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The Hard Sell 

Local filmmaker Shane Carruth won Sundance's top honor. what?

Wednesday, Feb 11 2004

Page 3 of 3

In the end, all five members of the jury--revered indie-film producer Ted Hope, actors Danny Glover and Maggie Gyllenhaal, writer-director Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon) and cinematographer Frederick Elmes--loved the movie and thought it deserved the accolade. Period.

"People have accused the jury of voting with our political mandate, which is inaccurate," says Hope, who produced last year's Grand Jury winner, American Splendor, based on the life and work of underground comix icon Harvey Pekar. "The films we awarded were the least expensive, but we addressed the films on their own terms, which didn't take into account whether someone had a comfortable means of production or limited means of production."

Hope says the jury was indeed unanimous in its decision, after some five hours of discussion; other films were well-liked, among them The Woodsmen with Kevin Bacon as a pedophile and the comedy Napoleon Dynamite, but Primer was much-loved. Hope also liked that Carruth wasn't from Los Angeles or New York; his win brought Sundance back to its roots as a fest that celebrated "regional" filmmaking.

"You could feel Shane's enthusiasm for what he was doing coming through in every aspect of that movie," Hope says. "He is the filmmaker in that group--OK, one of maybe two--that I most look forward to seeing his next movie."

And now that the deal is complete, Carruth can get on to the making of that film, which he thinks will cost some $2 million to produce the right way. In between, he will go to Los Angeles, meet with studios, maybe talk to some directors who've won the prize in the past and try to convince himself that winning this prize doesn't mean a damned thing.

"I am finishing a script now that I really wanna make, and the prize comes up," he says, deadpan. "When I am thinking about the writing, I am like, 'Wow, now I'm this award winner; now I gotta punch this up.'" He pauses, then cracks a slight smile. "That's a joke. I can't wait to actually get started with the filmmaking. I look forward to that."

Well, he's told, now you're the golden boy.

"For a while," he says with a small shrug. "For another 15 minutes."

About The Author

Robert Wilonsky


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