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Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #20: Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens Team Up for Iceland-Based Comedy 'Land Ho!'

By Indiewire | Indiewire January 14, 2014 at 11:26AM

The heart of Iceland is the unusual setting of this road trip comedy in which two old men make their way through the cold weather, and through the cold realities of life. Writers/directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens tackle the Northern European country as their protagonists do, bringing to the audience the comedic nature of old age and the necessity of finding oneself.
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Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens
Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens

The heart of Iceland is the unusual setting of this road trip comedy in which two old men make their way through the cold weather, and through the cold realities of life. Writers/directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens tackle the Northern European country as their protagonists do, bringing to the audience the comedic nature of old age and the necessity of finding oneself.

What It's About: "Land Ho!" is about a pair of retired guys -- ex-brothers-in-law -- who go on a trip to Iceland. They make their way around the country, seeing the sights and getting into trouble.

So What It's Really About: The movie is both a fun-loving comedy and a reflection on growing older and enjoying what you've got while you've got it.

Tell us briefly about yourself. What's your background? Martha and I went to school together at UNC School of the Arts and stayed in touch over the years. In the past, we've made our own films and will continue to do so, but the chance to come together to make something adventurous and unexpected proved to be fun for both of us. We also worked with a lot of people who went to school with us in North Carolina and have worked with us individually, including Andrew Reed, our director of photography.

What was your biggest challenge in completing this film? Shooting in remote parts of Iceland was both the biggest challenge and one of the most exciting aspects of the film. We shot in September and early October so we avoided the most difficult weather, but addressing all of the normal concerns of production became even more challenging when the location was deep into a wilderness area with the roughest roads we've ever seen. We had two great on-location producers, Christina Jennings and Sara Murphy, and every night after we wrapped the problem-solving would get underway until all hours.

What do you want the Sundance audience to take away from your film? We hope people will laugh and find something to relate to. Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn, our two lead actors, brought so much to their roles. More than anything, we want people to enjoy spending time with these two guys.

Have any films inspired you? We were inspired by comedies from the '80s and '90s like "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Tommy Boy". We had a lot of fun keeping those films in mind, while taking a more naturalistic approach to the performances.

What's next for you? Martha is developing a project called PAPAW EASY, in which a shy boy forges an unlikely partnership with a foul-mouthed, down and out playboy. Aaron is developing a science-fiction movie set on a deserted planet and a cat burglar movie set in the 1920s.

What cameras did you shoot on? We shot on RED. Also, we shot with two cameras, which neither of us had ever done before. The freedom it gave us to explore different performances was one of our favorite things about making this movie.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform. If not, why? We didn't because we had a great group of investors who believed in us and the project. Mynette Louie, one of our producers and head of Gamechanger (our biggest investor), got involved early and made sure that the project happened on our terms creatively.

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 2014 festival. For profiles go HERE.

This article is related to: Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers, Sundance Film Festival, Land Ho!





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