If you weren’t paying attention this year, a little gem that is up for the Spirit Award for Best First Feature might have escaped your notice. In stark contrast to it’s $7 Million budget, Get Low delivers an outsized human experience. Despite my previous post about the Oscar-nominated The King’s Speech, Firth and Rush’s performances pale in comparison to those of Robert Duval and Bill Murray.
Fireworks, people! Can you imagine being in the director’s seat as that performance was delivered? I would die a happy man if I had the honor of setting the scene for those two men to step into and help them bring it to life. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I highly recommend you rent it.
Now, the most interesting part of the story of this film is that it took over 8 years to find the financing to make it. And, as mentioned earlier, it was hand-crafted by a first-time director. Can you imagine working with Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek after their illustrious careers, and this is the first time you have directed a feature film? Not only that, can you imagine as a producer going to a financier and telling them you are so confident in this first-time director that you are willing to put this cast in their hands? This is truly a re-imagining of what it means to produce an independent feature film. These gents are showing the industry a new way forward in an economy that has seen most major studios shutter the doors of their independent production shops.
Consider this quote from producer Dean Zanuck, who worked with his father on the massive budget, blockbuster film Road to Perdition among other box office successes you’re sure to recognize: “You’ve got a first-time director. You’ve got an older cast of characters. These are all things…I call them dirty words to financiers and people who are looking for explosions and spectacle and then you give them this – this is a very quiet, intimate piece, the kind of film that doesn’t get made very often.” Take a look at the full interview with IFC here.
I for one hope that men and women in the film industry will find encouragement in this story of how one great story can re-create the way films are made. If they can do it, we can do it too. Let’s keep telling our stories, and let’s keep looking for ways to share those stories with the world. As Kenneth Burke has said, “Stories are equipment for living.” And this only becomes more meaningful to our daily lives as our society becomes less and less connected to the stories that define us. As we lose touch with our stories – stories of home, and family history, and of community, and rootedness – we must find meaning in other stories. I for one found great meaning in the story of an examined life, and confession, and forgiveness in Get Low. I hope you will take a look and find the same.