Familiar setting makes Ebertfest film easier to shoot

By Phil Collins

Day three at Ebertfest kicked off with “Shotgun Stories” (2007), a slow paced film that focuses on a family torn at the seams. Writer and director Jeff Nichols introduced his film by speaking about the thrill of having his first film selected for the festival.

“It was definitely a moment where you rush to the phone and call your parents,” Nichols said.

The film was shot near Little Rock, Arkansas, where Nichols grew up. He said putting the film in that setting made it easier to write because he already knew what it looked like and the way people spoke without doing any additional research.

“This is where I knew I would get the most support making a film,” Nichols said in a panel discussion after the screening.

Members of the audience reacted positively throughout the film, applauding loudly at the end and when Nichols came back on stage.

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“It’s obvious he put a lot of thought into every element – the structure of the film, the way it was photographed. Everything was very thoughtful,” said Ashley Rodman of Champaign.

The film focused largely on character as well as setting. Quirky brothers defending each other and wide-open scenery dominated the picture.

“These landscapes, they’re flat, I think they’re beautiful, but they’re stoic. And these people are stoic,” Nichols said in the panel discussion.

The festival, now in its 10th year, is still buzzing in downtown Champaign’s Virginia Theatre. Both Rodman and Matt Gladney of Champaign are in their eighth year of attendance at the festival.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to see films that normally wouldn’t play here in Champaign-Urbana,” Gladney said.

Gladney and Rodman both said they enjoyed “Shotgun Stories” as well as the atmosphere of Ebertfest.

“It’s really our only chance to see a movie with a crowd this big,” Rodman said. “It really changes how you experience a film when you get to see a movie with all these people.”

Check back with DailyIllini.com throughout the weekend for more updates on Ebertfest.