When we first saw Matt Porterfield’s PUTTY HILL (2011), the reaction we felt wasn’t the sort elicited by any ordinary independent film. As producers we watch an abundance of movies, some memorable, some forgettable, others exhaustingly drab. PUTTY HILL, for us, was an instant classic. With true-to-life characters reminiscent of the youth in Harmony Korine’s KIDS and a cinematic patience and precision akin to Robert Bresson or Bela Tarr, PUTTY HILL announced Matt Porterfield’s presence as an art-house heavyweight.
When we read Matt and Amy’s screenplay, we had the same overwhelming reaction. As a portrait of modern families, I USED TO BE DARKER has the brutal honesty of John Huston’s FAT CITY, the character awareness of John Cassavetes’ films and the sensibilities of Hou Hsiao-Hsien. The script brought family relationships to a head in a way that was universally relatable, wonderfully honest, and very true. We loved the dialogue between the characters — nothing was overly wordy and the characters displayed genuine emotion towards each other, their situations, and their surroundings, which never came across as anything but sincere. The quiet, observing moments knocked us out; they were beautifully tonal, almost lyrical. We knew that a script with this much relevance and specificity was something to cherish and not take for granted.
It’s our duty as producers to fight for stories like I USED TO BE DARKER and ensure they find their way to the screen. When you discover a screenplay with such bold energy and an inspired voice, the excitement is undeniably intense. We’re confident DARKER will be a wonderful cinematic experience for audiences of all stripes, inspiring hope in anyone who’s felt the burn of love gone bad, or struggled to find their place in this world, or struggles still.
Working with Matt, you quickly realize he lives his films. It’s clear he’ll do anything to get them made. From conception to release, he goes all in, inhabiting the world of his characters, immersing himself in their experience and bringing each of his collaborators into the world, too. His level of commitment is inspiring — one of the reasons why Matt has a loyal creative team behind him.
For DARKER, we brought back collaborators from his first two features and welcomed aboard new talent. Once again, we were fortunate to pull together incredible local support, which enabled us to produce the film in Baltimore at the level it deserved. In the end, we had the freedom to make it how Matt wanted: the result combines his signature visual storytelling with powerful dramatic performances.
A wholly unique picture, DARKER offers further evidence of Porterfield’s range as a filmmaker and shows that independent cinema in the US is still thriving.
– Steve Holmgren & Ryan Zacarias