Friday, September 9, 2011

A Lonely Place For Dying: Alive On the Festival Circuit

Director Justin Eugene Evans has accomplished something many dream of in a fashion that producers long for.  He produced a studio quality feature film for less than $200,000. The film was conceived from a stumbled on location. Evans was with his aunt when he found “Old Main,” an abandoned prison just outside of Santa Fe New Mexico.  Evans says, “Once I knew the space I'd bring my laptop to the prison and sketch out a scene in the actual room for that scene. Sometimes I'd write a couple pages, sometimes I only had time to outline the scene before I was rushed out by a crusty ex-prison guard who looked like a cross between a 75 year old Elvis and an angry Johnny Cash.”
It sounds like the making of A Lonely Place for Dying might be just as exciting as the film. The film was in development for about ten months, where Evans storyboarded and collected authentic materials right down to Soviet flashlights and Thai vintage cigarettes. “We did everything a medium scale studio film would do, only with far less money and far fewer people.” In July, risk turned into reward for the film. Releasing the first 22 minutes of the film through Bit Torrent in July was a risk, but one Justin was willing to take. It resulted in 1.5 million downloads and fans subtitling the teaser in over 40 languages. A Lonely Place for Dying has been accepted to 43 festivals, nominated for 48 awards and has won 24, including 15 for best picture.  There’s one place Evans isn’t looking for acceptance though. “Only one group of people haven't taken our internet success seriously-Hollywood. I spoke with a sales agent about this and he said "Hey, if it mattered it would be in The Hollywood Reporter." We politely suggest that the old way of doing things isn't terribly relevant. Dismissing an audience simply because you don't understand them is a bit like closing your eyes before someone punches you in the face with the hope that you won't get smacked.”  Evans is dedicated not only to creating art, but to pleasing an audience in more than a purely aesthetic manner. “[Audiences] want a tight plot driven forward by interesting characters with clay feet. They want a sense of spectacle but not at the expense of character. They want to be intellectually engaged but not intellectually removed. They want a little magic but they're far too sophisticated to be easily tricked.” Justin seems to know his place in the industry and where he wants to take his film career. “I can't change the industry. I can change me and I can embrace our film's audience, which is now in the millions and spread across the globe.”The film is set to have a limited theatrical release January 6th, 2012. Justin remarks at the process of self-distribution saying, “I'm stunned at how easy theatrical exhibition is. It isn't rocket science.”
Evans’ advice to independent filmmakers and the industry is simple, but in keeping with the times: “Filmmakers need to embrace the internet for what it really is; a direct, honest relationship with the anonymous public. If you can deliver a compelling story they'll love you for it.”

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