IN HIS OWN WORDS: Bart Freundlich of "The Myth of Fingerprints"
by Allison Joseph
Bart Freundlich is young: 27 young. But even at this age, and directing his first feature,
Bart exudes an industry savvy rarely seen in independent film. Freundlich is the writer/director of "Myth Of
Fingerprints," described in the ’97 Sundance Film Festival program as "a deeply resonant drama that
traces the intricate framework of a family
forced to confront hidden truths." Bearded and affable, with kind eyes,
Bart answered questions at a roundtable discussion during the festival.
There we exchanged a few words on why he doesn’t really look like Ed
Burns, his vision of directing, and the process of building a film
family during production.
"I guess people think I look like Matthew Fox from "Party Of Five"… I
get that a lot. The funniest thing last night was on the stairs at one
of the parties, someone says, ‘there goes Matthew Fox…’ and I just had
to laugh. I also get Edward Burns… which I don’t see at all. When
"Brothers" (The Ed Burns-helmed "Brothers McMullen") came out, I got mistaken for him a lot. We’re different, but I guess if you want to compare, I too worked as a busboy… only at the Royalton in New York City… (laughs)"
"I hope there is something in between the feature and the $40 million!
(laughs) On my film I had a lot of control in terms of the process and
development. If I am going to command a big budget, I want people to
have trust for my skill as a director… I’m not ready to direct a large
movie yet. I liked the atmosphere of "Myth" and the people I worked
with. Like, a key grip talked to me about the scenes and what he
thought… that might not happen for 40 million. This film was made for
just over 1.5 million, thanks to Sony. If you surround yourself with
talented people, you can do a film for very little money… that’s
"I can’t conceive of what 1.5 million dollars means in the world…. I
had been dealing with the film for a few years, two in the writing, and
I wanted to make a film that I could concentrate on fully… in other
words, I didn’t want to have to have another job while I edited it!
(laughs) The money was for that purpose, plus the people on the
production have salaries… I don’t know how some of these people make
films for, like, $300,000. I am amazed when I see the budgets on some
of them… I really don’t know how many or what kind of favors someone
has to pull to get a film made for so little money. (laughs)
Rudimentary things like film stock cost a lot of money… I don’t
remember how many feet we shot exactly, but I remember them loading it
and telling me they had never shot so many canisters…I do know that
having 60 people up there in Maine for nine weeks, where we shot, must
have cost a lot of money."
"Noah Wyle is a very, very good actor. Watching him work on "ER", I
thought of him immediately for this role… it’s a hard role to play. I
gave it to his manager, and a week later we met and became fast
friends… he loved it, and committed even before we had any money.
Julianne Moore is the only actress I know who reads every script she
ever gets, which is exemplary… we sat down and convened on actors we
both liked, and James Legros was one of our favorites in common! We
didn’t get Roy Scheider till the very end… I was sitting there going,
man, who’s going to play the dad… I thought, can my dad do it?!
(laughs). Then we hooked up with Good Machine and Roy was in… I wanted
Blythe Danner from the beginning, and she was a great mom."
"The experiences [in writing the script] were manifestations of feelings
I have had, like going to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving and
getting along with their family but not my own… (laughs). The sex
scenes were cathartic to write, and I guess I wanted to create something
a little more funny and light than my first short film."
"What you saw was what I wanted to make. I don’t think I’ll stick with
family themes necessarily in my future projects… Doing "Myth" was
arduous, because I didn’t really know on page 50 how it would turn out.
I would like to make another movie, hopefully not taking ten months to
do it. Truthfully, I didn’t have a venue for this last film when I made
it… Now, thankfully, I have a lot more outlets for my next project.
It makes me excited and inspired to finish it, knowing this."
"I definitely feel more anxiety about being here at Sundance, and having
more money to make films is less stressful for me… When I started
"Myth", I couldn’t pitch it to anyone, and here I am now. It’s scary.