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“AMERICAN SON” producer, Danielle Renfrew

A defining moment in the making of American Son was when the financing fell through four weeks before production. Six months of preproduction and planning evaporated with one phone call. That disappointment forced me to dig deeper and commit to making the film by whatever means necessary. In hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened. After digesting the initial disappointment, I was suddenly reconnected to the initial inspiration that was the genesis of the film. I felt like I was back in control of the creative process — it was from that moment on that the film found its true rhythm. If I could have had 10 percent more of anything, it would have been time. But that was a small price to pay to make the film in the way it was meant to be made — intimately, independently, no frills and without a studio looking over my shoulder.

In making independent films there are always limitations. It is a barter system of sorts; you give something up to gain something more important. Navigating this process is the biggest challenge for me. There is a fine art of remaining firm and flexible at the same time. I like to place myself in a creative space right at the far edge of comfortable. I know when I’m out of my safety zone that I do my best work. It is from this uneasy place that the happy accidents happen. In many ways, I consider myself a “method” director. I need to submerse myself in the reality of the story. It is the greatest feeling to be in that zone when you are as much in the moment as the actors. I think listening to your own sense of truth is the greatest insurance policy a director can have.

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2:30 pm — Racquet Club, Park City]

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