Melissa Silverstein interviews Frozen River Talent

Melissa Silverstein interviews Frozen River Talent

Our favourite blogger Melissa Silverstein, who runs the fantastic blog Women and Hollywood (“News and Commentary About Women and Hollywood from a Feminist Perspective“), recently got chatting with the talent behind oscar-nominated (Best Screenplay and Best Actress) Frozen River: first-time director Courtney Hunt and actress Melissa Leo.  Here is a taste of inspiration from both interviews:

Courtney Hunt, Director of Frozen River

Director Courtney Hunt

Director Courtney Hunt

Melissa Silverstein: Hi, Courtney, let’s get started. What made you write “Frozen River”?

Courtney Hunt: The story was based on a real situation that goes on at the border of New York State and Canada involving smugglers, and this Indian reservation and the St. Lawrence River, which, when it freezes, the smugglers drive across. Around 9/11, I heard that they were switching over to illegal immigrants, so I was interested in that story. And I wrote a short film about it in 2004, and then that led to the feature.

Talk a little bit about how things have changed for you since the premiere in Sundance.

I have access to better material, and a lot of opportunities have popped up. There is a lot of interest from actors who are interested in working with me and I’m having an easier time of getting something read. And I’m getting to pick and choose some different directing jobs, which is really nice.  I’ve been hired for one that’s a rewrite and I’m directing.

I remember when we talked last time, you were very deliberate about wanting to not only write and direct, but wanting to also be a director for hire so that people could see you in both arenas.

Right. And I’m up for a job simply directing, a big job, which I can’t name. Everything I’m offered is for directing. But sometimes there will be a rewrite as well.

That’s incredible. You made this film for under $1 million, so are you looking at budgets in the $10 million range now, or lower since they know you can do an amazing movie on a million dollars?

People won’t even talk about a million dollars. I made the movie for the better part of a million, but got it in the can for about half a million, and people just laugh when I tell them. They think that’s a joke, that it’s ridiculous. No one ever makes movies for that kind of money.

Read the rest of this interview here on Melissa’s blog (

Melissa Leo, actress in Frozen River

Oscar Nominated Actress, Melissa Leo

Oscar Nominated Actress, Melissa Leo

Melissa Silverstein: So my description of you is as a blue-collar actress —someone who just toils but doesn’t necessarily get the recognition. Would you agree with that definition?

Melissa Leo: I call us work-a-day actors.

Why did “Frozen River” resonate so much with “work-a day” people and throughout the world?

I think everything worked. I’ve never been so intimately involved in the production of a film. And I do understand film from an actor’s viewpoint. And from this actor’s viewpoint, everything from the short, to the child the writer/director conceived and gave birth to in the midst of the project, worked to tell the story. And everyone that joined us in Plattsburgh joined us on the back of that script. Everyone loved it and wanted to actualize it. And we got lucky.

But it feels like more than luck … Did you always sense that this could be like a potentially career changing role for you?

Yes, I did. It’s not the only time I’ve ever felt it. But I certainly did with this. I really understood the juiciness of the role, my aptness for it, my aptness for the environment in which we would shot, and the joyful willingness with which I would help her accomplish the task.

What’s also so interesting is how the film seems to be resonating even more now because of our bad economic times. It’s kind of like the people on the margins — these women’s stories — they just cut right to the heart of things. Do you agree with that?

Yeah, everything was so just right. Before I met [director] Courtney [Hunt] they [the leads] were cigarette smugglers. Then lo and behold we read in the newspapers that people are moving in together in these tight times. This is where our picture ends, these two women have decided that perhaps one household will be cheaper than two. Artists know how to reflect the times just before they are the times.

Read the rest of this interview here on Melissa’s blog (


Frozen River will be showing at the Birds Eye View Film Festival at the ICA Cinema 1 Sat 7 Mar 9pm. For more info about the film and how to book tickets, click here


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