Trey Edward Shults’ Krisha is screening in Critics’ Week here tonight, a few days after the debut feature helmer entered a two-picture deal with A24 which also acquired Krisha. The film earlier world premiered at SXSW, winning the Grand Jury and Audience Awards. I spoke with Shults a few weeks ago, as he was prepping his first trip to the Riviera, and just after he ordered his first tux. He and star Krisha Fairchild (who is his real-life aunt) also stopped by the Deadline Video Studio at the Nikki Beach Petit Bar this week to chat about the film (see video above).
Krisha was borne out of a short that Shults had previously premiered in Austin and which was also a South-By laureate. When it won, that mobilized the troops to turn it into a feature. In fact, the director says, it was always a feature in his mind. “The ambition was the film that we have now, but I didn’t have the resources.”
Krisha has seen Shults draw comparisons to John Cassavetes and Terrence Malick. The Cassavetes reference is evident in the production which took place in his parents’ house near Houston over the course of nine days. The tense drama sees Krisha, a recovering alcoholic, attempting to reconnect with her family over a turbulent Thanksgiving weekend. More members of his family and friends fill out the cast.
As for the comparisons to Malick, that’s no coincidence since Shults worked with the venerable filmmaker when he was just 19. “I lucked out and got on (The Tree Of Life) as an intern. I didn’t know what I was doing, but long story short, I ended up as a loader, practicing with IMAX film in my room.” Shults also worked on Malick’s forthcoming Voyage Of Time. He says one of the big things he learned from Malick was “Whether talking literally about how he shoots his movies now, or watching previous films and knowing the struggles he’s had: It’s about sticking to your guns and going with your gut.” His success with Krisha has not been lost on the Malicks. “His wife can’t talk to me without crying,” says Shults.
Next up is It Comes At Night, a script he wrote just after his father passed away. It deals with “feelings of death and fear and regret and trying to transcend that into something a little bigger.” It’s also, he says, “My version of a horror movie.” The story centers on a father who will stop at nothing to protect his wife and son from a malevolent, mysterious presence terrorizing them right on their doorstep. A24 will develop with Shults who’s repped by WME.