Looking back – and forward – with BorderLine Films

July 8, 2013

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It’s a temporarily rainy early evening, late in the 48th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic and the partners of New York-based BorderLine Films – Josh Mond, Antonio Campos and Sean Durkin – are gathered in the lobby bar of the Grand Hotel Pupp, where Campos embraces actor Ezra Miller.

“So excited to be here,” says Miller, who starred in Campos’ 2008 film, “Afterschool,” which is screening the next day. He heads off, as does Mond, who is heading to the nearby town of Loket to see a Joe Satriani concert. So Campos and Durkin find a quiet corner in the bar to talk about the retrospective of their films at KVIFF.

The retrospective includes all of the films Campos, Durkin and Mond have produced and directed in their 10-year partnership, including Durkin’s award-winning 2011 feature, “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Campos’ two features (“Afterschool” and “Simon Killer,” 2013), as well as short films they created. They also had the chance to each choose a film to present; Durkin chose “Rosemary’s Baby,” while Campos selected Michael Haneke’s “Code Unknown.”

The trio’s collaborations allow them to write their individual scripts to direct, for which the others act as producers and creative partners. They met as film students at New York University; Campos knew Mond slightly before college and reconnected there. Mond met Durkin while working together as crew on a student film and developed a rapport and shared idea of what film should be.

“Within a day of us all connecting sophomore year, we were all working on something together,” says Campos, 29. “Initially, we tried to make a feature that fell apart two weeks before we were supposed to start prep. But in the process of trying to make that film, we learned what not to do, how to make it right and to just go for it.”

The 10-year mark can lead to a certain summing up, though Campos and Durkin can’t really say what it is that has forged the bond between them, beyond their long-time friendship and collaboration.

“I always say there are things we know about each other and bring to the mix,” Campos says. “But that changes from project to project and person to person. We know each other’s strengths.”

Adds Durkin, 31, “We’re always working to be better. But we can’t really define what each person brings to the mix because that’s always changing.”

Most of their films have played some combination of Cannes, Sundance and New York film festivals, but the KVIFF retrospective was the first time Campos had actually watched some of his early work in a theatrical setting.

“I watched ‘Afterschool’ for the first time in five years,” he says. “I hadn’t seen ‘Simon Killer’ in a year and a half. It’s been cool for us to go back and watch all the films. It’s really wonderful – and it’s humbling.”

Having the retrospective in Karlovy Vary offered that festival audience the first time to see some of the BorderLine work.

“None of our films played here, though they asked us about this a year ago,” Durkin says. “A lot of people don’t know anything about the films.”

Adds Campos, “It’s a cool thing because the people who come to the festival seem to be very young. I haven’t been to one screening that wasn’t packed. They’re so dedicated to getting in. There’s a really good energy.”

The trio signed a first-look deal with Fox Searchlight Pictures after “Martha Marcy May Marlene” broke out at Sundance in 2011. Since finishing “Simon Killer” (which played Sundance earlier this year), the three filmmakers are all working on scripts for future work. Mond has finished the script for his first short film; Durkin (who recently shot “Southcliffe,” a four-part miniseries for Channel 4 in Great Britain) and Campos are both working on scripts for their next features.

“We’re all pretty close to having scripts ready,” Durkin says. “But we’ve got no productions planned. This is a big writing period for us.”

Durkin’s projects center on music, inspired by “shows I saw as a kid, with the punk scene on St. Mark’s Place.” Campos says he tends to focus on “conflicted male figures. Even if I did a comedy, it would be about something like that.”

Then he adds, “I was watching a bunch of Martin Ritt films and saw ‘Norma Rae’ for the first time. And I got excited about finding that kind of story. But I can’t force it. If I sat down and tried to write it, it would just be ‘Norma Rae,’ as opposed to that true story that just kind of appears in front of your face.”

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