[EDITOR’S NOTE: indieWIRE is profiling the Narrative and Documentary Competition filmmakers who are screening their films at the Los Angeles Film Festival as world premieres.]
Screening in the Documentary Competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Darius Marder‘s “Loot” follows Lance Larson, a second generation treasure hunter. His current project is two World War II veterans who buried treasure after the war, one in Austria and the other in the Philippines. Larson is determined to find the riches. Marder’s debut film parallels this search with revelations from the past, showing a quest for closure. The director talked to indieWIRE about “Loot” and his hopes for LAFF.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking?
I hate when people say “I’m a visual person” -but I think I am. I’ve always known that I wanted to tell stories but the thought of writing a book makes me want to die. Something about being locked into my own brain makes me panic. The first film I made was a silent super 8 film – all of a sudden I could breath. I knew as soon as I started splicing the film together that I didn’t have to panic anymore and I would never do any thing else.
What was the inspiration for this film?
I had just quit my job. I was a chef making good money. I had two kids and was living in NYC and one day I quit everything to make a film – I didn’t know what film but figured if I was going to do it I needed to commit. I was sitting on a park bench in Brooklyn watching my kids in the sandbox and I got to talking to another father sitting next to me. He asked me what I did and I told him I was a filmmaker – cause that’s what I was doing – kind of. He had just moved from Utah and told me about this Mormon used car salesman that he knew who was going to try to help a veteran recover his stolen jewels from Austria. I told him I wanted to make that film. He decided he would produce it and within the week we had flown to Utah and started filming.
Please elaborate on your approach to making the film…
From the moment I heard about this story I had the idea that I could make a new kind of documentary – a slight variation of the genre. I wanted to make a documentary that communicated a story as a narrative would with out exposition letting depth rise to the surface without being prodded. But not just a varite doc. A fable-like quest that unfolds with well structured scenes – scenes we watch for symbolism not just information. I thought a lot about these scenes as I shot – using the camera to bring forth the layers of meaning that are always present in every situation. This meant trying to stay attuned at all times to what was really going on and to try to move instinctively with the camera to reflect that. As we shot I also edited – this was very important because it connected me with the story and informed me further while I was shooting. In a way I tried to distance my self from simply “documenting” – there’s something so sterile about that word. This story is about what is buried – the lurking truth that is not seen on the surface. It was my job to allow this truth to be felt even when it was not seen.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making the film?
So many challenges. Apart from the artistic/creative challenges there was simply the huge challenge of how to make a film with no money and two kids while living in NYC. I could have never foreseen just how tough it would get. Towards the middle of the process I found my self basically alone with over 400 hours of footage, no job and no end in sight. I felt strongly that if I caved and got a job that it would be over – I would never finish. I knew I needed to be working every single day and not stop until it was done. Somehow I managed to do this – amassing debt and receiving magical support at unexpected times – but at times it almost broke me. at a certain point people around you start thinking you’re nuts and you start thinking you’re nuts. Luckily my wife never did – she supported the entire process despite the obvious impracticality.
Another huge challenge was committing over and over to what I wanted the film to be. There are so many ways – tricks to use to infuse a film with drama. Dan Campbell (producer) and I decided early on that we would crash and burn rather than manipulate the film toward a contrived end. easy in theory but in practice it was a long, at times dark, journey of faith.
What are your goals for the Los Angeles Film Festival?
This is where my work meets the world and I hope the film catches people like wild fire setting it on a course to be seen by many and bringing me and my family some long awaited and desperately needed money. I also want to see some films and have a couple beers.
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