Running from rattlesnakes, getting trapped in sand that quickly turns into mud and leading oxen, horses and donkeys through desert heat are problems more common to Biblical characters than arthouse filmmakers. But through it all, with just a $1 million-plus budget and an ambulance on standby, Savjani and his fellow producers managed to keep Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano and the “Meek’s Cutoff” cast and crew in one piece over their 32-day shoot outside Burns, Ore.

“Neil (Kopp) and I had to wear a lot of hats — we became our line producer, our accountant and sometimes had to step in and be an A.D.,” recalls Savjani, whose frequent partner Kopp won the same Piaget Producers Award three years ago for their first collaboration with director Kelly Reichardt, “Old Joy.” “Every day was bad,” he recalls. “Cutoff” may have cut down any hidden desire Savjani had to produce the next “Indiana Jones,” but not his love of filmmaking. He’s finishing a doc (tentatively titled “Lab Rats”) about people who do clinical trials for a living, developing a few projects with helmer James Ponsoldt (“Off the Black”), and raising funds for first-time feature director Brian Savelson’s drama “Family Tree,” which he hopes to begin shooting shortly after Oscilloscope releases “Cutoff” in April.

More on the Spirit Awards
Our movies, ourselves | Someone to Watch Award: Mike Ott | Producers Award: Anish Savjani | Truer Than Fiction Award: Jeff Malmberg | The Runner-ups