A renowned documentary filmmaker known for his Oscar-shortlisted In a Dream, Jeremiah Zagar recently embarked on his first narrative feature with We the Animals, a “translation” of Justin Torres’ critically acclaimed debut novel.

The film centers on three brothers—Manny (Isaiah Kristian), Joel (Josiah Gabriel) and Jonah (newcomer Evan Rosado)—who experience a volatile home life with warring parents (portrayed by Raúl Castillo and Sheila Vand).  The youngest child, Jonah, exists at the heart of the film, escaping into a fantasy world to cope with his experiences, as portrayed in the film through vibrant animated sequences.

In preparing his actors to come together and make a family—as troubled as it was—Zagar had his actors spend an abundance of time together prior to shooting. “We were hanging out in Brooklyn, playing soccer, hanging out—having pizza, getting haircuts,” Castillo explained, sitting down at Deadline’s Sundance Studio with Zagar, Vand and co-writer Daniel Kitrosser. “Just spending time together and developing a chemistry so that by the time the cameras were rolling, there was already a sort of familial quality to the group.”

To view Deadline’s conversation with the We the Animals team, click above.

The Deadline Studio at Sundance 2018 is presented by Hyundai. Special thanks to Calii Love.