June 14, 2013

Winter in the Blood premieres in LA

A good overview of this movie. I especially like the part about the importance of using Native actors and taking a chance on Chaske Spencer as the lead.

'Winter in the Blood': Movie adaptation of Welch novel debuts at film festival in LA

By Patrick DouglasTo cast the film, the brothers turned to veteran casting director and Great Falls native Rene Haynes. Haynes specializes in Native American casting and brought in actors like Gary Farmer, Julia Jones, Eddie Spears and Saginaw Grant.

Her recommendation of using “Twilight” actor Chaske Spencer to play the lead character Virgil First Raise was key, Alex Smith said.

“She was a champion for Chaske,” Alex explained. “It was a big gamble because we hadn’t worked with him before, and we didn’t know if he could carry the movie but it was a jackpot. He carries it heroically.”

“Being in Montana, we got in touch with (producer) Sherman Alexie in Seattle to get ahold of Rene in Los Angeles only to find out that Rene’s from Great Falls,” Alex said. “The funny thing was; we had to go to Rene to meet Chaske, who lives in Brooklyn, to find out he grew up in Poplar.”

“It was this weird going outward to come back inward thing to do this project,” he said.

Having a story primarily involving Native Americans with Native actors was extremely important, Alex said.

“It’s a very underrepresented demographic or ethnicity in American film,” he said. “The stories are deep and the stories are really beautiful. Obviously there’s a lot of tragedy involved and a lot of loss and displacement but there’s also an amazing amount of power and understanding of the natural world, of families, of communities.”

“We relied very heavily on our Native cast to keep us authentic and create the emotional storyline, the emotional journey of the characters to make it true to life,” Andrew said. “Not being Natives ourselves, we filled out that sensibility by empowering the cast as much as we could.”
Comment:  A couple of notes:

  • Haynes "brought in actors like Gary Farmer, Julia Jones, Eddie Spears and Saginaw Grant"? Who were the Smith brothers thinking of using before they consulted Haynes? You can find these actors on almost any list of Native actors, so how difficult was it to cast them?

  • Is it really a risk to cast Chaske Spencer as the lead? It's not as if there's a big-name Native actor who can open this film better than Spencer.

    This is a textbook case of where you don't need a "star" such as Brandon Routh or Taylor Lautner. Keep the budget low and maybe you'll earn a profit.

    Just do your due diligence to make sure Spencer is reliable, and test him to make sure he can do the job. If he's right for the role, go for it.

    For more on Winter in the Blood, see Filming Winter in the Blood and Welch Movie Reaches Kickstarter Goal.

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