David Conrad is a college professor and sometimes philanderer raising three children in a small Kansas suburb with his wife Kelly. When sudden tragedy strikes the family in the days before Christmas, David and Kelly’s marriage is brought to its breaking point and David’s desire for retribution leads him into uncharted moral territory, with the question: what can we forgive?
A regular family and a terrible accident lead to profound loss and devastating grief, an experience which tears a couple apart and leaves the husband scraped so raw that he becomes a man capable of almost anything. Like those pictures you see of towns after a tornado tears through, the people in ‘The Sublime and Beautiful‘ are left barely standing, broken shells of who they once were. It’s a story of people doing whatever they can to hang on, and the choices that they make as a result. Blake Robbins and his cast have made a film that’s both scary and moving in its honesty.
Anticipating the WORLD PREMIERE of ‘The Sublime & Beautiful‘ at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival we profile the film’s Writer/Director/Actor Blake Robbins. Be sure to catch the film screening on Saturday, January 18 and Monday, January 20, 2014 in Park City, Utah.
Find more information and tickets to ‘The Sublime & Beautiful’ at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival – HERE
The film’s title references Immanuel Kant’s “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime”, which essentially deals with the idea of emotion being subjective. Did you actively want to include this particular philosophical meaning as part of the film? How were you first introduced to the phrase? Why did you want it to be the title of your film?
First let me say that I love that you got the connection to the origin of my movies title, which did for me come from Kant and Edmund Burke. As the filmmaker I left it there like a trail of bread crumbs for those that caught it. I don’t believe the audience has to get the origin of the title to appreciate the movie itself, but for those that do, its just another thing to consider. For me the movie deals with many of the ideas that Kant and Burke were wrestling with, and even in disagreement about over 250 years ago. I purposefully made the movie to ask many more questions than I have answers for? The fact is that I have very few answers but many questions.
The film ventures into dark, family grief territory. What was the first aspect of the script that came to? How did this initial thought evolve into the final script?
The original thought was – “An ordinary day sideswiped by tragedy.” I marinated this idea for several years, then in 2005, with urging from my good friend Matthew Del Negro (who plays the best friend to my character in the movie), through two sleepless nights I poured it out onto a yellow legal pad. With the help of many actor friends we did several informal table readings that continued to shape the script. Much of the story is based on actual experience, some of it my own, some of it I picked up from others.
As a Director who also wrote the film’s script, how do you approach the film’s production in terms of how much written dialogue ends up on screen?
The dialogue was never precious to me…what was precious to me were the circumstances and the truth of the moment, this informed how I worked with the actors. I would guess that about 70% of the finished film was scripted.
As a Director, how do did you prep the actors in dealing with the heavy subject matter of the script?
My interaction with each actor was unique to who they were and informed by what was required for the film. For instance I only shared the actual script with the actors who were portraying characters who knew what had happened to David and Kelly. I didn’t want the other characters to have that information when approaching their scenes. For Laura, Matthew, Scott, and Armin I had worked with each of them previously, so I asked them if they’d come be apart of it. They each had experiences from their own life that brought authenticity to this film. Christy Brandt who plays my mother, came to our local open call audition and I could tell right away that she had a gift to offer us (in fact every actor cast in the film did), I just had to test the moment in the hospital when her character makes a critical discovery, so I asked Christy to try a quick improv with me, within 10 seconds she was so fully committed to it that I ran over and hugged her and told her thanks for being so generous. I knew then she was going to be amazing in the movie. In the case of Michael Coffey I knew him, and asked him to come to the open call, we created a scene at the audition that we ended up adding to the movie. There were other actors who’s wonderful work didn’t end up in the final cut of the movie and thats hard on me, because they gave me everything I could have hoped for, but for story telling reasons only their efforts didn’t end up in the finished film. I hope they know how awesome I think they are.
Why is Slamdance a good destination for ‘The Sublime & Beautiful’ to screen its World Premiere?
The Sublime and Beautiful was made with such a uniquely independent approach that a festival like Slamdance which celebrates truly independent film is the perfect match for us. On a personal level I couldn’t be more grateful for their family like approach to running the festival, and as a first time director its incredible to feel the support for not only this movie, but for my future filmmaking endeavors. Mentorship is critical in the creative arts.