×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance: Brett Haley on ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ and Making Indie Films for Middle America

Brett Haley has become as much a Sundance institution as the trams that circle around Park City, Utah.

The indie filmmaker has premiered three films at the festival in four years, scoring with the likes of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “The Hero.” His latest effort, “Hearts Beat Loud,” will close out this year’s gathering. It’s the story of a Brooklyn record store owner (Nick Offerman) who tries to convince his college-bound daughter (Kiersey Clemons) to start a band. At a time when many Sundance offerings are bleak or medicinal, “Hearts Beat Loud” is unabashedly uplifting and, shudder, entertaining. That also bodes well for its commercial prospects — something that should help the film attract a buyer as it searches for distribution.

On the eve of another Sundance, Haley spoke with Variety about his work ethic, his box office track record, and what inspired “Hearts Beat Loud.”

You are wildly prolific. Are you perpetually finishing one movie while prepping to shoot another?

That’s correct. My goal is to make a movie a year. Marc Basch, my co-writer, and I have a rule. If we get a movie into Sundance then we start writing the next one. We always try to finish a draft, even if it’s terrible, before Sundance starts. I love to work. I’m happiest on film sets. It’s my form of therapy.

What inspired “Hearts Beat Loud”?

I’ve always wanted to tell a parent-child story. I don’t have kids, but I think of the fear of raising them only to say goodbye to them. At the end of all that, you have to let go and allow them to go off and be their own person. It’s universal. It’s a story about love, and I just wanted to put some goodness out in the world right now and make a film that makes people feel good. There’s so much anxiety out there and we’re bombarded with so much bad news, that I wanted to provide kind of an antidote to all that.

What’s the source of that cultural anxiety?

I’m not really a political filmmaker, but whether you’re on Trump’s side or not, you have to admit he’s causing a great deal of anxiety.

This seems to be a different role for Nick Offerman. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen him anchor a movie or be so vulnerable and paternal. What made you think of him for the part?

I worked with Nick on “The Hero” and he’s such a wonderful human being and such an incredible actor. The thing about Nick is he’s a chameleon. Look at his resume from “Fargo” to “Parks & Recreation,” he’ll change the way he looks and acts. He disappears. He’s one of the great character actors, but he’s also a leading man who can carry a film.

Your films have been successful at the box office. “The Hero” made $4.1 million and “I’ll See You in My Dreams” made $7.4 million, which is solid business for low-budget indies. Do you care about the commercial results?

I take a great deal of pride in it. I want great reviews, but I what I really want is for people to see the film. Show business is a business, and that’s how I get to keep doing this. My films haven’t been runaway $100 million hits, but they’ve found an audience outside of New York and Los Angeles. I ant my films to do well there, of course, but I want them to play in Middle America. I don’t consider being a commercial artist to be a dirty word.

What’s your next project?

I can’t tell you much, but it’s very different than what Marc and I have done before. It’s much bigger. It’s the movie I’ve been wanting to make since I was a kid. It’s a different genre for me and a different level of storytelling. That’s what I want to do. I want to tell great stories and go from one genre to another.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jon Voight'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' film

    President Trump to Award Jon Voight the National Medal of Arts

    President Trump will present actor Jon Voight, musician Allison Krauss, and mystery writer James Patterson with the national medal of arts. Voight is one of few in Hollywood who has been vocal about his support of President Trump in the past, calling him “the greatest president of this century.” The White House announced four recipients [...]

  • Zack Snyder arrives at the 2018

    'Justice League': Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder Support Release of 'Snyder Cut'

    Zack Snyder, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck have taken to social media to request that Warner Bros. release the Snyder cut of “Justice League.” Snyder, who helmed “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” and was “Justice League’s” original director, had to leave production on the film partway through after his daughter died, with Joss [...]

  • Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On?

    Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On? (Column)

    Do we choose sides when we watch “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach’s brilliant and wrenching drama of divorce? The question, on the face of it, sounds facile in a dozen ways the movie isn’t. Rarely are there winners in divorce, and there are two sides to every breakup. “Marriage Story” is a movie that reflects that [...]

  • The Letter

    IDFA: Kenyan Documentary ‘The Letter’ Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to the trailer for Kenyan documentary “The Letter,” by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow, which world premieres Nov. 23 at IDFA. The film follows a young man who travels to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she’s been accused of witchcraft. He soon discovers that the threatening letter she [...]

  • Warner Bros. Box Office

    With 'Good Liar' and 'Doctor Sleep,' Warner Bros.' Box Office Misfortunes Mount

    When Warner Bros. was crafting its 2019 slate, the studio took pains to offer more than just superhero movies. To be sure, there were lots of masked vigilantes too, but more than any of its big studio brethren, Warner Bros. was willing to take a risk on the kinds of thrillers, adult dramas, coming-of-age stories, [...]

  • Constance Wu

    Will Constance Wu Ever Watch 'Hustlers'?

    Despite her leading role, Constance Wu has never seen “Hustlers” and, spoiler alert, it’s very unlikely that she will. Wu explained why she doesn’t want to watch the film to Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” “This is crazy,” Kaling said in the beginning of the interview. “I [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    'Ford v Ferrari' Outmatches 'Charlie's Angels' at International Box Office

    Disney and 20th Century Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari” sped ahead of fellow new release, Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels,” at the international box office. Director James Mangold’s racing drama collected $21.4 million from 41 foreign markets, representing 67% of its overseas rollout. “Ford v Ferrari” also kicked off with $31 million in North America, bringing its global [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content