Seven Questions for the Directing Duo of "Anthem"
This is part 2 of this interview. To read the beginning, click here.
indieWIRE: You’re in the film a lot. Can you talk about that choice?
Shainee Gabel: That choice was made after we started editing.
Kristin Hahn: Our first cut didn’t have us in it at all.
Gabel: And when we shot the movie, we didn’t intend to be in it. I
shouldn’t say that. Somewhere during production, we got an inkling it
was something we were going to have to think about.
Hahn: Something we should, to be safe, shoot some stuff of the trip
Too many people said to us, “Who’s making the documentary about you
making the documentary?”
Gabel: They wanted to know how we got to everyone. They wanted to know what
the trip was like. We were completely not interested in ourselves. The
thing that made it something that we had to do, part of it came from a
distributor thing. But the glaring thing for Kris and I was that from
the beginning we always thought of it as a series of episodes bound by a
larger narrative. We were always thinking. “What’s the story? What’s the
For months, “What’s the story?” And then finally one day, we were like,
you know what? “We are the story.” And we can’t keep looking for the
story, because here is the story right here. That became the story that
would bind, what for us was the more important story, which was
everybody’s, to have a dramatic structure of 26 stories bound by one,
and try to have a beginning, middle, and end.
iW: What about the editing? You had over 180 hours of footage. To pair
it down to 2 hours was a difficult task.
Hahn: It was awful. The worst thing I’ll ever do. Each person, was, we
cared about everybody. It was like cutting off our own arm. When we had
to cut whole people from the movie, we literally had ceremonies, like
Gabel: We had everybody on cards. We had this working outline on the wall.
And it was like a card came down. . .
Hahn: And there was this area of purgatory, which means they were being
considered to being cut and we’d watch them for days and. . .
Gabel: And our editor, Lucas, was looking over to see Ed Turner is in that
place and everyone would be somber. And then they would be gone.
Hahn: And Shainee would literally go gloomy for a day and a half.
iW: So how did you go about getting distribution? Making that next step?
Gabel: Our distribution road had been long. . . We sold our book first and
that happened really kind of painlessly. And after that, we put together
a trailer of the film and our agent, who sold the book, felt like she
could get the movie out there and she sent trailers, these 4 or 5 minute
trailers to 3 or 4 people. New Line. Miramax. Searchlight? Not
Hahn: Socially conscious producers.
Gabel: And New Line, you know, New Line bought the film.
Gabel: They wanted to buy the film, I should say, they didn’t buy the film
because obviously Zeitgeist bought the film. They made a deal to buy the
Hahn: We were surprised.
Gabel: We were shocked.
Hahn: They flew down and it happened in like a day and a half.
Gabel: They flew to New Orleans. It was amazing. It was great.
Hahn: We didn’t know what to expect. It was our first thing. They came
down, we had beers, and they gave us a call the next day.
Gabel: Michael Stipe has a production company with them and it was kind of,
partially that, and Michael was in the film and Michael had been amazing
throughout, has been really supportive and enthusiastic. Anyway, they
were going to kind of attach his company to “Anthem”. But as things
progressed, essentially what happened was, we didn’t feel confident that
we would get a theatrical release if we stayed with them. We couldn’t
get a definitive answer. And we weren’t comfortable with not knowing, I
mean, the movie was always made to be shown in theaters.
Gabel: But we were fortunate enough to meet Nancy and Emily and they wanted
to take it out in theaters and they had a similar vision to what we had,
Hahn: And they were the first people that expressed a vision for a
Which hadn’t been expressed to us ever. And so that was something like
hmm, that’s good to have. Zeitgeist knew how to accommodate a film like
this, so. . .
Gabel: So that’s where we ended up.
Hahn: That’s how it happened. With a lot of stress, drama, and phone calls