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PARK CITY ’06: Chris Gorak: “I never went to film school…working for 14 years in the film industry

PARK CITY '06: Chris Gorak: "I never went to film school...working for 14 years in the film industry

Every day through the end of the Sundance Film Festival, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing two interviews with Sundance ’06 competition filmmakers. Sixty filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an e-mail interview, and each was sent the same questions.

Chris Gorak directed “Right at Your Door“, which is screening in the Independent Film: Dramatic Competition. “Right at Your Door” follows Brad, who is on his way to work when he hears radio reports of a dirty bomb being detonated in downtown Los Angeles. Brad seals himself in his home, and what follows is “the realities of this kind of attack-the isolation and fear, the panic, the frustration, and the media misinformation,” says Sundance. “Gorak and his collaborators demonstrate a restraint and attention to detail that multiply the effect of both the personal and public crises. This is ambitious and accomplished storytelling, wonderfully conceived and executed, that stands apart from similarly themed, multimillion-dollar extravaganzas that have nowhere near the tension, thoughtfulness, and impact of this very independent feature.”

Please tell us about yourself. How old are you? What jobs have you had? Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you live?

I am 36 years old. Formally I was a production designer and art director for film. I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. I grew up in Westborough, Massachusetts. I live in Los Angeles.

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

During my 13 years of working in the art department for a dozen or more films I became very interested in how the design of a film affects the story of the film. I’d say it was half way through my art director career when I realized had a desire to write and direct.

Did you go to film school? Or how did you learn about filmmaking? How did you finance your own film?

I received a masters degree from Tulane University School of Architecture. I never went to film school but working for 14 years in the film industry was my film school… I met my producers Jonah Smith and Palmer West when I was production designing “The Clearing.” It was on the set of that film where we discussed me writing a contained script for me to direct. They gave me my directing break and fully financed the film through their company, Thousand Words.

Where did the initial idea for your film come from?

The initial idea for the film came from being separated from my wife during 9/11. We were not in NYC or DC but in separate countries. I think that separation played a large role in capturing the separation of the two characters in our film. I saw the opportunity to potentially write a contained but thrilling story.

What are your biggest creative influences (this could include other filmmakers or films)?

While shooting the film, I kept reminding myself of the innate tension in “Jaws”. The fact that we knew as an audience that the shark was anywhere in the ocean, circling our drifting heroes [which] created endless tension. I figured once we created a believable threat of toxic ash around the house and in the sky, the threat of life and death would be without a doubt omnipresent. The shark would be circling our characters…

What do you hope to get out of the festival, what are your own goals for the experience?

At Sundance, I hope our film inspires other filmmakers. As an audience member, my greatest compliment I can ever give a film is, “I wish I thought of that!” I always want to be inspired to keep striving forward; I hope our film does that for at least one aspiring filmmaker.

What is your definition of “independent film”?

An independent film for me is one that is financed and produced outside the support of a studio system including outside the support of the independent companies which are under the studio umbrella.

What are a few other films you’re hoping to see at Sundance and why?

I look forward to “Iraq In Fragments” and “Who Killed the Electric Car”. I am a huge fan of documentaries, especially those that question who’s in charge and those that let you peek into a world you have never seen before.

What are some of your favorite films, and why? What is your top ten lists for 2005?

I have a long list of favorite films which include films like: “Star Wars”, “Jaws”, “Brazil”, and “When We Were Kings”. My top 2 films for 2005 are: “Munich” and “Paradise Now”.

[Get the latest from the Sundance Film Festival throughout the day in indieWIRE’s special Park City ’06 section]

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