April 16, 2014

“Footloose” director Craig Brewer on the importance of the Hollywood Film Festival and his planned Q&A


By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: “Footloose” director Craig Brewer views his career in reverse.

He never would have been able to attempt the remake of the classic 1984 dance drama if not for “Black Snake Moan.” And he never would have received the opportunity to make “Black Snake Moan” if it wasn’t for his Oscar-winning “Hustle & Flow.” And “Hustle & Flow” wouldn’t exist without his debut feature film, “The Poor and Hungry.”

“At the time I made that movie, I was living in a house that’s very similar to the one you see in ‘Hustle & Flow.’ It was a shotgun house, and we had made the movie by hook and crook. My father had passed away unexpectedly, and he was always the biggest fan of the scripts that I’d wrote,” Brewer recalled. “And I used $20,000 of my inheritance to make that movie.”

Brewer says having “The Poor and Hungry” accepted into the 2000 Hollywood Film Festival changed his life.

“I remember sending it off the Hollywood Film Festival, which I had been reading about. And I remember getting a call from [festival founder] Carlos [de Abreu] saying that he wanted to show it in the digital showcase. It was a huge deal for me. Some people dream of Sundance and other festivals. For me, with the size of this movie, it just felt like some validation that somebody outside of Memphis saw it and appreciated it. It was a fantastic experience. Probably one of the best of my life.”

Brewer will be recognized at this year’s Hollywood Film Festival, where “Hungry” will be screened and the director will participate in a Q-and-A.

“I really enjoy doing them because I know that there are a lot of people who were like me. They want to find out how they get into the business of making films, and I have a lot to say on it,” he explained.

He says he’d love to see aspiring filmmakers in the audience at his “Poor and Hungry” tribute screening, because the atmosphere at the festival encourages those who’d like to make a low-budget short or feature that can serve as a calling card for future efforts.

“‘Poor and Hungry’ got me the job of ‘Hustle and Flow,’” Brewer says. “There is no doubt in my mind about that. And when people see it, they’re going to see where ‘Hustle & Flow’ came from.”

He plans on bringing the very same camera and handmade lights he used to shoot “Hungry” to the screening. He says he has added almost $20,000 in enhancements to clean up the sound on the film, but overall, it’s the same movie he brought to the Hollywood Film Festival back in 2000 … the same film that won him an award.

“I can remember going to the Hollywood Film Festival back in 2000,” Brewer added. “They provide a lot of industry ties. They give you a very good idea of what the marketplace will bear, and the kinds of things you need to be doing. But really, there’s also another component of the festival that has nothing to do with that, which is just about being hungry, being creative, and trying to make a film that carries your directing signature. It helps you figure yourself out as an artist, instead of just trying to get into Hollywood.”

Though Brewer is making studio pictures now, he says his goal is to alternate between bigger-budget productions and small passion projects. “My goal, still, is to make a movie that’s at the budget level of ‘The Poor and the Hungry,’ which is about $25,000.”

Maybe rewatching it with Hollywood Film Festival audiences will inspire his creative jets, and we’ll see that effort on screen sooner rather than later.

“The Poor and the Hungry,” with Craig Brewer Q-and-A, will be held Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. at ArcLight Hollywood. For tickets and information, click here.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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