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Meet the Tribeca 2015 Filmmakers #50: Zachary Treitz Digs Into Brotherly Love and Brotherly Hate in ‘Men Go To Battle’

Meet the Tribeca 2015 Filmmakers #50: Zachary Treitz Digs Into Brotherly Love and Brotherly Hate in 'Men Go To Battle'

READ MORE: Meet the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmakers

Kentucky, 1861. Amidst the American Civil War, brothers Francis and Henry Mellon depend on each other to keep their unkempt farm afloat as winter encroaches and the war rages on seemingly far beyond the borders of their family’s land. Isolated, the relationship between the two is increasingly strained. After Francis takes a casual fight too far, Henry ventures off in the night leaving each of them to struggle through the wartime on their own. (Synopsis courtesy of Cara Cusumano, Tribeca Film Festival)

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

Two brothers living in rural Kentucky in 1861 who are too busy fighting each other to fight in the Civil War. And a rich girl named Betsy.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

It’s about the easily breakable bonds of family; knowing someone else better than you know yourself; everyday life going on amid unimaginable chaos. But it’s pretty much a comedy.

Kate Lyn Sheil (the co-writer) and I wanted to make a DIY period piece that felt like we were dropping into a fictionalized version of my family’s history in Kentucky. It follows two brothers from the fall of 1861 to the fall of 1862, as their lives disintegrate and reform over the first year of the Civil War. Henry, whose life has been formed under the thumb of his overbearing older brother Francis, commits a social transgression with a daughter of a preeminent family that he thinks is so bad he needs to leave town. His only option, though, is to join the army, which he enjoys for a while until it turns into a nightmare.

It’s not really a Civil War movie. The war is a mean and intrusive background in these brothers’ already contentious lives.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky but I live in New York now. I used to play drums in a hardcore punk band called No Courage but we haven’t played a show in a long time, so I guess I’m now just doing this film thing for the moment.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

What a question! The hardest part, overall, is staying in love and fully engaged with the movie over the years it took to make. We shot off and on for over a year, which is enough time for the project and the people working on it to change. Maintaining the original spark of the project while allowing it to grow and adapt required commitment I did not have before. With it being finished it feels inevitable, but there were so many places it could have and did go wrong.

Any films inspire you?

Our inspirations for this came more from books we like as well as the numerous unpublished diaries and journals we found in archives during our research, but it’s safe to say that this movie would not be the same without Peter Watkins’ beautifully dirty Edvard Munch or Elem Klimov’s “Come and See.” It has just as much to do with a comedy like “Paper Moon” though. 

What’s next?

I’d like to help with something Kate will direct, or the project our producer Steven is making. I’ve got several projects of my own I have to make but if I talk about them they’ll never get done.

What cameras did you shoot on?

Arri Alexa.

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

Boston University

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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