Phoenix Film Festival Day Two Wrap features a Danish film, Debra Granik and Ben Foster team up for a father-daughter survival story, Dan Mirish discussing casting Jim Rash and more.
Although it is technically Day 3 of the Phoenix Film Festival, our second, full day was jam packed full of movies. The weather was gorgeous and the crowds were quite happy. While the films were being screened, several seminars and education sessions were going on at the pavilion and when I left this evening, the party was just getting started.
We made some last minute adjustments to our schedule today to accommodate some of the Showcase features and documentaries, which paired well with the competition films we caught. Our day started with the abduction documentary, Forever ‘B’ – Abducted in Plain Sight which is in competition. Director Skye Borgman was on hand to answer questions from the audience about the kidnapping of Jan Broberg. It is a riveting documentary full of a number of emotions. I’ll have a full-length review soon. In the mean time you can catch the trailer below.
Our next feature, also in competition is the comedy Bernard and Huey based on Pulitzer Prize-winning Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer’s beloved comic strip. Director Dan Mirvish was on hand to answer questions following the screening. Mirvish related that the script was originally developed for Showtime, but a changing of the guard let it sit on the shelf for 26 years. Dan also described the “treasure hunt” they underwent to get the original script. He then referenced the Kickstarter contributors, who were part of the audience. Another audience member asked how they got all of the shots of New York City that they got. Dan deadpanned, “By shooting mostly in L.A.”
He went on to described the 12-day shoot in L.A. and the 2-day shoot in NYC. He mentioned the creative techniques they used to recreate a 1987 New York subway. Mirvish mentioned they recreated it in his Culver City garage. I had the chance to ask Dan about the film stock he used for the flashback sequences featured in the film. They used Super 16 film for the 1980’s scenes and digital cameras for the modern scenes. He mentioned that they used Panavision lenses.
“We still wanted to give it a homage to the ’70s when Piper did Carnal Knowledge.” I complimented Dan on the transitions between eras.
The next question was about casting. “The trick is to go in without having a ideal cast in mind.” They had David Koechner at the start of casting. Another member of the audience asked about Jim Rash, who plays Bernard. Dan went on to mention that he was not originally considered and when he called a casting agency, “Bernard and Huey? I loved that script. How could you love the script? I just mentioned it? Well we’re a management company too and we just mentioned Jim Rash to your casting director.”
So, Rash’s casting was a happy coincindence. They did 4-days of rehearsal in Dan’s kitchen, getting “the cast on the same wavelength.” Dan mentioned the Kickstarter campaign and the need to invent a perk and he invented the Mirvishscope. As they were developing the perk, they over ordered a magnifying glass, which was ultimately used in Dan’s favorite scene. I’ll have a full review soon, but the cast is solid, while the story is a bit uneven. Here’s the trailer.
Out of competition is the Danish thriller, Gustave Moller’s Den skylidge, or The Guilty, which features a cop on desk assignment following an officer-involved shooting. The film is focused solely on our protagonist, Asger Holm (Jakob Cedegren) and all of the events in the film unfold over his Emergency Services headset, so we can’t see anything, only hear about it. It screened at Sundance and was subsequently picked up by Magnolia Pictures for distribution. You can see Moller’s Sundance discussion below.
Our final film this evening was the Showcase feature, Leave No Trace from director Debra Granik (Down to the Bone, Winter’s Bone), featuring Ben Foster. Recommended by festival executive director Jason Carney, this father-daughter survival film screened at Sundance and was acquired by Bleecker Street. This is the second festival screening featuring Ben Foster (Galveston, Hell or High Water) that I’ve seen this year and he is electric here. Granik’s tight direction allows the story to flow and the cast to react. I’ll have a full review soon, but be on the lookout for this one.
Leave No Trace played opposite to sold out crowds for Tully and the new John Cho film, Search. I haven’t heard how the other two films played to their audiences, but I am hearing good things outside of the Phoenix Film Festival about them.
Tomorrow will see the unveiling of the competition awards following the main Showcase screening, which I won’t reveal until tomorrow night. We’ll have five more movies to talk about and we’ll reveal the competition winners.