid's journey with his religion, his values and his family.' "

"The Tillman Story" (U.S. documentary competition)
Amir Bar-Lev, director
"We kind of stalked Marie Tillman (widow of NFL safety-turned-U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman, killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004). Eventually, she met with us, and the very first thing we said to her was, 'We don't just want to focus on his death. We want to make a film that celebrates his life and the remarkable choices that he made.' And she said, 'I don't want it, if that's what it's going to be.' She explained that she had lost Pat twice, in a way -- once physically and a second time through mythology. She had seen him turned into something he wasn't. I don't know what made (the family) decide to work with us, except that we committed ourselves to tell as true a story as possible."

"HappyThankYouMorePlease" (U.S. dramatic competition)
Josh Radnor, writer-director-star

"We had an actress who attached herself who was meaningful financially, and we secured the financing (through Paper Street Films) based on my participation and hers. Three weeks later, we were in preproduction. That actress ended up dropping out, and that's when Malin (Akerman) stepped in. She had been offered another role in the movie and passed because she felt like she had played that role. Once she heard this actress had dropped out, she flew herself to New York and we met. She actually kept the project afloat."

"Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child" (U.S. documentary competition)
Tamra Davis, director

"Jean-Michel was a friend of mine. I made a film with him in the early '80s, then when he died, I put it away in a drawer. When MOCA was doing the Basquiat retrospective, I showed it to the museum; it turned out (the material) was incredibly rare. I cut it into a short film called 'A Conversation With Basquiat,' which was just my footage of interviews and him painting. (Producer) David Koh asked if I would make it into a feature. The father controls the estate, so I first had to get approval from him. He said, 'I've never heard of you.' In a sense, he understood. There have been many people who have had their own little industries based on their relationships with Jean-Michel. I had put the film in a drawer for 20 years."

"Douchebag" (U.S. dramatic competition)
Drake Doremus, writer-director

"I was working on my first feature, 'Spooner,' last year with editor Andrew Dickler, and I became sort of smitten with him. He's a balding guy with a beard that's about a foot off his face, and he's one of the funniest, most unique people I've ever met. I had this strange vision in my head of him playing this douchebag older brother-type character with this other actor Ben York Jones, who's a friend of mine. My producers (Jonathan Schwartz and Marius Markevicius), were very skeptical, so I shot a two-minute scene with Ben and Andrew that we improvised. I showed it to them and they kind of started to get it. I said, 'Just trust me.' Then we went off and did it."

"3 Backyards" (U.S. dramatic competition)
Eric Mendelsohn, writer-director

"We started filming without all the financing in place, without any post in place, with just enough money to cover the 25 days of shooting. It's not like we said, 'Yay, we got the financing! Let's go!' Deciding to make the film was more like Butch and Sundance jumping off the cliff. This is the dumbest thing we're ever going to do."

"Hesher" (U.S. dramatic competition)
Spencer Susser, writer-director

"Natalie Portman really loved the project and she was excited to produce it. She believed in me and she believed in the script, and she said, 'I want to make it happen.' She was really the reason the film got made. After Natalie signed on, (the financing) came together pretty quickly."

"Sympathy for Delicious" (U.S. dramatic competition)
Mark Ruffalo, director/co-star

"During the years we had spent in the theater, (writer/star Christopher Thornton) and I had met a benefactor, this woman in New York who came into a big inheritance and became a patron of the arts, primarily theater. Over the years, she had given our theater company money. At one point, we went to her and said, 'Would you be willing to put in a portion of this budget to get this movie rolling in a serious way?' and she said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Do you want to read it?' She said, 'No, I don't need to read it. I believe in you two.' "
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