First-time feature director Zachary Sluser hit the jackpot with his new film “The Driftless Area,” with a cast of star talent like Anton Yelchin, Zooey Deschanel, and John Hawkes. The film is about a bartender named Pierre (Yelchin) who returns to his small hometown following his parents’ death. Back home, he meets and falls in love with the mysterious Stella (Deschanel), and is eventually thrown into a strange cat-and-mouse game with a criminal (Hawkes). The film also stars Alia Shawkat, Frank Langella, Aubrey Plaza, and Ciarán Hinds.
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
“The Driftless Area” is a contemporary fable about the ways we struggle to control time and fate in a possibly predetermined universe.
Now what’s it REALLY about?
Pierre Hunter (Anton Yelchin), a bartender with unyielding optimism, returns to his tiny hometown after his parents’ death. When he falls for the enigmatic Stella (Zooey Deschanel), Pierre is unknowingly pulled into a cat-and-mouse game that involves a duffel bag full of cash, a haphazard yet determined criminal (John Hawkes), and a mystery that will determine all of their fates. With Alia Shawkat, Frank Langella, Aubrey Plaza, and Ciarán Hinds. Based on the novel by Tom Drury.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
Growing up a Jewish Canadian in a meditation community in small-town Iowa, I have always had disparate reference points for myth and spirituality. From an early age I was introduced to, and frequently questioned, the concepts of karma, fate and the supposedly written astrology of our lives. The process of collaborating with Tom Drury to adapt his novel into this film has given me the opportunity to explore the challenges of trusting in the order of a seemingly random universe.
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
Having the patience and perseverance to weather the long road to financing. The flexibility and presence of mind to recognize when something that’s been envisioned for years should change into whatever best serves the film in the moment. Tom Drury’s process and openness to revising his novels or our screenplay inspired my approach to the challenges and compromises of production. To know when something was worth fighting for and when perhaps an equally good but different road lay before us.
What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?
I hope the film provokes conversation about our desire to foresee, control or change the trajectory of our intertwined lives and an appreciation for the necessary role we play in each other’s stories. And I hope some laughter. Laughter is always a nice takeaway.
Any films inspire you?
The films of the Coens, Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, Jane Campion and David Lynch. Tom Drury introduced me to Carnival of Souls during one of our script revisions which calibrated our brains in the right direction for that draft. My DP, Daniel Voldheim, and I also drew inspiration from the photographs of Todd Hido, William Eggleston, and Gregory Crewdson.
I’m always asking myself that same question.
What cameras did you shoot on?
ARRI Alexa with Panavision C Series anamorphic lenses
Did you go to film school? If so, which one?
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Indiewire invited Tribeca 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. For profiles go HERE.