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Women of Sundance: Land Ho!

The Land Ho! team (Photo by Danielle Lurie)

Interview with Land Ho! producer Mynette Louie

Filmmaker: Why this movie? Why did you each decide to do it?

Louie: I had been developing two larger projects with Aaron, along with Sara Murphy. Both of those projects are quite large in scope and budget, and therefore have required more time to get off the ground. I think all of that waiting made us very eager to make a movie together. So when Aaron told us about Land Ho!, which is much smaller in scope and budget, we were really excited about its produce-ability. Aaron first introduced the project to me by sending a few of Earl Lynn’s scenes from Martha’s first feature Passenger Pigeons. I thought he was a total hoot, and could totally envision a buddy comedy being built around him and Paul. And I really loved both of Martha’s features (and obviously loved all of Aaron’s), so I thought the two of them meshing their styles and sensibilities would produce amazing results. And it has! Also, while we were developing the script, my grandma was dying, so the story resonated even more deeply with me. She was my favorite grandparent, and the last of all my grandparents to go, and whenever someone you love dies, you think a lot about what it means to exist. Land Ho! deals with this theme in a very deft and poignant way.

Filmmaker: How much of your crew was female? Was hiring women a consideration for you?

Louie: Aside from a female co-director, the three lead producers and two Icelandic co-producers are all female. Seven of our nine executive producers and co-EPs are female too. So…women pretty much ran the show on this film! I do always try to make an effort to hire women and people of color, but I won’t hire them just because they check these boxes – ultimately I always hire the best people who are willing and available. But I do think it’s important to try to reach out to underrepresented groups to fill your cast and crew because there is a lot of undiscovered talent, a lot of great folks out there who need to be told specifically that they are very welcome to apply and that they will be given serious consideration.

Filmmaker: How did you go about raising funding for it? Of course, please speak to Gamechanger’s involvement here and its mission statement. Is this fully funded by Gamechanger? If not, how did the remainder of the funding come in?

Louie: Gamechanger typically co-finances rather than fully finances, and therefore is a co-financier on Land Ho! The company was the critical “first money in.” I was a producer on Land Ho! first before I was hired as president of Gamechanger. It made sense for me to bring it to Gamechanger to consider since it fit the company’s mandate and parameters. At Gamechanger, our greenlighting process is by committee, so I took myself out of this process for Land Ho! to ensure that the decision was an objective one. I was of course thrilled when the Gamechanger founders liked the project enough to want to finance it. Martha actually won a Chicken & Egg Pictures award at SXSW for Passenger Pigeons, and two of Gamechanger’s founders also founded Chicken & Egg, so financing Land Ho! seemed like a very natural extension of their support for and belief in her. There were two other pieces of financing that came in after Gamechanger, both from people that we producers knew or had worked with before.

Filmmaker: What is this film shot on?

Louie: The film was shot on two RED ONE cameras. It’s very rare for a small indie film to shoot on two cameras for the entire production since the equipment and crew needs are basically double. In all the films I’ve produced, I’ve never had a two-camera shoot for the whole film! But it was really important to Martha and Aaron to be able to capture all the natural reactions and mannerisms of our actors. Land Ho! is a two-hander – the central force driving the film is the relationship between the two leads, so it was important to capture every nuance of their interactions. Believe me, we producers tried to get them to shoot on one camera — not just for cost reasons but also because we thought it would be too time consuming to sift through all that footage in the edit. But Martha and Aaron made very compelling arguments for two cameras, so we worked hard to make it work within the budget. And time turned out to be a non-issue as well — Aaron edited the film in only six weeks! Oh, the things you do for a Sundance premiere… It was record time for all of us!

Filmmaker: Who do you hope is your audience? Men or women? Both?

Louie: The universe! I want everyone to see this film, and every film I produce.

Filmmaker: In what ways do you think being a female filmmaker has helped or impeded your trajectory in the film industry?

Louie: Personally, I don’t feel that being female has helped or hurt my career. Do I think some people in the industry are sexist and racist? Of course. Have people said offensive things to me about sex and race? Yes. Have I ever felt mistreated or rejected because of my sex or race? Possibly — though it’s hard to be sure about such things. Do I let it any of this get to me and stop me from doing what I want to do? Hell no! I focus on the things I can control, like being the best damn producer I can be, making the best films I can with the limited resources I have, pushing my films out into the world in the best way possible, running a film fund dedicated to mitigating the industry’s gender imbalance, and raising awareness about discrimination and prejudices that people may not even realize they have. If you are part of an underrepresented group, if you don’t have connections or access, you need to make people pay attention to you by doing great and being great. You have to make your work so great or relevant or important that it becomes impossible for people to ignore you.

Filmmaker: How do we get more women making movies?

Louie: We seek them out. We finance and produce their films. We distribute their films. We hire them.

Filmmaker: What’s next?

Louie: I will continue to run Gamechanger. We have a few other films in the pipeline for next year that we’re really excited about. I also produced a crime thriller that came out January 10 in theaters and on VOD called Cold Comes the Night, directed by Tze Chun, and starring Alice Eve, Logan Marshall-Green and Bryan Cranston. Please go see it!

Filmmaker: Considering this article will be released at Sundance: A) What do you hope to gain from being at the festival? and B) Who would be your dream person to meet while there (imagine they will be reading this answer!)?

Louie: I hope to make a lot of people laugh with Land Ho! I hope to make their hearts swell. I hope to find a distributor that loves the film as much as we do. I hope that Martha, Aaron, Sara, Christina, Earl Lynn, Paul, Andrew Reed (our d.p.) and Keegan DeWitt (our composer), and the rest of our amazing team get the attention and admiration they so deserve.

I’d love to finally meet Harvey Weinstein! I had a couple of near misses with him — singing karaoke in Hong Kong, being interviewed a few feet away from each other on the red carpet in L.A. But we’ve never actually met! We’re both native New Yorkers from working class backgrounds who grew up on movies. I do a pretty good impression! I’m also really looking forward to the second half of the festival, which is my favorite part since I actually get to watch movies and have real conversations with filmmakers.

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