While a woman who has given birth may not agree, there seems to be something birth-like about a film that you put your whole heart and soul into. For director Christopher Neil and cinematographer Wyatt Troll, this baby was Goats, a dark and quirky coming-of-age story starring Graham Phillips, David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga. Neil and Troll knew they needed to nurture and care for this baby, like it was their own flesh and blood.
For Neil, who had just seen his first child born two months prior to beginning production, this was especially true. He had been nurturing his movie baby for an entire decade before it got to see the light, devoting seven days a week to its development and sometimes even footing the bill.
"I was really fortunate to have a great relationship with [the author of the original novel] Mark Poirier," offers Neil, who collaborated very closely on the screenplay with him. "Although it did take a long time to get made, it was a really well-regarded script and, ultimately, that's what got us into production."
For all their hard work, Neil and Troll are getting to see their baby enter the big leagues—indie-style, anyway. Even though neither had made a feature film before Goats, they were accepted into the Premieres category at Sundance this year.
"It's such a privilege to be accepted into Sundance," admits Troll, who made a name for himself shooting music videos for biggies like The Cranberries, The Bravery and Kanye West. "I know how hard it is to get there. Some people, like Chris, spend years and years on their projects, and to finally get [to Sundance] and put their heart on their sleeve for a week—it's a beautiful and exciting thing."
Neil had just finished the film a week before premiering in Park City and talked about a filmmakers' reception for the festival in Los Angeles a few weeks prior. "I was there for probably four hours," he says, "and I felt like my head was going to pop off. I've never talked so quickly and so much about my own movie. It was a great experience."
Neil has been to Sundance before, most notably with his cousin Sofia Coppola for the premiere of The Virgin Suicides. But as a first-time feature director, this year promises to be a much different experience. Much of his training has been as a creative apprentice to his uncle Francis Ford Coppola. And with that know-how from one of the greats, he became a creative advisor to some of Hollywood's most acclaimed directors, including Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze, George Lucas and Mike Mills. He has also served as an on-set acting coach and rehearsal advisor, helping these directors communicate effectively with their actors.