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Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmakers #54 : Sean Mewshaw Tackles Small-Town Grief in ‘Tumbledown’

Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmakers #54 : Sean Mewshaw Tackles Small-Town Grief in 'Tumbledown'

READ MORE: Meet the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmakers

Years after the accidental death of her folk-legend songwriter husband Hunter, Hannah (Rebecca Hall) has yet to fully accept her small-town life in Maine without him. She spends her days contemplating a book she’d like to write on Hunter’s life and work, and indulging in a fling with a local meathead (Joe Manganiello). But when she is approached by brash New York academic Andrew (Jason Sudeikis), intent on penning his own biography of her late husband, Hannah is roused into action. Initially wary of his intentions she decides to collaborate with him on the book, leading them both to surprising discoveries. As Hannah and Andrew dig deeper into Hunter’s life and death, they come to their own revelations about what it means to live, and to love. Featuring supporting performances by Dianna Agron, Blythe Danner, Griffin Dunne, and Richard Masur, “Tumbledown” is a comedic love story with heart, humor, and tenderness. [Synopsis Courtesy of Tribeca]

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

A small town widow starts to overcome her grief by confronting a NY writer who shares her passion for telling her late husband’s story.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

It’s a hopeful story about how one person finds the courage to feel joy again when it seems all but buried in grief. It’s about how exciting and scary and weird and incredible that first tickle of love feels, even when you’ve been crushed in its teeth before. Plus it’s a fond portrait of my wife’s hometown, and what we find funny and endearing about life in Maine.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

My father is a novelist and I grew up in Rome, Italy surrounded by make-believers of all stripes. Being king goofball as a kid got me into stage acting, but by the time I was done college, I was having just as much fun directing and designing and building sets and rigging lights as I was performing, and it dawned on me that my control-freakishness might be better suited to running the show than the free emotional release and fearless headlong plunges demanded of Real Acting. So I enjoy helping actors find emotional precipices and coaxing them to hurl themselves off. I love making comedy click. I relish the technical aesthetics of designing the visuals and building the story in the edit. I feel damn lucky to get to do what I love while living in Maine. I shoveled at least 60 thousand pounds of snow this winter.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

The challenge that took the longest was overcoming the stigma of the first-time feature director. Everyone was always enamored of Desi’s script, but no matter the short films I’d made with established actors, or my experience on the sets of big feature films, it involved years of persistence, endless carefully calibrated letters, building an intricate lookbook, blazing with confidence in meetings where I was over my head, shooting a fully-produced scene from the film, plus truckloads of luck to convince all the gatekeepers to risk letting me step onto the playing field, then attack the creative challenges.

What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?

I can’t wait for audiences to discover the performances Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis created in the lead roles. They are so sparkling and vivid and soulful in this film, and I think it’s always exciting to see more deeply into actors you think you already know.

Any films inspire you?

“A Fish Called Wanda.” “The Sweet Hereafter.” “The Limey.” “The Place Beyond the Pines.”

What’s next?

I’m adapting another Maine-based story, Lewis Robinson’s novel “Water Dogs.” It’s a mystery / dark comedy about the secrets brothers keep from each other.

What cameras did you shoot on?

Arri Alexa with older Panavision Anamorphics for the majority of it. Though there’s also some 35mm footage shot with a friend’s Arri III for use in a flashback.

Did you crowdfund? 

We didn’t, because we were fortunate to be introduced to experienced film investors who were excited to finance Tumbledown with the cast we had gathered.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? 

My parents, bless them, insisted I get a college degree first, and although I always thought I would go to film school afterwards, I never ended up there because when I first moved to LA I was lucky enough to start getting jobs in production on really interesting features. I treated my time on set as school, observing how professional crews did each job, and doing my best to earn access to mentors who inspired me – Boaz Yakin, Martin Scorsese, Michael Ballhaus, and Gary Winick among them.

Indiewire invited Tribeca 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. For profiles go HERE.

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