Writer/director Nikole Beckwith’s “Stockholm Pennsylvania” lived a charmed life in pre-production. After making the 2012 Black List, the script went on to win the 2012 Nicholl Fellowship and get developed in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. With a compelling premise and Saoirse Ronan and Cynthia Nixon to bring it to life, “Stockholm” looks to be one of the more promising debuts at Sundance this year.
What’s your film about, in 140 characters or less?
It’s the story of a young woman returned home to her biological family after living with her abductor for 17 years.
Now, what’s it REALLY about?
Love. And nature vs. nurture, expectation, and identity. And love again.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I grew up in a small coastal Massachusetts city filled with oddballs and artists, who I love deeply. We put on music shows in living rooms and plays in basements and art shows in car trunks. I spent most of my time acting for theater, which lead me to a residency at the amazing Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, where I worked with Eric Bogosian. From there I moved to New York as Bogosian’s assistant and, as I sponged up his wisdom, I evolved into a playwright myself. I did two playwriting residencies — one at Ensemble Studio Theatre and the other at The Public Theater — where I wrote “Stockholm” as a stage play. That lead to the screenplay. I live in Brooklyn with my dog Norman. I’m also a pen and ink artist, but mostly I write.
What was the biggest challenge in completing this film?
This being my first film, I am learning so much so quickly I find myself to be almost a different director week to week. Especially in post-production. So being able to let go and trust the person I was a week ago or 6 months ago, or the person I will be, has been challenging at various points in the process. And also incredibly gratifying. More than anything, it all just makes me hungry to keep learning and changing and making.
What do you want audiences at Sundance to take away from your film?
Though the circumstances of the film are very specific, I tried to leave room in the telling of it to invite our own experiences of these questions about love and identity. I hope for audiences to come away having been both swept up in the characters’ story and also in some way their own. That would be the dream.
Are there any films that inspired you?
So many. I just saw “Force Majeure,” which was really inspiring and beautiful and heartbreaking and funny in the best ways. I was also really taken with “Foxcatcher” and how so much of the story was told in body language and silences. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a favorite for me; the storytelling is so stunning and arresting both visually and in the way it plays with time and unfolds inner vs. outer life. I love Miranda July’s films and how she makes up her own rules. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of my all-time favorite films… watching those blinky stars in the sky talk about our tiny world and giant hearts. So much darkness and levity in one story, and the juxtaposition of the fantastical elements used to explore the gripping realness of humanity.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing; I try to always be writing. But I tend to be pretty quiet about what I’m working on because I learned the hard way that talking about projects before I write them deflates my urgency to tell the story. But I am writing. I’m also trying to not to get too in my head about what’s next and be really present in this moment. Sundance is a real dream and “Stockholm” means the world to me. So I’m not rushing out of the arms of this experience too soon.
What cameras did you shoot on?
The Alexa. My Director of Photography, Arnaud Potier, shoots on very specific vintage lenses, which are gorgeous. His work is so beautiful; the camera is like an extension of him, so I kind of just want to answer “Arnaud Potier.” But…. the Alexa.
Did you crowdfund?
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 2015 festival. Click here for more profiles.