CANNES DAY 10: Good things happening for Texas filmmakers, including ‘Krisha’ director Trey Shults

After starting with the rather gloomy (but powerful) “Chronic,” my day at Cannes got brighter.

After “Chronic,” I met with Trey Edward Shults, the director of “Krisha,” which won the narrative feature competition at South by Southwest and was picked up for the Critics Week sidebar in Cannes.

Shults, 26, grew up in Houston, and still lives with his mom in Montgomery, Texas. A lifelong film fan, he started studying business at Texas State before dropping out. That’s when he started studying movies, not just watching them, he says. “I learned about film grammar,” he says. And while he was staying in Hawaii with his aunt, who stars in the film and is named Krisha Fairchild, he got a gig with Terrence Malick as a film loader for his upcoming documentary-style “Voyage of Time.” (His aunt has been a longtime actress and she has gotten to know the Malick family, who often stay in Hawaii, where they’re part of a small film community.)

At any rate, Shults got other gigs with Malick, most notably an internship, and he was able to travel around the world while Malick was filming his movie.

The experience helped inspire him to make a short, starring his aunt as a woman who comes to a family reunion/holiday event after a long absence. She clearly has a past with the family members, and they hope she can stay sober long enough to make it through the holiday. The short went on to get recognition at the 2014 SXSW festival, and this led Shults to begin a Kickstarter campaign for a feature-length film.

Shults shot the movie in his mother’s home, and it took a little over a week. He raised money through a $15,000 Kickstarter drive, and he came to SXSW this year with no publicist and no expectations. Then it attracted the attention of publicist Adam Kersh, and Kersh started pitching it to various critics. It went on the win the top prize in the narrative feature competition. And Kersh urged Shults to enter it into Cannes, where it made the Critics Week sidebar, despite being submitted late.

“It has been a surreal experience,” Shults says of being in Cannes with “Krisha,” which stars not only his aunt but also his mother, Robyn Fairchild, and other friends and family members.

The week in Cannes has paid off. The independent film distribution company A24 picked up the rights to distribute “Krisha,” and it also promised to finance his next project, a horror movie.

In other Texas-related news, Sony Pictures Classics has acquired the distribution rights to “Truth,” starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett. Redford plays Austin resident Dan Rather, and Blanchett plays Dallas’ Mary Mapes, who was Rather’s producer on the controversial September 2004 report that George W. Bush had received special treatment while serving in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

The report was based on documents that were later suspected of being forgeries, and the uproar led to Rather’s departure from CBS. After the incident, Mapes wrote a memoir, “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power,” on which the movie is based.

Sony Pictures Classics reportedly paid $6 million for the rights to the film, which is directed by James Vanderbilt, a former screenwriter who is making his directorial debut.


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