Slamdance, the annual independent film festival, honored two of its alumni this week with its Founders Award. The Russo brothers, who directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” and the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War,” became involved with Slamdance in 1997, with their small debut film “Pieces.”
Steven Soderbergh saw the feature while at the festival, which Joe Russo said “was a very radical narrative, not dissimilar to Soderbergh’s ‘Schizopolis,’ so I think when Steven saw our movie he really responded to it.”
Soderbergh and his partner, George Clooney, offered to produce their next film, and “we spent a year and a half sitting on the couch at Steven’s company, it was called Section Eight, and you’d walk in the front door and there would be a reception area, and there was a couch off to the right where you’d see the Russo brothers with the telephone making phone calls trying to generate interest from actors and our scripts,” Joe Russo said.
“Our debt kept mounting up and we still had all the credit cards, barely paying the interest on them and it was a seven or eight year overnight success story,” he added.
Their first project with Soderbergh was 2002’s “Welcome to Collinwood,” starring Clooney, William H. Macy, and Sam Rockwell. Shortly after, the two directed the pilot of “Arrested Development,” for which they won an Emmy.
“If you look at our road to here, you could never have predicted it. We weren’t necessarily driving toward this as a goal,” Anthony Russo explained. “We’ve always been excited by the variety of what you can do as filmmaker, and we’ve always been turned on by trying to push ourselves into areas that we haven’t explored yet because that excites us creatively.”