Filmmaking a family affair for duo
Fraternal filmmakers Alex and Andrew Smith bring an unusually acute literary sensibility to the “hip” indie film scene.
The bookish duo hail from Missoula, a college town in Montana. Their mother is the writer and editor Annick Smith, their stepfather the former University of Montana professor William Kittredge.
The brothers completed undergraduate degrees in English and film studies in California — one at Berkeley, the other at Pomona. Then Alex attended grad school in Austin, Texas, while Andrew studied poetry in Iowa. Both are published writers — Andrew as a poet and Alex in the short story genre.
Following some practical experience as camera assistants on pics such as “Little Man Tate” and “A River Runs Through it,” the brothers began to write screenplays. Their very first effort, “The Slaughter Rule,” was optioned by New York-based Good Machine, which plans to produce, with the brothers making their directorial debut. The small-town, Montana-set “Rule” tells the story of a football coach who falls in love with one of the kids on his team.
The brothers describe “Rule,” which they hope to begin lensing this winter, as a naturalistic story that is “grimy, urban and gritty. It’s definitely not postcard Montana.”
Having rehearsed part of “Rule” in a Sundance lab, the brothers feel that they’re suited to work as a directing team. “Sundance was a trial run for us, and we work together well,” they say. In the future, they may produce projects, too.
In the meantime, they’re revising a second script, the drama “The Wide Open.” Set in rural, Northeast Montana circa 1925, “Wide” is a neo-revisionist Western about a local sheriff who combines communism and bootlegging in order to prevent starvation among his town’s inhabitants. The Smiths describe the lead character in “Wide” — which received funding from the Montana Cultural Trust and Montana Humanities — as an “altruistic Al Capone.”
A third project, “Out of Love,” is based on the Chekhov novella “The Duel.” In the Smith Bros.’ contemporized adaptation, a slacker wants to see his girlfriend fall in love with another man. Alex has already written a draft for Edward R. Pressman Film Corp., which the brothers will be rewriting together.
The Smiths are repped by ICM’s Patty Detroit.