Frozen River

Frozen River

 

(Wesleyan)

 

Courtney Hunt, director of “Frozen River” spoke very intelligently and kindly about her film and answered a good deal of questions after the screening, even the few that either didn’t make any sense or were critical for no reason, you know, the kinds of questions that begin, “I, too am in the film business…” with the question coming from a random audience member on the opposite side of the podium.

We got to talk to Ms. Hunt after the screening and she said a few interesting things that left me wondering if she were accurate. The first thing she said was that funding for “Frozen” came down to the script. “A good script sells it,” she says, brushing off the fact that “Frozen River” first existed as a short that did well at the New York Film Festival. Yet I wonder how people would have reacted if she hadn’t tried and proven the material (and herself) with that short. Sure, her script had to be great to the investors, but what if she had no visual material to also help guide their hands to their checkbooks?

She also mentioned about getting money and just going out and making your movie. “Frozen” was shot digitally, so it wasn’t encumbered with all the costs of film. I am in total agreement with this, but wish she went further into detail about how she secured her own funding. It would seem that she and her husband both do a bit of lawyering and received funding from other lawyer folks. I am not sure how moneyed they, or their friends are, but it could do a middle-class filmmaker some good to know what Ms. Hunt’s cash threshold was as opposed to the guy who can’t quite even pay rent.

But it was inspiring, and I was grateful for her talk. It pumped me up and made me realize that, yes, the script is key: Write something great and then don’t be afraid to sell it. Maybe full disclosure isn’t appropriate, because, in that case I might have been more scared than inspired.

Most people should be familiar with the film (except a certain filmfixer who doesn’t even seem to know what state it took place in). Melissa Leo gives a great performance as a mother struggling to get a doublewide who finds herself in the trafficking business (of people). The more you get involved in the film however, you see that the plot is no more than a Hitchcockian Macguffin that will allow these two separate characters (Leo and the Native trafficker) to bond and relate and KNOW each other. They could have been grocery shopping, but they are transporting folks.

This was another boost to my writing morale. Hunt cares about her characters. And she wants you to as well. So she immerses them in a story you might follow. And before long you care about the characters and their relations, and not so much about the story that lured you.

I must be honest. When “Frozen River” began I had no idea how I would enjoy myself. The whole thing just seemed kind of off and I thought I was in for a long night. I was wrong.

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