The last twelve months have been quite a ride for writer/director Trey Edward Shults. It was exactly one year ago, at SXSW, where he unveiled his first feature film, “Krisha,” with the picture picking up rave reviews along with an Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize. From there it traveled overseas to Cannes Critics’ Week and beyond, hitting festivals around the world, with Shults’ drama earning accolades and resonating with audiences. It certainly grabbed our critic in Austin who called it “a stunner of a directorial debut.”
Earning his stripes with his own short films, and working on the sets of movies by Terrence Malick (“The Tree Of Life,” “Knight Of Cups,” “Weightless,” “Voyage Of Time“) and Jeff Nichols (“Midnight Special“), Shults made it a family affair when diving into his picture. His aunt, Krisha Fairchild, takes the commanding titular role of a woman, estranged from her family, whose arrival at Thanksgiving dinner sets tension at a fever pitch, as secrets and resentments bubble up to the surface. Adding to the authenticity, Shults’ mother and grandmother also take roles in the movie, along with the director himself.
It’s assured work, and with “Krisha” set to open this weekend, Shults participated in our “The Movies That Changed My Life” feature, sharing the movie experiences and influences that set the filmmaker on the path to where he is today.
1.The first movie you ever saw
I don’t know the first movie I saw. The earliest memories I have would be “The Land Before Time” and “Charlotte’s Web.” I had both on VHS and I would rewatch them a ton as a kid. I remember crying or wanting to cry every time I watched them…
2. The first moviegoing film experience you can remember
I remember going to the movies with my dad. He always took me to action movies.
3. The best moviegoing film experience you ever had
Seeing “There Will Be Blood” with my mom when it was released. It really blew my mind. My mom and I were speechless after it was over. I also saw it at an integral moment in my life. I had moved away from filmmaking and I was a wrestler in high school. I tore my shoulder senior year and couldn’t wrestle anymore. I was taking some bad video or media class that got me thinking filmmaking again and I saw “There Will Be Blood.” Seeing it at that moment in my life was a wake up call. I knew I had to make movies because it was possible for them to do what that film had done to me.
4. The first film you saw that you realized, you too could be a filmmaker
I remember seeing several movies and feeling like I could have made them. I think I just connected so deeply to them. Movies like “Requiem for a Dream,” “George Washington,” and “Lost in Translation.” They were all independent films that weren’t large in scale and I loved them.
5. The first movie you became obsessed with
The first time I saw “Aliens” as a kid, I literally could not stop watching it. My dad let me rent the VHS, even though I was really young. As soon as the movie ended, I started it over and watched it again. My dad went to sleep and I literally kept rewatching the movie all night long. Once sunrise hit and my dad woke up, I had to act like I was asleep and not watching the movie anymore so that I wouldn’t get in trouble.
6. The movie that always makes you cry (or the movie that is your emotional comfort food movie)
I’m gonna go with two very different movies from two filmmakers I love. “The Tree of Life” is full of incredible moments but the one that always makes me cry is when Jessica Chastain is reunited with her son on the beach. Her face breaks my heart and “Agnus Dei” playing throughout this whole sequence is incredible. I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person and this movie is one of my favorite of all time. The second film is “Dancer in the Dark.” This film builds to one of the most soul crushing finales ever. I sob like an uncontrollable baby every time I see the end of this film. Damn you Lars.
7. The movie that always freaks you out/makes you scared
It’s very hard for me to get scared by movies anymore. Several terrified me the first time I saw them though. Films like “The Shining,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” and “The Thing.” I saw “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” at too young of an age and it was before this whole found footage horror trend. I really didn’t know if the film was real or not and it terrified me. My friend and I just stumbled upon it on my digital cable box and we were speechless after. It destroyed us.
8. The movie you love that no one would expect you to love
There is a moment in “Irreversible” that always makes me cry and it’s not one of the expected controversial moments. Later in the film when Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel wake up in their apartment together they dance and play around. It’s a simple scene that is so beautiful because you can tell these people are actually in love. Their chemistry is so real. It’s one of those lazy days with your lover that you take for granted. To see this scene in the context of the rest of the film, breaks my heart. It’s tragic, real, and beautiful. I think “Irreversible” is a brilliant film and I will always defend it.
9. The movie that defined your coming-of-age/high school experience.
I went to high school in Texas, so I would have to go with “Dazed And Confused.” Even though that film takes place in the ’70s, it is still close to my experience. When I graduated middle school, I hid out with my friend so that we wouldn’t get paddled by the seniors. “Dazed And Confused” has to be one of the best hang out movies of all time and it’s how I like to remember a great night in high school. Although in reality my experience was probably filled with highs and lows. Another movie I was obsessed with in high school is “Boogie Nights.” I think the trajectory of that movie with the emotional highs and lows would fit my coming-of-age experience better. I promise that I was not involved with porn though…
10. The movie that defined your childhood
Most of James Cameron’s filmography like “Terminator 2,” “Aliens,” “The Abyss,” etc. Also Spielberg’s “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park.” Like every kid, I was also obsessed with “Star Wars.” Spielberg, Cameron, and Lucas were just my thing as a kid. Their films had that wonder, awe, and excitement that I craved.
“Krisha” opens on Friday.