Tuesday night and the Grace Street Theater is packed. The Richmond community got to share in a very special experience with Richmond native Michael Gottwald, producer of the four-time Academy Award nominated film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Gottwald shared some first hand accounts of what it was like working with Behn Zeitlin, the director and co-writer, on a film fueled entirely by the desire to tell a story.
The film was shot on location in Louisiana, crewed largely in part by Court 13, a creative collected formed by Zeitlin and Gottwald along with their colleagues from Wesleyan University shortly after graduating. Court 13 put out Zeitlin’s first film, a short called “Glory at Sea,” which significantly paved the path for Beasts of the Southern Wild on both a creative and financial level. “Short films are one of two things. They’re incredible experience builders,” Gottwald explained during a guest lecture with the senior Cinema class; “Short films are also calling cards.”
“Glory at Sea” made the festival circuit run and put the filmmakers on the radars of the right people at exactly the right time, particularly a non-profit organization called Cinereach, whose representatives were so impressed with “Glory at Sea” that they pledged aid for Zeitlin’s next project, whatever it may be. Gottwald called this relationship an absolute stroke of luck, something that never happens to first time independent filmmakers. Cinereach kept their word and rolled with every strange decision, from casting non-actors, to having the cast and crew live on location, immersed within the community, to shooting tiny, Vietnamese pot bellied pigs as the beasts rather than opting for CGI.
In return, Court 13 is actively seeking opportunities to give back. Of the many projects on the table now, Gottwald spoke of a non profit, educational endeavor currently in the works among his Court 13 colleagues centered around providing after school programs for children within the community that became home for the crew during filming.
Oh behalf of the VCUarts Cinema department, we extend our warmest thanks to Michael Gottwald for sharing his experiences with the next generation of filmmakers, and making our weekly Cinematheque screening extra special!