How Benh Zeitlin Made an ‘Impossible’ Film (and Why the Industry Is ‘Disturbing’)

After the breakout success of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin had Hollywood in his pocket. But he refused to play its game.

When it comes to Sundance success stories, nothing quite rivals 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. The micro-budget film was produced by a small, scrappy New Orleans filmmaking collective and helmed by a first-time director. It starred non-professional actors and was made guerilla-style, with the crew often working out of an abandoned gas station in the Bayou. Beasts took the festival by storm, winning the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, and was eventually acquired by Fox Searchlight for $2 million. It went on to gross more than $20 million at the box office and garner four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture and Best Director.

“After Beasts of the Southern Wild, we realized we had this opportunity to make something impossible.”

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