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Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #16: Hannah Fidell Depreciates First Love in ‘6 Years’

Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #16: Hannah Fidell Depreciates First Love in '6 Years'

Written and directed by Hannah Fidell, “6 Years” tells the story of a pair of high school sweethearts at the end of their respective ropes. Interestingly enough, “6 Years” (which stars Ben Rosenfield and Taissa Farmiga as the young couple in question), heavily utilized improv, giving the film an (even more) raw and gritty feel. This unique take on coming of age and growing apart was produced by the ever-on-the-rise/never more in demand Duplass brothers, and brings up questions of domestic abuse.

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less? 

“6 Years” is about a young couple in college, Dan and Mel, who have been together for six years. With college quickly coming to an end for older Dan, the couple are forced to rethink their plans for the future.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

This is a film about first love and growing up. It’s also about that very specific time before college ends when you are trying desperately to figure out what you want out of life (or at the very least the immediate future)…that time when the world is yours and everything and anything is a possibility. But of course 6 YEARS has a dark side to it, and at the more micro level its about co-dependency and the dynamics of a very specific type of abusive relationship.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I’ve lived all over the country: the first 18 years in Bethesda, Maryland, followed by a glorious four in Bloomington, Indiana. Post college, I did my required time in Brooklyn with a brief hiatus in Austin before finally moving out to Los Angeles about two years ago. This might sound like a lot of moving around, but I’ve been incredibly inspired by the time I’ve spent in all these different regions. Fun fact: there was a time when I thought I was going to be a lawyer. Luckily my mother (although she refuses to acknowledge that she ever said this) sat me down and told me that my skills were better suited for another profession…most likely in the arts. Thank you mom. You were right, as always.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

Shooting an improv based film is incredibly liberating, exhilarating and fun. But editing that kind of movie can be difficult for obvious continuity reasons. Big props to Sofi Marshall and Carlos Marques Marcet who worked their asses off editing “6 Years” and making it look so seamless.

What do you want SXSW audience to take away from your film?

I want the younger viewers to be able to relate to it in real time, and older viewers to reminisce. 6 YEARS is a film that everyone can relate to in one way or another. I hope that it can act as a sort of mirror…serve some cathartic purpose. I want to make those 85 minutes in the movie theater or in front of a TV worth it.

Any films inspire you?

My starting point was the classic relationship-gone-bad film “Days of Wine and Roses.” But I also wanted to give “6 Years”  a documentary feel, so Andrew Droz Palermo (cinematographer) and I watched some Dardenne films. Those guys are master storytellers and their movies have a fluidity to them that I really wanted to emulate. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this because we went in the complete opposite direction, but I initially told Andrew that I wanted “6 Years” to look like “Risky Business.” I think I had just watched it for the first time and was struck by how white the palate was…and I really wanted “6 Years” to be a physically bright film even though the subject matter gets pretty dark. I wanted it to look like the opposite of “A Teacher.”

What’s next?

I’ve got a few things that I’ve been working on: I’m several drafts deep on the pilot script for the TV version of “A Teacher” that I’m doing with HBO, I’m writing an untitled road trip movie with my friend Carson Mell. He wrote on “Eastbound and Down” and currently writes on “Silicon Valley”… so this will be very different from anything I’ve done before. And I’ve been working on another road trip movie of sorts… although this one in the horror realm: a remake of Ida Lupino’s classic film noir “The Hitchhiker.” It sounds like a lot, but I’ve learned over the past few years that I’m surprisingly good at multi-tasking.

What cameras did you shoot on?

We had two RED cameras and used Canon lenses.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform. If not, why?

No. We were luckily enough to be fully funded by the Duplass Brothers.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one?

Self taught.

Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. For profiles go HERE.

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