India Donaldson picked up the Polish Film Institute Award for her upcoming feature “Good One” at the American Film Festival in Wrocław, coming with a $50,000 cash prize for post-production in Poland.
“It’s an affirmation of how we have been working and what we have been working towards,” Los Angeles-based Donaldson told Variety after the ceremony.
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“Good One” – presented during AFF’s industry event U.S. in Progress and set to be finished in January 2024 – sees 17-year-old Sam heading on a weekend backpacking trip in the Catskills with her father and his oldest friend.
“It’s a very personal story, although I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical,” said Donaldson, who wrote the film during the pandemic.
“I was living at home for the first time since I was a teenager. With my father, my stepmother and my two teenage half-siblings, who were at high-school at the time. For the most part, we were having a great time, but I found myself jealous of my sister’s ability to rebel against her parents. She knew how to be vocal about her feelings and how to express her anger.”
“When I was growing up, my dad would say: ‘You are the good one. You don’t cause me any trouble.’ Now, with the hindsight of an adult, I could finally reflect on the price of that obedience.”
Starring Lily Collias – recently spotted in “Palm Trees and Power Lines,” awarded at Sundance – James Le Gros and Danny McCarthy, it’s produced by Diana Irvine, Graham Mason and Wilson Cameron for International Pigeon Production, as well as Donaldson herself.
Smudge Films’ Sarah Winshall, also behind Amanda Kramer’s “Give Me Pity!” and “Strawberry Mansion,” is attached as executive producer.
“With India, we started out as friends. We love the same movies and share the same sensibility. I made another film during the pandemic for a really low budget and then I read India’s script. She said: ‘I think we should make it together,” added Irvine, echoing the words of “Moonlight” producer Adele Romanski, who received the Indie Star Award at the fest and discussed collaborating with longtime friends such as Barry Jenkins.
“When Adele said that, we immediately pinched each other. It’s not for everyone, but it’s unbelievably rewarding.”
“I feel like I tried it every which way and the only one that actually allowed me to work had to do with calling my friends and asking them to make a movie together. That’s essentially what we did here,” agreed the director.
While digging into personal experiences, Donaldson is hoping to touch upon relatable issues in the film.
“As an adult, having seen myself play this ‘good one’ role also professionally, I went: ‘Wait a second. It’s ok to disagree with people and it’s ok to rebel in your own way.’ I think it’s a very universal experience, especially for women,” she said.
“I grew up hiking and camping with my dad, it was a passion we shared. But I have always been interested in this dynamic between three people, because when you are in the woods and there is nobody else around, it can heighten all these emotions. It definitely happens in the movie,” she explained, adding that the trip brings out “some long-simmering tensions.”
But most of all, she was interested in having a complex character as her lead.
“I wanted to explore how to depict someone who is very internal, very observant, who is an astute listener and even at such a young age is able to immediately intuit other people’s needs,” she noted, also praising Collias’ take on the part.
“Lily taught me things about this character that even I didn’t know. She brought so much to this girl that wasn’t on the page, so much depth and humor. I would like you to finish watching this film with a multidimensional concept of who this human being actually is. That would be most satisfying to me.”
Other titles presented at the U.S. in Progress included “Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point,” “Cold Wallet,” “Familiar Touch,” “Know Me,” “Obex,” “The Water Is Always Warm” and “We Strangers.”
You can find the full list of winners here.
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