Cutter Hodierne was at Sundance the first time in 2012, with his short of the same name that took home the Grand Jury Prize. This year, he's brought the feature-length version of a story about hardship, hard choices, family and hope and despair. That's a lot of emotion packed into one movie, but 24-year-old lead and first-time actor Abdikani Maktar (who's life the story is loosely based off of) carries the load well. And Hodierne is able to give Sundance audiences a deeper look into pirating from the pirates perspective.
Twitch had to Speed Date them separately...
ScreenAnarchy: At what age did you know you wanted to be a director?
Cutter Hodierne: When I was 14 or 15, I started making videos with my friends just for fun and had a blast doing it. I ended up taking a half-year elective at my high school, a more formal training of filmmaking, and began to realize how much actually goes into moviemaking and that there's so much thought for things you don't necessarily register on the surface. I got pretty hooked from that class.
If you weren't directing and writing what would you be doing?
CT: I'd be involved in a tech startup, a dot-com, game or something. I'd still love to do that actually.
Who's the person that has had the most influence over you or your work?
CT: I'm a really big fan of the Cohen brothers and Gus Van Sant. My mentor, Tom Krueger, has been a big influence on me as well.
In three words or less, what is it like to see your film up on the big screen?
CT: Ho-ly shit.
If you had $100 million and no restrictions, what would you make with it?
CT: It'd have to be some mega... some huge... I mean, what are $100 million movies? Nope, I'd probably make five $20 million-movies. I'd maybe take a story that I love and make a five-part series about it.
Would you rather have six months of prep time and 15 days to shoot, or 15 days of prep time and six months of shooting?
CT: 15 days of prep and six months to shoot. I would hate having only 15 days of prep, but I would have a really hard time imagining getting a film shot in 15 days. I like to keep the amount of time I spend on a shoot substantial. I shot Fishing Without Nets over six months. With more than 15 days of prep, but we did have a very short amount of time prepping our short and that sucked. It was really detrimental to the film. When we came back for the second shoot and were better prepped, we were so much more in sync. We kind of made two features on this movie. We shot 55 days in 2012 and then another 25 days in 2013. We were more efficient in those 25 days, but I'd still love to have more time to shoot.
How do you define success in the marketplace for your film?
CT: I hope the film is seen by a wide audience because I believe it's a universal story of survival and hope. My gauge on success of it is the questions: Did a lot of people get to see it, did a lot of people enjoy it and do I get to make another one?
This film has a really powerful ending (NO SPOILER ALERT). Did you ever see it going any other way?
CT: No. I was on an airplane and I was working on the script and getting to the third act of the story. It was like lightning came in through the window and wrote that ending. I knew I was so sure about this ending that I felt more confident about the rest of the film. I'm a really big believer in knowing the end. When I was probably nine and doing some creative writing piece my fourth grade class, I had that discovery. It was this early discovery of, "If you know where you're going than everything else can build toward that." But I didn't draw that connection until I wrote the end of this movie. It was really weird.
What did you do the moment you found out you got into Sundance?
CT: I live near the Vice offices in New York so ran over and busted down the doors and started screaming. The whole office started running around and cheering.
What websites and magazines do you think are most important to read as a filmmaker?
CT: Vice, because I think a lot of their subject matter is really shocking. There's a site called notcot.org and it's a page of thumbnails of pictures with different art and design. It's so random, but the way it's curated is so cool. If you click on the thumbnail it'll be some random photograph and it's just a good way to get visually inspired.
What's the last mind-blowing film you saw?
CT: Hm. (long pause) I've been working on the film for so long I can't remember the last film I saw or the last time my mind was really blown. I know one that will blow my mind: The Act of Killing. I've seen enough clips and trailers to know how I'm going to feel.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
CT: To be invisible.
If I looked in your suitcase what would I find?
CT: Pretty much everything I own because I've been living out of a suitcase for the last year and a half.
...and now, some Speed Dating (which does not exist in Kenya or Somalia, where Abdi is from) with Abdikani Muktar (translated by Sammy Mohamed):
Is there someone in your life that has had the most influence over the person you've become and the work that you've done with this film?
Abdikani Muktar: First on that list would be Cutter, definitely.
Now that you've gotten into acting, is there anyone you aspire to be like?
AK: Reda Kateb [his co-star and known for his roles in Zero Dark Thirty and A Prophet] was very influential and helping him and prepping him. I'd like to emanate him and his work ethic.
What is it like to see yourself up on the big screen?
AK: The reaction, drama and emotion of the crowd when you're in that theater is overwhelming.
Was there outside inspiration for this role?
AK: This film is family. My family is in it and it's based on my life and its the closest thing I can come to telling the story about it.
Does that mean that you have been a pirate?
AK: No, I'm a fisherman. My hands are clean.
What did you do the moment you found out the film had been accepted into Sundance?
AK: Before I got the news I was laying in wait saying, "I'm going to be in America, I'm going to be at Sundance and I'm going to meet a lot of white people that are excited to see me." Upon hearing the news, I was very overwhelmed knowing that was going to happen and lots of white people were going to be kissing me.
Do you watch a lot of movies?
AK: I love martial arts movies. My favorite is Rambo.
If you could have a superpower what would it be?
AK: I want to fly. Because then I can travel back home to my family and to America back and forth, no problem.
What would I find in your suitcase if I looked in it?