In Focus: Sara Colangelo on Little Accidents

Filmmaker Sara Colangelo

Filmmaker Sara Colangelo

Sara Colangelo, Little Accidents

SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grant Winner; $70,000 for postproduction, Fall 2013.

Little Accidents will have it's international premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2014 , Premieres!

What was the inspiration for this story?

For a long time I had wanted to write a screenplay set in a small, self-contained American town. I was really influenced by movies like the The Last Picture Show, The Sweet Hereafter and Silkwood, and I liked the limitations and dramatic opportunities of being able to set a story in one insular place, where people are bound by geography, industry, friendship and family. Another idea that was kicking around in my brain, and running parallel to this, was the notion of an accident or traumatic event set in a town's past. It was a theme that was very much a part of my 2010 short film Little Accidents. I wanted to continue tackling it in the feature and to create a world where we never see the traumatic event onscreen but instead observe its trickle down effects on different members of the community. I thought coal country would be a really great backdrop for this and started traveling down to Appalachia in 2011–12 to research and location scout. When I got there I became pretty smitten with the world, its imagery, and its people. The hills and hollers were incredibly cinematic and it was a part of the country that very few Americans knew much about. And because so much of Little Accidents is about keeping secrets and burying our past, I thought the coal-mining world and the imagery of descending into a mine would be an interesting visual metaphor and jumping off point for the story.


What do you see as the greatest challenges for filmmakers today?  

Finding the money to make even a micro-budget film nowadays is incredibly difficult and one of the toughest obstacles for filmmakers. But if/when you're lucky enough to find the money, I think the next challenge is trying to squeeze the most out of that budget, trying to do your best work within crazy time constraints, and of course learning to be flexible and pliable while still protecting the integrity of your story and narrative process.


What new opportunities are making the biggest difference to your filmmaking process?

There are so many great new tools out there for filmmakers now—whether it's crowd sourcing or lighter cameras or social media outlets in which you can spread the word about your project. But I found that the help and guidance of institutions like the San Francisco Film Society and programs like the Sundance Labs and IFP's No Borders were huge gamechangers for me as I was embarking on my first feature—particularly in the development stage. They really helped get my project off the ground and noticed by producers, financiers and anyone who was interested in the story and in a position to help.


Describe what impact San Francisco Film Society support has had on your film.

We were very fortunate to receive a postproduction grant which allowed us the opportunity to have the film sound designed and mixed in the Bay Area at Skywalker Sound. We worked with Brandon Proctor and his team and were really wowed by their creativity and eagerness to play and experiment with the sonic world of the film. Being able to enhance the story in this way and work with this incredible group (at a state-of-the-art facility, to boot) was really a dream come true for all of us. But beyond helping us get to Skywalker, SFFS has been an incredible cheerleader of our film—really since its infancy. I met Michele Turnure-Salleo in the winter of 2011 after I had taken an early draft of Little Accidents through the Sundance Writers Lab. I was so taken by her desire to really connect personally with filmmakers and their work, and in our case to stay in the loop with us through preproduction and production. SFFS's desire to champion a film in its early stages is so special and such a resource and blessing to indie filmmakers like myself.

The Spring 2014 SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant round is currently open to apply!

The Film Society has established an excellent track record of success with the 37 projects previously funded by SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grants, with supported films winning top honors at the world’s premier festivals, garnering critical and popular acclaim and capturing the imaginations of audiences worldwide. As the grant program continues to grow, more and more exceptional independent features will join the distinguished company of such films as Short Term 12, Destin Cretton’s sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013 and is an Oscar hopeful in multiple categories; and Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon which won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Cannes’ Camera d’Or in 2012 and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).