Since it’s the middle of winter as I look at the Oscar nominations today, one title stands out—Frozen River. I don’t know much about that film other than it was a Sundance Film Festival winner. So I dug around a little and found out about the screenwriter, Courtney Hunt, who has been nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
I found out she represents well a writer coming from outside L.A. She was raised in Memphis and Nashville before going on to film school in New York. And at age 43 she is too old by traditional Hollywood standards to be launching a writer/director career, but there she is with an Oscar nomination to go along with her 2008 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
And she did it with a film about working class women. One of the things I like about the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman is the depiction of Debra Winger and Lisa Blount as factory workers. Though young and attractive they do represent working class women who were looking for a better life and those kind of characters don’t get a lot of screen time. From what I’ve read Hunt’s characters are more gritty and worn down—and wear less make-up.
Hunt took ten years researching and developing the story and even produced the story as a short film which helped raise money for the feature. And if all that wasn’t enough endurance she and her crew spent several nights shooting outside in upstate New York while the temperature was in the teens getting the needed exteriors for the feature version.
Congratulations to Hunt for showing us how far you can go with perseverance, a good story and a heavy jacket.
“We didn’t have hardly any preproduction, we didn’t have favorable conditions. We had very little funding. What we had was a good script, and people fell back on that. We kind of knew we were onto a good story, and as soon as we saw [actors] Melissa Leo and Misty Upham in action, people said, ‘Ooh, we’re onto something here! This is good.’ That story kind of warmed us all up in a funny way so we didn’t feel so out in the middle of nowhere.”
Interview in The Reeler
BTW-Glad to see Debra Winger still at it picking up an Independent Spirit Award nomination in Rachel Getting Married and Lisa Blount not only still acting but producing as well, winning an Academy Award in 2001 for Best Short Film, Live Action (The Accountant).