Though her Oscar-nomination wouldn't come until midway through the festival, Melissa Leo got the audience's attention at Sundance with her turn as Penny in Philip Dorling's short, Predisposed.
The film, running just over 15 minutes, captures the ironic and disturbing fact about drug rehab facilities: without insurance, they will only admit you if you are high or drunk. The situation is intriguing to say the least, and Dorling does a brilliant job at capturing the raw emotion and drama that can surround such a situation.
Fortunately, we were able to catch up with Dorling at the Festival, gathering the dirt on his film and its potential expansion.
CollegeMovieReview: This is your directorial debut and you are at Sundance. What does it feel like?
Phillip Dorling: It is a whole different world. You get here and they give you ski tickets, and boots and money - (laughing) it is awesome. But it seriously makes me feel confident in my own work. Once you get in, you don't get in by accident. So that is very humbling, and I am just excited for this big step.
CMR: Where did the idea for Predisposed come about?
PD: My cowriter/coproducer Ron Nyswaner used to work at a detox facility. He kind of shed some light on the fact that the people who were going in, who didn't have insurance were being told that they couldn't be [accepted as patients]. But then, under the table, they were suppose to go and get really high, come back with the appearance of needing treatment, and then they couldn't be turned away because they have some kind of moral obligation. The situation is totally ridiculous and ironic, but it opened up for the story to take place.
CMR: How long was the shoot?
PD: We shot for six full days, the sixth day being a little light. We shot almost in sequence, so the last two days was the heavy stuff.
CMR: How did you get Melissa Leo?
PD: The first film I ever worked on, Melissa Leo was the star. She was really nice to all of us and she lives really close to me in upstate New York. So when me and Ron started talking about this idea, she was instantly there. We asked her right away, back when we were trying to make a feature. But as time came through, we decided that making a short would be a little easier and she was down for that too.
CMR: What about the other cast members?
PD: We casted for Eli [the film's lead] in New York. We used all the casting sites, and ended up finding Ethan Downing. He does mostly theater stuff, but I think he came through in his own way and really held his own with Melissa. And then everyone else is from New York and most I knew before the film.
At the point of filming, Melissa Leo wasn't really a household name yet, so how big is it that she is now a certified star?
PD: (laughing) That is what we like to call perfect timing.
CMR: Did you ever fear that Downing wouldn't be able to keep up with Leo?
PD: Generally, yea. She is an actor and has been doing it for 25 years. Downing is 23 and I think that even for him it was intimidating. But she was able to really open him up. So I was nervous, but having someone that good ended up making everything that much better.
CMR: You mentioned earlier that the film was originally slated to be a feature length film. When you expand the short, will Leo still be responsible for Penny?
PD: She is committed. She wants to do it. The paperwork and legal [papers] aren't done yet. But it is her role.
CMR: When do you plan on doing that?
PD" The tentative, really optimistic time would be June. The feature has a bunch of different elements, so June is what we want, but we just have to wait and see.