A year ago, Benh Zeitlin and Ben Lewin had never met, but both men were on the verge of traveling on a similar journey. The two filmmakers found their films “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Zeitlin) and “The Surrogate” (Lewin, and later re-titled “The Sessions”) accepted into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Six weeks later, both emerged from the annual indie film showcase with critical accolades and a new home under the wise eyes of noted mini-major Fox Searchlight. Fast forward 11 months and “Beasts” is a projected best picture nominee and “The Sessions” could find stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt nominated in the best actor and best supporting actress race respectively.
One wouldn’t expect a film about a young girl trying to survive in the Louisiana delta would have much in common with a drama about a man paralyzed from the neck down losing his virginity at the rip old age of 38, but both projects faced similar challenges getting to the screen. Ignoring the questionable commercial appeal of both films, the directors faced skepticism from potential investors and production companies about whether the passion projects could even get off the ground. And yet, they persevered and moviegoers across the world are better for it.
Searchlight found some time for Zeitlin and Lewin to sit down and speak about their similar experiences which you can in the exclusive interview embedded at the top of this post. It’s a fascinating look at the universal challenges facing indie filmmakers no matter what their age or background.
“The Sessions” is still playing in limited release across the country. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.