Getting the ‘Beast’ around

Searchlight perfect for their pic, filmmakers say

After winning awards at both Sundance and Cannes, Benh Zeitlin’s drama “Beasts of the Southern Wild” made its way to the Los Angeles Film Festival at L.A. Live on Friday night.

Eight-year-old star Quvenzhane Wallis, who was only 5 when she was cast, kept the audience engaged during the post-screening Q and A, but was in no mood for interviews at the pic’s afterparty on the parking garage rooftop.

Later in the evening, helmer Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar explained why Fox Searchlight was the best fit to distribute the hard-to-describe pic, which debuted at Sundance in January.

“Lucy and I were never able to pitch it while we were writing it, so we knew we needed a company that felt it,” Zeitlin said. “That first meeting we had, they admitted they didn’t really know how they were going to do it, but they said, ‘we believe we can and we believe this should be sold the way the movie is.’ That was our top priority, because we wanted that kind of collaboration on it. We had no idea we would sell the film. That was beyond our wildest dreams. I think we imagined being at festivals all year and self-distributing eventually, so Fox Searchlight coming in was like the sky parting for us. Our agenda is just to get the most possible people to see it and this (summer) is the best time for the film to be around the longest.”

“We wanted to go with who was best for the movie, not just who offered us the best deal,” Alibar added. “Not only did they love the movie and believe in it, but they had a track record of bringing these movies with very individual voices to everybody, not just New York and Los Angeles.”

Zeitlin said he’s enjoying the festival ride as the film prepares for limited release on June 27. He described the experience as “kind of like you’re driving a car and then you stop and it keeps on going.”

The New Orleans-style feast featured a doughnut dessert of buttermilk drops made by Dwight Henry, another first-time actor who plays Wallis’ alcoholic father in the pic.