Sundance Cinemas was thrilled to get a chance to talk with ALL IS LOST and MARGIN CALL's director J.C. Chandor. ALL IS LOST is only the second feature film Mr. Chandor has ever directed. The film has only one character, 'Our Man', and he is played with very limited dialogue by Sundance Group President, Robert Redford. I spoke to Mr. Chandor from his home in New York where he was getting some well deserved rest after being on the road at numerous festivals and screenings.
I always like to ask filmmakers; what's it like going though the whole Sundance Experience?
I had been watching the Sundance Film Festival grow from the time I was 15 or 16 years old - for about 20 years. I'd observed it as an interested bystander, and made a conscious decision not to attend unless I was there with a movie. I guess it would have been smart to go there and network or something, but it became a challenge and a goal. So when MARGIN CALL made it into the Festival, I made the best of it. I went to every screening, every Q&A, the brunch, and we had 8 major actors from the film there. It was everything I had hoped for and we soaked it in. The film was well received, but it really took a little while for it to build traction. We had a great run with it. [Ed: Chandor was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards that year]
Before you made this film, what kind of work were you doing?
I did not have tremendous success in the commercial world. I never did what was necessary to get in with the big agencies. I did a lot of 'industrials', documentaries and some brand work. But throughout that process I was watching and learning.
Moving on to ALL IS LOST. By now folks have heard that dialogue is spare. Can you tell us a quick synopsis of the film? I found it to be an incredibly complex story told in a clean, structured and intense way.
That's interesting. The film was written in a fairly traditional manner. The story begins with a letter being read by Redford towards the end of the story. And although there is little dialogue past that point, I wrote the script in a terribly specific way; moment by moment with every tone, tenor, action, narrative arc, manipulation written scene by scene.
And that's how it was sent to Mr. Redford to read?
Yes, and when he came back saying he would do it, he said that he felt by reading the script he'd seen the movie. But the movie came back at 3 and a half hours, so the editing process became very important.
Well, as a moviegoer and movie theatre exhibitor, may I thank you for editing the film to its current running time (93 mins). I spoke to Mr. Redford right after he'd finished filming and he told me it was one of the toughest films he'd ever made, both mentally and physically.
We shot it under some pretty extreme conditions for eight weeks straight.
In your mind, why was he alone at sea?
People do these solo journeys. It's very much a key element of the story. Emotionally - he has regrets - I mean look at the letter. It seemed to me that he still had something to prove, but that he also had regrets. Why do we make a lot of the choices we make? And I'm not sure if we know his whole story. The fact that he's alone - we never viewed it as a person sailing aimlessly. I think he was on a mission to prove something to himself - leaving his family and community behind quite on purpose.
He seemed to be well prepared - all these cool tools on board...
Interestingly he really wasn't very well prepared. All the things he kept pulling out of recently mailed boxes, and he had to read the instructions for everything. He was an amateur making an effort to sail across the ocean alone.
What's next for you?
Were doing a movie in New York next year in late winter-early spring set in 1981. It's got a great cast and I'm very excited about it.
So are we. We can't wait to premiere your next film at Sundance Cinemas.
This interview was conducted by Nancy Gribler, VP Marketing at Sundance Cinemas
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