US actress Robin Wright always wanted to direct, but it wasn’t until Netflix’s “House of Cards” crew helped her helm 10 episodes that she gained the experience to make her first movie.
“What a gift that was, because otherwise, I would not have had the confidence to move on and do a feature film, that’s for sure,” said Wright at the Sundance Film Festival premiere of her debut “Land” on Sunday.
It is a lesson in teamwork painfully ignored by the film’s lead character Edee — played by Wright — who after suffering immense personal tragedy decides to live alone in the beautiful but unforgiving Wyoming wilderness.
Arriving at a leaky, dilapidated cabin miles from civilization without a phone or car, Edee’s attempts to teach herself to hunt and survive take a humbling and perilous turn, before the arrival of a local hunter.
“Why make this movie?… It’s a reminder that we do need each other,” said Wright at a Q&A taking place remotely — like the entire festival — due to the pandemic.
“We do face adversity, and it’s generally the compassion and kindness of another person that gets us through that difficult time… I think we all can resonate with that right now.”
Even with her skills honed on Netflix’s political drama, Wright faced unprecedented challenges shooting “Land” across 29 days in remote Alberta, Canada, where her team constructed a log cabin at 8,000 feet (2,400 meters).
“We had one day of summer, and then all of a sudden it just turned into winter,” she said “And so we had to shoot 10 to 15 (scenes)… in one day. But it was doable.”
A scene featuring a bear confronting Edee couldn’t be shot on the mountain in case the trained animal encountered real wild bears, which were so common on set that one regularly helped itself to hamburgers from the craft services table.
Making matters more challenging still was the juggling act of directing for the first time while also starring.
“You’re in front of the camera, and you’re in six feet of snow, and you can’t walk… to watch playback because you’re going to put footsteps in the snow — and it’s freshly fallen snow that we need to shoot!” said Wright.
Still, an early review from Deadline said Wright “succeeds impressively on both counts,” with her film described by Variety as “a beautiful haiku.”
The movie hits limited theaters February 12. With the Oscars postponed to its latest-ever date in April due to the pandemic, it could be a late entry to Hollywood’s award season race.
Top indie film festival Sundance itself is taking place largely online this year, with all 72 feature films making their premieres via streaming.
The festival — co-founded by Robert Redford and typically based in the Utah mountains—ends Wednesday.