Reeling From the Experience

After lots of toil and lots of trouble, the local film Brother Tied is finally headed to Sundance.

Misadventure followed them everywhere. At one townhouse where they shot (and reshot) several party scenes, they were threatened with eviction after a neighbor complained about the noise. And when they weren't shooting, they were on their hands and knees begging people to let them come back and shoot some more.

With the film half finished in the fall of 1996, they took it to the Independent Feature Film Market in New York City. Brother Tied was not screened at the main venue, so the crew hawked fliers in front of the theater and bought people cab rides to their screening.

When they returned to Colorado, they worked around the clock to finish editing the film in time to submit it to the 1997 Sundance festival. Around Thanksgiving, Sundance got back to them: The film was just what they were looking for--only it was too long. Try again next year.

"We were pissed," Cianfrance says. "We made a pact to do heavy drinking for a year. We were cussing out everyone we could. 'This is the director's cut.'"

"We thought it was the greatest film ever made and Sundance sucked," says Curtis. Cianfrance says he was ashamed to be seen in public because he'd blown his shot at the big leagues. "We wanted to punish ourselves," he says, "because we didn't make it good enough."

Once their heads had cleared from the booze and after the Berlin Film Festival rejected the film for the same reason, Cianfrance and his collaborators went back to the editing room. Thirty minutes were cut; entire characters and subplots were eliminated. But the cuts left huge holes in the film, which required yet another reshoot. "A little more sacrifice wasn't going to kill us," Cianfrance says.

The final cut, finished last spring, ran 109 minutes--20 minutes shorter than the original. Brother Tied was accepted into the Edinburgh Film Festival--at 51 years the oldest in the world--but even that almost fell through. Out of money to produce a finished print, they had to rely on the financial help of local TV producer Kenny Burgmaier, who had met Cianfrance and Curtis at the studio one night when they were editing a fight scene. "The intensity of the segment was overwhelming," Burgmaier recalls.

Cianfrance and about a dozen others scrambled together enough money to go to Scotland with their film, and after "whoring ourselves" in the lobby, he says, they packed the small theater that was showing the film and received two glowing reviews in the local papers.

Now it's up to the Sundance audience and critics. But Cianfrance is eager for other projects--with the same people. "I will give them all the blood I have," he says.

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