EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling directors of films nominated for the John Cassavetes Award or Best First Feature Award at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards.
Chris Eigeman’s “Turn the River” is a nominee in the John Cassavetes Award category in the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards.
From the Independent Spirit Awards website: Famke Janssen plays a small-time gambler who gets by hustling poker and pool games in upstate New York. In her periodic jaunts to New York City, she checks in on her tough-love mentor and secretly sees her son Gulley whom she was forced to abandoned at birth. Concerned that Gulley’s increasingly troubled father and oppressive grandmother may be causing him harm, Kailey hatches a plan to rescue Gulley and start a new life.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
Being an actor started me writing, and that led to directing.
Please discuss the project that you have been nominated for a Spirit Award for.
I had done a movie with Famke Janssen (“The Treatment”) as an actor and as I began writing “Turn” it was pretty clear I was writing for her voice. It turned out to be a great luxury. There were plenty of times I would get lost in the woods of the thing, but knowing that I was writing specifically for her would help me get back on the trail.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
Doing a film for under 500k it turns out you are in a death battle with Time and Resources (and patience and humor and perspective and sanity, but really Time and Resources). And it is very possible that by the end you will have made your days, but have nothing to show for it – just a bunch of disconnected and mangled bits that will never cut together. So really, the biggest challenge was making the thing in the 1st place.
Please describe your experience of finding out you were nominated for a Spirit Award…
I was at the doctor with my son who needed a shot. I tried to distract him from the jab with the good news of the nomination. He seemed not to care (he’s only 13 months, so it’s understandable). And then he screamed and cried.
A day of mixed emotions.
What were some your favorite independent films of 2008?
Not to dodge, but I think given the world right now, any film that gets out there should be considered a miracle in and of itself. I also have yet to see all the films. Having said that, “Wendy and Lucy” killed me.
How do you define “independent film” and how has this definition changed for you personally throughout your career?
I think the economic definitions of Independent and Not Independent have become almost hopelessly blurred at this point. For me, it comes down to the idea of feeling Handmade (as opposed to Corporate). If I can feel that actual people made the thing, and that they have deeply felt opinions about it, and care about this, and don’t care about that and so on and so on – then I think it falls into the Independent file.
What’s next for you?
This summer I’m shooting a film I wrote – “Midnight Sun.” It’s a romantic story about a young marriage that takes place a few years bac