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Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | “to.get.her” Director Erica Dunton

Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | "to.get.her" Director Erica Dunton

When five beautiful teenagers decide it is time to take a break, Anna decides it’s time to borrow daddy’s credit card, purchase tickets, and invite her friends to her family beach house for some much needed R&R. The pressures of school, disloyal boyfriends, probing therapists, and family problems have been building, and the trip seems like a perfect way to relieve stress. So the girls come together for a fateful night of drinking, dancing, self-discovery—and murder.

Cleverly constructed and impeccably tuned, “to.get.her” is a sexy, visually luscious mystery thriller that keeps the tension taut and the viewer guessing as the tale unravels the girls’ lives and secrets. Writer/director Erica Dunton draws wonderful performances from a talented ensemble cast and delivers a ride that entertains as much as it illuminates an ever-increasing deadly trend in our society. [Description courtesy of Sundance Institute]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic & Documentary Competitions as well as the World Dramatic & Documentary Competitions and NEXT section to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

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Director: Erica Dunton
Screenwriter: Erica Dunton
Cast: Jazzy De Lisser, Chelsea Logan, Adwoa Aboah, Audrey Speicher, Jami Eaton, Jill Jackson
Executive Producer: Joe Dunton MBE BSC
Producer: Erica Dunton
Composer: Michael Tremante
Cinematographer: Derek Tindall
Editor: James Devlin
Production Designer: Matthew Petersen, Andrew Sleet

Responses courtesy of “to.get.her” director/writer Erica Dunton.

Like father, like daughter…

My father is a cinematographer and camera engineer. Ever since I can remember we sat on the couch next to each other and he would point out what was good in a picture and what was not. From a great back light to a cheap wig, Dad would notice it all. Sometimes, he’d even take me to Technicolor or Duluxe Film Labs at five in the morning before school to watch the projected dailies of whatever film he was working on. I’m an avid stills photographer too. Film is a visual medium, the aesthetic plays a crucial role, it can provide a personality for the story. Knowing how to manipulate and play with an image is something that I have always loved to do, whether it be with chemicals, filters, lenses, there is always something you can try to make the film your own. As a director you can create a stage, a world in which your actors will lose themselves, where their performances will be framed in a way that will maximize their authenticity.

I will also say that I proved quite bossy at an early age. I was writing and directing school assemblies from the age of nine. I still have the scripts and even then I knew exactly how I wanted those written worlds to present themselves. So I guess, looking back, I should have known a little earlier that film making was my calling. I resisted in college and got a law degree as I knew that was a much more sensible life choice. But then I discovered film school and the rest is history.

A film about the teenage experience…

I knew four out of the five lead girls already and I wrote their parts for them. I wanted to make something that reflected a teenage girl’s world today, a film that anyone any one of these actresses would be able to relate to. I think as a filmmaker if you have first hand access to the world you are creating then your story will mean more to it’s audience.

Creating freedom on set…

I was excited by the Canon 7D. It was introduced as a stills camera and in terms of ‘playing’ with image, I could see the results immediately. It also allowed me some shooting freedom as the rig was very compact. We shot 85% of the film on a 600mm anamorphic lens which meant that very often the camera was a block or two away from the girls. This allowed them the freedom to explore their scenes. It created an intimate environment for us to work in and I think this is why the film’s look is very ethereal but yet it retains a very real and authentic emotion.

Baring all during the hot summer months…

The heat. We were shooting in July and August in North Carolina – one day it was 113 degrees. It was just crazy and the humidity was out of control. Our first day was on a boat, it was funny because it was so hot, everyone just stripped down to the bare essentials. Usually it isn’t until the wrap party at the end of a shoot that you get to see your cast and crew semi-naked, but oh no, not us, day one, baring all. After that, there were no secrets.

A colder sequel…

Aside from the one above where we were all naked on day one, a moment I remember fondly is the last day that all the girls were working and they gave a beautiful speech and handed out Snuggies to all the crew insisting that, “” the sequel to this film (something they decided that should happen) will be shot during the winter as it would be a much more comfortable working environment. I think a lot of people are bringing those same Snuggies to Sundance.

What Sundance will bring…

I’m very excited to find out. No-one has really seen the film yet so I cannot say. I love it, but then of course I’d say that. I’m proud of all of us.

I can honestly say, it was the right film, the right people and the right time. Now I feel like we are in the right category. I believe that our story will highlight what is next, our cast is what’s next and the technology we used is what’s next, so for us to find a home in Sundance in the ‘Next’ category is really something to celebrate and be grateful for.

Films that serve as an inspiration…

In truth, I find all films in part inspirational, they are so difficult to make, so for me that fact someone has made one at all, is inspiring in itself. 

And plans for the future…

I have a couple of my own projects that I am working on but I’m also reading scripts by other writers. I’m keeping my options open and excited about the future. 

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