Q. What has been the life of “Pioneer”, and what are your hopes for it’s future? With the success that “Pioneer” has had, i.e. winning Best Narrative Short at South by Southwest, how will this film’s existence compare to other short films?
A. I think I wrote PIONEER almost exactly a year ago. We filmed it
last September, and then it got into Sundance, which automatically
knocked it into a stratosphere that none of my other films have
achieved. That was, in and of itself, quite nice, but even better was
hearing the responses from audience members, both in Park City and in
other cities across the country where the film has played since. I
love knowing that something that meant so much to me now means
something to other folks. Winning that prize at SXSW was amazing, and
I think it will be a helpful in getting my next movie made, and it
also qualifies us for an Oscar nomination, which brings up an
interesting split in my feelings – the film is something pure and
sincere, but because it’s done so well I now find myself commodifying
it to some extent for careerist purposes. I’m trying not to let that
bother me too much.
Q. Where, if not at a film festival, can one see films such as yours? Are there new distribution methods that will allow the general film goer a chance to see non-mainstream productions?
A. Distribution is a tricky mess right now. I don’t even like thinking
about it. These days, film festivals are the best place to see shorts
like this, just because you get to see them on the big screen in a
program that’s been carefully curated. But there are more and more
opportunities to see shorts than ever, because of the internet – I
usually put all my short films up on my website, either right away or
shortly after they’ve played at festivals, and I think a lot of other
filmmakers do as well.
Q. “Pioneer” is a relatively simple film; I can imagine you might disapoint someone expecting a flashy film. I briefly described “Pioneer” to my girlfriend and she jokingly responded “I could’ve made that.” What’s your response to a statement like that and to someone that seeks ‘flashy’ films?
A. Well, maybe your girlfriend could have made the film – but she
didn’t! Making a movie in one room with two actors is easy, I guess,
but making it good is tougher. That was my biggest worry going into
it, that the film just wouldn’t hold up for its own duration. I think
we pulled it off, though, and to anyone looking for a flashy film, I
would tell them that this one is pretty flashy in its own right. Just
in unexpected ways.
Q. How did you introduce 4 year old Myles Brooks to his on screen dad, Will Oldham?
A. Introducing Myles to Will was one of my favorite moments of making
the movie. They sat down together on the couch and Will read a
storybook version of Disney’s ‘The Fox And The Hound’ to him. By the
end of it, they were both howling at the moon in perfect harmony. It
was beautiful. ‘The Fox And The Hound’ is one of my favorite Disney
Q. I understand you bribed Myles with Transformer toys to keep him focused on set. What other tricks did and/or have you used as a directer to get the performances you wanted? Does Will have an interest in toys?
A. I rely a lot on the trick of not telling child actors that the
camera is rolling. That always works. As for Will, I don’t know what
his taste in toys might have been before we made PIONEER, but
afterwards I think he was as taken with Transformers as Myles. Pretty
much everyone on set was. We sort of had to be.