Extra: Sundance Institute’s Anne Lai Talks up Ashley Maynor and Paul Harrill

Sundance Institute's Anne Lai Talks up Ashley Maynor and Paul Harrill.

The Independent’s Maud Dillingham talks to Anne Lai, the director of Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Initiative, Feature Film Program, about 10 to Watch 2015 filmmakers Ashley Maynor and Paul Harrill.

Maud Dillingham: How do you know Ashley Maynor and Paul Harrill?

Anne Lai: We have a fellowship focused on feature producers and supporting the next wave of indie American producers. In 2011, I knew Paul’s work, but didn’t know Ashley’s. She applied for a fellowship and was accepted. She was exactly as she presented herself on paper: She was warm and bright and lovely and thoughtful.

MD: Do you see self-reliant filmmaking as viable force?

Lai: I think in general, the indie film producing landscape is really tough. You have to be pretty resourceful to survive and pay your rent. What was interesting to me about Ashley and Paul was that they were creating their own hub. That is always appealing to us. They were not in New York or LA. What struck me about them is that they have a deep dedication to place, geographically and culturally.

MD: What’s the biggest challenge of self-reliant filmmaking?

Lai: Sustainability. I think that with the regional filmmakers there are pragmatic [barriers but] the cost of living is better. Ashley and Paul have been teaching for a long time, staying in an artistic community. [Harrill is the Dee and Jimmy Haslam professor of cinema at the University of Tennessee, and Maynor is an assistant professor and digital humanities librarian at the University of Tennessee.] You wouldn’t naturally go to Knoxville to find a filmmaker. They have brought their experience back to their region. There’s something of a cycle there.

In independent film you have to have a generosity of spirit. You can’t throw money at problems. With Paul and Ashley, their way of both finding story and being within that world, and training a whole other group of artists, is really interesting. It’s very fertile. They’re some of our favorite people. We love great collaborators. They are genuinely talented. Hopefully they will get more attention.

Read about Ashley Maynor and Paul Harrill on 10 to Watch 2015.

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