In advance of the Little Rock Film Festival, we spoke to Martha Stephens, director of “Pilgrim Song” about whether she feel’s like she’s breaking into a boys club, filming on a shoe-string and how the LRFF compares to other film festivals. “Pilgrim Song” screens at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and 11:45 a.m. Sunday.
Can you tell me about your film?
It’s a story about a middle-school music teach who’s been laid off because of budget cuts from Louisville, Kentucky. And he decides to take his summer to hike this 300-mile trail in Kentucky, called the Sheltowee Trace Trail. To kind of meditate and figure out what he wants out of his life. He’s sort of at a cross roads and is in a dead-end relationship with a girl. He just wants to be alone and do some soul-searching.
I know that you’re a graduate from North Carolina School of Arts. Looking at the people who have come out of there like Jeff Nichols and David Gordon Green, do you think that there is anything that connects you to these other people aesthetically?
I definitely have been influenced by both of those guys. Even when I was a student and David was releasing “All the Real Girls” – seeing him making it and making what he wanted to make. And to tell the kind of stories he wanted to tell and be successful at it was really inspiring. Jeff and at least David’s earlier movies are very regional films like wherever they’re set, there’s a strong connection to it. Like in “Shotgun Stories,” you really feel that small southern city. And “All the Real Girls” is a small mountain community in North Carolina. I make films based in Appalachia. I think regionalism is important to all of us. We don’t shy away from being slow and methodical and lyrical, and they’re usually more character driven stories.
And do you think the same goes for Danny McBride, Jody Hill and Craig Zobel?
Maybe not. Craig’s two movies are so completely different. I don’t even know what he’s capable of doing. He’s like shocking every time. In a good way. Jody’s stuff you can definitely feel the regionalism. Although Jody’s movies are a little darker and weirder than what maybe I would do.
Do you feel like this is sort of a boy’s club that you are breaking in to?
I made a movie two years ago, and nobody ever brought up the fact that I was a girl. And with the second movie, it’s being brought up and asked about all the time, and I’ve actually been on several female filmmaker panels. I don’t know what it is all of a sudden. I know it’s like a man’s world in Hollywood, but an independent film when your friends are helping you make the movie and you’re working in small crews, you don’t really feel like you are segregated by gender at all. I never really thought about it until people have been pointing it out. It’s not been a problem so far.