When my adventure at the Los Angeles Film Festival came to a close, I had seen twenty films and attended four panels over a nine day period. In addition to feeling inspired by the work that’s being done in the indie world, I am also learning a lot about filmmaking in general and the type of film I want to produce. You realize what a house of cards this whole process can be – one miscast actor or terrible sound package can bring the house cascading down. Every decision is important.
Before each screening at the festival the audience members received ballots with which to numerically “score” the films. The grades ranged from 1 (Poor) to 4 (Great) and the final tallies determined the coveted “Audience Award” which is a useful selling point for a film in search of a distributor. I scored four films a “4”, three films a “2”, and the rest received “3”. I realized that the films I scored a “4” are films that are not only GREAT in their production values, but I also feel like I can recommend them to just about everyone I know. There’s a universal appeal within their indie quirkiness that can (and I’m sure will) draw a wide audience in indie terms.
One of these films is NATURAL SELECTION. Again, here’s the LA Film Fest logline: Linda, a naive, childless, devoutly Christian Texas housewife, gets more than she bargained for when she’s asked to fulfill her dying husband’s request to find and bring home his illegitimate son. The son in question turns out to be a wild escaped con on the run from the law – and Linda presents him with a perfect cover. They set off back to Texas on an absurd and dangerous odyssey of self-discovery that is both hilarious and oddly touching.
The film was written and directed by Robbie Pickering and it won both the jury and audience award at the South-by-Southwest film festival. Pickering was at the Los Angeles screening to introduce the film and he aptly and amusingly described it as a coming-of-age film about a woman in her forties. Comedienne Rachel Harris plays Linda and demonstrates some surprisingly poignant dramatic chops. Despite the hilarity of her circumstances, Harris keeps Linda grounded as a genuine, emotionally delicate character. And Matt O’Leary as the illegitimate son is another revelation. He is alternately weird, unpredictable, and earnest.
And beyond the great performances you’ll find truly solid writing and direction. Pickering commits to an unusual tone and maintains it with confidence throughout. It’s a fun ride to be on that also offers up a well-earned helping of heart. I saw this movie and thought, “Ah, yes…this is how it’s done.” Luckily, the film already has distribution so you can see how it’s done, too, when it hits a theater near you. Check it out.
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