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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #49: Michael Almereyda Rocks the Biopic Genre With ‘Experimenter’

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #49: Michael Almereyda Rocks the Biopic Genre With 'Experimenter'

The official Sundance synopsis for Michael Almereyda’s based-on-a-true-story drama “Experimenter” reads, “In 1961, social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the ‘obedience experiments’ at Yale University. The experiments observed the responses of ordinary people asked to send harmful electrical shocks to a stranger. Despite pleadings from the person they were shocking, 65% of subjects obeyed commands from a lab-coated authority figure to deliver potentially fatal currents.” Now how’s that for an enticing feature? Starring Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder, “Experimenter” is bound to give the archetypal “biopic” an exciting energy as it dives into the mind of its psychologically-oriented subject. 

What’s your film about, in 140 characters or less?
Behavior experiments, electric shocks, lost letters, familiar strangers, six degrees of William Shatner, a happy marriage.

Now, what’s it REALLY about?
“It may be that we are puppets. But we are puppets with perception, with awareness. And perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation.” – Stanley Milgram, 1974

Tell us briefly about yourself.
Grew up in Kansas and California. Currently live in New York.

What was the biggest challenge in completing this film?
A 20-day shooting schedule. (Keeps you thinking on your feet.)

What do you want audiences at Sundance to take away from your film?
“Take away” is what you do with fast food, right? Making a film is an adventure. Showing a film (to any audience) is an attempt to share the adventure. 

Are there any films that inspired you?
For this particular picture: “12 Angry Men” (Sidney Lumet), “The Terrorizers” (Edward Yang), “The Nasty Girl” (Michael Verhoeven), “Witgenstein” (Derek Jarman)

What’s next for you?
A series of shorts based on Medieval folktales. A feature about love and memory. Another feature – “The Fun of It” – about a female aviator in the late 1920s, early 1930s.

What cameras did you shoot on?
The Red Epic, which, through upgraded hardware, is now a Red Dragon; property of ace DP Ryan Samul.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform. If not, why?
No. Producers rustled up money the old-fashioned way.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. Click here for more profiles.

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