David Oyelowo was at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, promoting “Middle of Nowhere,” his first film with “Selma” director Ava DuVernay. While standing in the lobby after a screening, he suffered an all-too-common occurrence for an actor: A stranger handed him a script. Her name was Maris Curran and the script was “Five Nights in Maine.” She said she wrote the lead role for him: A man who visits his the estranged, sickly mother of his wife, who has just died. Normally Oyelowo would give it a cursory read and bail after 10 pages. But he kept reading. And now both the actor and his writer-director are doing press for the finished product.
I can think of many ways to answer this, but I wanted to hear your reasons, David, for supporting small projects like this given your fame.
David Oyelowo: In some ways it’s misleading to call a film like this “small.” It’s by way of necessity. It’s a small cast and you want to be able to be nimble. And as an actor, on a film like this, you don’t want noise. You don’t want an unwieldy group of people bustling their way through Maine, letting their presence be felt. It’s the same way that every play doesn’t need a big theater. Sometimes seeing a play in a small venue is absolutely right. As an actor I don’t think of them as big or small. My bank balance does.
Hollywood no longer makes films about grief, but I imagine it’s difficult these days even making one as an indie.
Maris Curran: Not only that: I’m a first-time filmmaker, I’m a woman, our cast is mostly of color, with the second lead [played by Diane Wiest] being a woman of 65. And it’s about grief. We had to look for people who wanted to see this vision, see the real world reflected back on the screen. We Kickstarted in development, which gave us enough to start, and we had financiers come in and say, “We need this film in our lives, we need this film in the marketplace, we need this film in the world.”
Oyelowo: The great thing is that with “Five Nights in Maine,” I think we found a model that does work, where you can have a theatrical release at the same as VOD, and it gives financiers a real shot at making their money back. A few years ago there would have been a theatrical release and then you had to wait a few months, because of agreements that were in place, for the DVD sales. Both of those require quite a bit of marketing. Now you have social media and people are able to flick through Netflix or Apple TV or OnDemand, and there it is. You’re not having to spend millions of dollars to wave and say, “Please pay attention to my movie!”