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Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #57: Louis Sutherland & Mark Albiston Take From Their Past in “Shopping”

Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #57: Louis Sutherland & Mark Albiston Take From Their Past in "Shopping"

Directing team and friends since childhood, Louis Sutherland and Mark Albiston used their personal stories of growing up in New Zealand in the 80’s as the inspiration for “Shopping,” nominated for the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic award. The coming-of-age story meets crime drama follows a young boy caught between a group of shoplifters and problems with his father.

What It’s About: “Shopping” is set in New Zealand, 1981. It’s a film about a 16 year old called Willie who falls out with his volatile father and into the company of a 50 year old career criminal called Bennie. As Bennie’s hold over Willie grows he finds himself in over his head; and when his younger brother Solomon is left to fend for himself at home, Willie’s two worlds collide with shattering consequences.

And So It’s Really About: All of our films are in some way about the little girl or guy standing up to the bully. Its such a relevant theme and nowadays heros and strong individuals are something society needs to see and make more of. As in all our work to date the story is informed by our past experiences. In this case “Shopping” was inspired from an experience Louis had in the 80’s when he fell in with a group of shoplifters after falling out with his father. It really did come down to a choice of the right or wrong.

Tell us about yourself. What’s your background?  Mark and I [Louis] were both raised on the Kapiti Coast which was a quiet beachside Village back in the day. His family literally lived around the corner from mine and although I was mates with his older bro Craig we all went to the same primary school and college so swam in the same fish bowl. Knowing a lot about each others history, sharing many memories and to a degree being shaped by similar circumstances allows us to ‘meet’ creatively with our work. Some people find the idea of collaboration as something strange or unique but due to our shared history its more like we’re still just a couple of kids fighting over the toy truck in a sandpit. As I’m stronger I usually win…

What was your single biggest challenge in bringing this to the screen? From a collaborative perspective it was both of us having to fight to try to stay in the same room at the same time. The budget was tight which meant we were seperated during long periods of Pre Production and being used as individuals. Louis would be taken in one direction and I another. We know this now to be a false economy because the real value of our collaboration is having two minds build an idea together and the precision of thought that time together creates – its not about getting two things done at once. We learn’t so much here which now informs how we build the process and foundations for our next project “Hells Teeth”.

What will you expect of Sundance audiences?  It would be cool if people felt like they’d peeked through of a window into our past; a brief journey across the Pacific to lazy old New Zealand in the 80’s. We always grow a huge heart in our work. It probably comes from us both shaping with material that we’ve lived and breathed. In this we would hope people walk away feeling uplifted by the film and empowered in a way that they feel they could make a change in life if the need arises. Thats such an open, bordering on whimsical, comment – but of course, film is so subjective. We hope above all they enjoy it!

What’s next for you? “Hells Teeth” is our next feature film which we hope to shoot in 2014. Again we’re writing with the support of Graeme Mason and the team at the New Zealand Film Commission. This time its centered around a powerful moment in Marks life when he was a teenager – its a story like ‘Shopping’ that we feel we simply must make.

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 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.

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