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10 Directors to Watch: Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly Paint the ‘Sky’

Maine couple transitions bring background in TV news and docs to their narrative debut, 'Beneath the Harvest Sky'

“Authenticity above all else.” That, says Aron Gaudet, is the mantra for him and his wife, Gita Pullapilly, co-directors of the coming-of-age film “Beneath the Harvest Sky.”

“And we’re about telling a good story,” she adds.

The two met in early 2004 while working for Midwestern TV news stations. Looking for a way to realize their filmmaking dreams, they ventured into documentary filmmaking “as a bridge from television news to narrative,” Gaudet explains.

Around Christmas later that year, the duo traveled to Gaudet’s home state of Maine, where they began making “The Way We Get By,” a heartfelt chronicle of three senior citizens who find meaning in welcoming back U.S. soldiers. The docu premiered at SXSW in 2009 and proceeded to win several festival awards, before garnering a PBS broadcast.

Rather than follow up on their newfound success in nonfiction, Gaudet and Pullapilly decided to make their feature debut. Inspired by the rural farming areas of northern Maine and 1980s movies like “The Outsiders,” “Stand by Me” and “At Close Range” — about “teenagers in adult situations,” Gaudet says — “Beneath the Harvest Sky” stars newcomer Emory Cohen as a young man who gets caught up in illegal drug trafficking along the U.S.-Canadian border.

“We knew we had something special with Emory Cohen, so it was important to showcase that,” Pullapilly says. In order to get the most of their actors, they scheduled a relatively leisurely 36 shooting days on their shoestring budget.

They premiered the film at Toronto with a marketing plan developed in partnership with Harvard Business School already in place, which helped land a favorable deal with Tribeca Film. The couple are now eagerly pursuing two other projects: a book adaptation for a studio and a drama based on a true story set in 1980s Chicago.

Whatever happens, Pullapilly insists, “The one thing we can do is figure out how to make a movie. We had no money and we made ‘Harvest Sky,’ so if we’re passionate, we’ll find a way of doing it.”

Stats:
› Ages: 39, 36
› Home base: Bay Harbor, Maine
› Agent: Max Michael, Carolyn Sivitz (UTA)
› Manager: Taylor Benzie (Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment)
› Lawyer: George Cooke (Manatt, Phelps & Phillips)

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