Granick seeks regional authenticity

'Winter's Bone' helmer explores the Ozarks

Debra Granik — whose first feature, the 2004 Sundance hit “Down to the Bone,” chronicled the double life of a suburban mom (Vera Farmiga’s breakthrough role) teetering out of control from a secret cocaine habit — once again examines the destructive effects of drug abuse in “Winter’s Bone,” but this time in the impoverished wasteland of the Ozarks. The teenage girl at the center of the tale, Ree Dolly (played by Jennifer Lawrence), attempts to hold her family together even as her estranged meth-dealing father threatens to tear it all apart.

Origins: “Part of starting any project is this intense leap of faith. You’re never sure that it’s the right project. But because the attraction’s very vibrant, you decide to take the plunge (even if) you don’t know where you’re going to land.”

Cracking the storytelling nut: “One nut at a time,” says Granik of making numerous trips to Missouri. “That was the route of entry. … We had to ask people to be our life models. We also went seeking physical places that filled out (Ree Dolly’s) world.”

Approach: “My technique was married to a very, very adept storyteller (Daniel Woodrell, who wrote the novel on which the film is based).”

Casting coups: “It’s a little Pollyanna of me probably, but I felt like the two casting directors we worked with found actors from the region we were going to film in — actors who had the southern life experience. That’s what a northeastern director needs the most, people from that region to populate the film.”

“(Lawrence) was the first woman we had heard in a really long time that could speak the script naturally. She could hear relatives, she could hear something. She had a very lyrical way of pronouncing American English. She put no stipulations on what she would or not do. She said she would contribute 100% and that’s what she did.”

Visual style: “What I treasure about working with (cinematographer) Michael (McDonough) … is that he’s a seeker. He wants to love things with his camera. If his heart gets touched, he wants to be able to make lasting evidence of what touched him. …If I’m the notetaker on the content side, he’s the visual anthropologist; he’s helping to take notes with a recording device.”

More articles from Eye on the Oscars: The Director Preview:
Auds entertained by pics’ royal pains | The ‘Inception’ phenomenon | A live-action approach to animation
First Person: Six helmers behind some of the year’s most buzzed-about pics talk about their inspiration
Darren Aronofsky | Danny Boyle | Lisa Cholodenko | Debra Granik | Mike Leigh | John Cameron Mitchell

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