‘Right at Your Door’ offers a different kind of festival film
Chris Gorak’s directorial debut, "Right at Your Door," which will premier at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival in the Dramatic Competition, offers a plot line different from most independent films. A dirty bomb detonates in Los Angeles and a man must deal with the chaos that follows.
The subject evokes images of crowds of scared people, explosions, destruction, all the elements that make film budgets balloon to "Titanic" proportions, but "Right at Your Door" was never supposed to be a blockbuster.
"It’s an independent film with an independent budget, so we had to figure out ways to work around those limits," said Gorak.
"Those limits we had actually made the film a more thrilling story," he added.
Set principally inside one man’s house, "Right at Your Door" goes light on big-budget destruction, deferring instead to actors’ performances and the implication of a greater danger. So the film offers a different, more personal kind of fear.
"Our scope of our film becomes smaller, because we’re shooting through windows," said Gorak.
The film tells the story of a man, Brad, who, after watching his wife leave for work, hears the first reports of a series of explosions and is forced to react. With roads closed, Brad decides to seal himself into his home to protect himself from the possible effects of the bombs.
The film’s viewers note both the film’s close focus and its tension.
"Gorak and his collaborators demonstrate a restraint and attention to detail that multiply the effect of both the personal and public crisis," writes Sundance Film Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore in the 2006 Festival Film Guide.
"I’m a huge advocate of setting parameters," said Gorak.
An art director, Gorak said he learned a lot about using parameters when he worked with Steven Spielberg on "Minority Report."
Gorak said he’d watch Spielberg purposely limit himself to get exactly what he wanted out of a scene, and Gorak said he used some of those lessons when writing and filming "Right at Your Door."
Gorak said he first thought of the idea for the film following the World Trade Center disaster on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was in Vancouver working on a film, completely separated from his wife.
"The subject matter of this film was definitely a reaction to the post-911 society and that fear," he said.
The work, he said, started with his anxiety over the distance between himself and his wife and the feeling of disconnection that resulted from his inability to travel and communicate with the larger world.
To write the screenplay, Gorak said he simply thought of the kinds of decisions a person would have to make if faced with such a disaster. After writing the screenplay for the film in 2003 and finding funding for the work, Gorak said he set about writing the film’s script.
There, he said, the film started to take its final shape, and he began to write with his limitations in mind.
"They kind of intuitively challenged me to write a contained, budgeted script," Gorak said.
The film went into pre-production in January of 2005 and was shot earlier this year. Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack star. Gorak said that after the initial work, the project began to gather steam.
"As time went by, we had more and more actors interested," he said.
He said he chose them for their talent more than their previous credits.
"They’re fantastic, talented actors and really, to this point, they haven’t had a chance to do anything like this," said Gorak.
They matched the film’s intensity, he noted, working with their characters’ conflicts to create the atmosphere.
"It was just captivating to watch them work at that intense level," Gorak said.
Gorak came to "Right at Your Door" with significant filmmaking experience as an art director and production designer, working on films like "Fight Club," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and more recently, "Lords of Dogtown."
He said he started as an art director after earning his masters degree in architecture from Tulane University, but he said the art directing provided more of a beginning than anything.
"As I got deeper and deeper into a film, I got more and more into telling a story with film," he said.
After writing a few screenplays, "Right and Your Door" was the first one that was chosen to be made.
"It’s exciting," he said. "Coming from a different area of film, I felt I was in a position of all or nothing."
After this first film, he noted, working as a director will likely either become much tougher or much easier.
Gorak said that with his previous filmmaking experience, he had an excellent idea of how a film was made, and thus how to organize and work with the logistics of the project. That experience was valuable, he noted, when writing the film, because he could adjust the script to the time and logistical limits of the film’s budget.
"Then," he said, "I was able to focus on the new things (in directing) like working with the actors and telling the story."
The result of his work will be on display when the film premiers on Monday, Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. when the film premiers at the Racquet Club.
For a full list of screening times of "Right at Your Door" and for more information, go to http://www.sundance.org and, under the 2006 Sundance Film Festival section, click on "Film Guide."
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The large fireworks shows scheduled for July 3 and July 4 at Park City Mountain Resort have been canceled because of worries about fire risk and drought conditions.