IndieWire’s Springboard column profiles up-and-comers in the film industry worthy of your attention.
You know Macon Blair’s face. The Virginia native frequently pops up in childhood pal Jeremy Saulnier’s films — including recent offerings like “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room” — and he even has the requisite “Law and Order” credit under his belt (he appeared on “SVU” back in 2008), but these days, Blair is eager for film fans to check out something different: His directorial debut. The new feature, “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” will open this year’s Sundance Film Festival as one of its slew of “Day One” offerings, before popping up on Netflix just a few weeks later.
For fans of Blair’s acting in Saulnier’s films and those familiar with his writing work on offerings like Brett Simmons’ horror feature “The Monkey’s Paw,” the new feature should serve as further proof of his talents and unique worldview. (Also, damn if Blair isn’t just one hell of a nice guy.)
The film stars Sundance regulars Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood in what Blair hopes is a strong blend of dark comedy and crime thriller. Centered on Lynskey’s character Ruth — a nursing assistant already teetering on the edge, and that’s before she gets robbed and vows to take revenge on her assailants — “I Don’t Feel at Home” follows Ruth and her weirdo neighbor Tony (Wood) as they plunge into a bizarre underworld that has no room for hapless tourists such as themselves.
Ahead, Blair sounds off in his own words about his new project, what’s next on an increasingly enviable slate (the guy is appearing in both a Sean Baker and a Steven Soderbergh film in the coming months) and tries to get comfortable with being an indie film multi-hyphenate.
Plus, check out our exclusive trailer “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” below.
[Finding out the film got into Sundance felt like] a very speedy vibration between elation and pure terror. Back and forth several times in a minute. I felt like I got away with something getting to make the movie in the first place at all.
Because it was set up with Netflix, the pressure of having to find a sale at a festival was removed from it. Getting to do a festival was not something that we were putting all of our eggs in that particular basket. Then they came back and said opening night and that was like, “Oh shit! You’re building these expectations too high. It’s terrifying.” No, it’s awesome. We’re looking forward to it.
I had always had the idea [for the fim]. It was sort of like the long game was to, at some point, direct. In my mind it was always, “At some point. In the future. Some point in the future.” It occurred to me that I was just kicking it down the road. I felt like if I didn’t just go ahead and double down and commit to something, I would keep kicking it down the road.
I had this assumption that if I do get to make a movie, that it’s very likely that it could just be one movie, and I may not get a chance to do it again. So what are the boxes that I would want to check off? I knew I wanted to do some sort of a crime story because I’m a fan of crime fiction. I also knew I wanted to do something that was kind of funny. I wanted it to be a comedy, and I also wanted it to do something that had some sort of a romance aspect to it. It was just about putting all of those things together around this character idea, and building it from the ground up from there.
I’ve watched it dozens and dozens of times. All I can really see now are the things that I feel like I made mistakes on, and they are glaring and in blistering neon to me. I feel like I got it right to a certain extent, but it’s hard for me to say if I’ve totally nailed what I was going for.
The approach was to start the movie in the more comedic, quirky character world. Then, as it progresses, turn the temperature up. By the time it gets to the end it’s gradually progressed into this much more dark and bloody crime world type of movie. Hopefully that transition is not jarring to people.
Writing is the thing that pays most of my bills. I’ve been able to support my family doing that. When I’m lucky enough to get acting work, obviously I’ll do that. The producing is usually just me running a backup/assistant position for Jeremy’s movies. I wouldn’t call myself a producer in the out-in-the-world sense. It tends to just be whenever I’m working with him. They all fulfill a different itch or desire or something.
Writing is like, you have complete control, from the ground up, of this building a world and story. At the same time, you also give it away at the end and it can become something totally different. That’s fine, but for that one period of just you and your laptop, you are in total control.
The acting part of it is different because you’re working to fulfill somebody else’s vision of something. It’s nice, in some ways, to have that pressure taken off of you. To give yourself over and put your trust in somebody else and let them steer the boat.
With the directing, you’re the decider at every level. You get to make all of the creative decisions. By the same token, that’s an incredible amount of pressure and it can be exhausting.
[The partnership with Jeremy] is just something I’m really, really grateful for. We’ve known each other since we were little kids. There’s this trust on a personal level, but then also our tastes are so aligned that there’s also this trust on a creative level. It feels very effortless, and a lot of fun. Which is not to say working with other folks is not fun, it certainly is, but there’s just an ease and a comfort level with him. That is something that I don’t ever take for granted.
He’s off doing pre-production on his new movie now, which I wrote the script for, so that will be a new phase. In the past he’s always written his own scripts, and I would act and help him produce. This time, I’m the screenwriter and he’s going to go direct it. Even with that new combination of roles, it’s the same. We have shorthand and we’re able to communicate things very easily. It’s a lot of fun.
“Out of Sight” is very different, but the way that they jumped between the fun, pulpy crime story, and this weird deadpan sense of humor was a huge reference point for my movie. I referred to that a lot when people were trying to gauge the tone. I was like, “It’s kind of like this. It’s not cool George Clooney doing cool stuff, but that sort of vibe. How they would jump between those two worlds. Getting to work with Steven Soderbergh [on “Logan Lucky”] was also a dream come true.
“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” premiered in U.S. Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Netflix will release the film on February 24.
The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 19 – 29, 2017 in Park City, Utah.