Indie filmmaker Brad Anderson got his first Super 8 camera when he was 10 years old and has been busily documenting the world around him ever since. Some of the scenes he filmed during his childhood in Madi-son, Conn., showed up in his first feature film, “The Darien Gap.”
“My whole joy of filmmaking comes from piecing together scenes,” Anderson says. “I like shooting mounds of footage and putting it together into a story, the way that Lars von Trier does in ‘Breaking the Waves.’ ”
Anderson earned his bachelor’s degree at Maine’s Bowdoin College in 1987, where he studied Russian and anthropology and developed his interest in ethnographic film. The experience served him well as a freelance editor in Boston, where he worked on such films as “Sankofa,” by the renowned African-American filmmaker Haile Ger-ima; “The Americas,” a PBS series produced at WGBH-TV; and “The Stories of Alt Taliku,” a feature set in Mo-rocco.
Anderson moved to Britain in 1989 to attend the London Intl. Film School, but decided to drop out after complet-ing one year of the two-year degree program. “I decided to use the money for my second year to make a film,” An-derson says. “This way I would have something to show for my money.”
After leaving film school, Anderson moved to Boston, where he made an experimental 40-minute pic called “A Short Film About Bowling,” which he says remains “unseen by most of the moviegoing public.”
In 1992, Anderson helped form the Boston Film Collective, a loose affiliation of Boston and Providence-based filmmakers. He produced and edited the collective’s first short, “Crosley Fiver,” which screened at the Chicago and New York Underground Film Festivals and was the subject of a feature article in Film Threat magazine.
He followed up “Crosley” with “Frankenstein’s Planet of Monsters,” a Z movie shot in the tradition of Ed Wood and Samuel Arkoff. “It was a great experience because we made it for less than $1,500 using Super 8 film and cardboard sets in people’s basements,” Anderson says. “But it got me fired up to do a full-length feature.”
“The Darien Gap” was shot in 1994 on a budget of $50,000, which Anderson pieced together from a variety of sources, including family and friends. He cast his friend Lyn Vaus as the lead in the humorous, poignant film about a young man’s struggle to come to terms with his parents’ divorce and his own inability to commit to any-thing. “Lyn was in a band in Boston,” Anderson says. “He appealed to me as an interesting guy who had a keen wit. In the movie he plays an amalgam of himself and me.”
“The Darien Gap” premiered at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in May 1995. It screened that fall at the Independ-ent Feature Film Market in New York and competed last year at festivals such as Sundance, San Jose and Santa Barbara, where it won a best director award. The pic also opened the first Gen Art Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York in April.
Anderson met his agent, Mary Meagher of the William Morris Agency, through Fine Line vice president Rachael Horovitz, who saw “The Darien Gap” at IFFM. Anderson signed with Meagher before last year’s Sundance and she helped him put together his latest project, “Next Stop Wonderland.”
“I picked Mary because she is interested in ideas, not just your next career move,” Anderson explains. “She’s incredibly well-connected in the indie film world.”
A romantic comedy about a woman’s struggle to find a meaningful relationship, “Wonderland” stars Hope Davis (“Walking and Talking”) and Alan Gelfant ( “The Crow: City of Angels,” “The Destiny of Marty Fine”). The film is being produced by Mitchell Robbins of Robbins Entertainment.
The film was shot on Super 16 during a four-month period last year in and around Boston using a lot of New York talent.
Anderson says his goals are somewhat more commercial for “Wonderland” than for his first feature. “With ‘Darien Gap,’ I just wanted to make a movie,” Anderson says. “I didn’t see it as jumpstarting a career. Getting into Sundance was great, though, because it gives your film an imprimatur that you don’t get otherwise.”
“Darien Gap” was picked up by Northern Arts Entertainment, an indie distribber based in Williamsburg, Mass. It was released in Los Angeles in December and will have a limited theatrical run in major cities. Right now, Anderson is ensconced in his editing room, putting together the mounds of footage that he shot for “Next Stop Wonderland.”