There was a hodgepodge of visionaries onstage in a special screening room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Thursday. Shortly after a screening of the emotionally rending and brave film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, fans were privy to a few words from the film’s director, Benh Zeitlin, as well as a composer who just sort of fell into film composition, Dan Romer, co-screenwriter Lucy Alibar, whose source material helped to shape the father-daugher relationship in the film, and cinematographer Ben Richardson. The forever affable actors Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry rounded out those offering their technical expertise, as well as their memories. It’s been months and months since the crew was together shooting in the wilds of the southern United States, but you can tell the magic of the film has lingered, even as the Blu-ray release is finally approaching.
It took creativity to earn a part in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Then five-year-old Wallis took to lying about her age on the audition sheet to get an interview, and Henry took to even sneakier means to earn the other lead after Wallis was cast. The actor, who owns a bakery, says he brought the young actress sweets to get on her good side.
“[Wallis] ultimately had the final say, so when they told me I had to use a little strategy…what I did was pack a whole bunch of buttermilk drops, brownies, doughnuts, all kinds of stuff. I walked up to her and handed her the box…She opened ‘em up and got a big old smile on her face and I knew I had the part right there.
When Alibar and Zeitlin began fine-tuning the material that would eventually become Beasts of the Southern Wild, they knew the film would be centralized around the very young lead, Hushpuppy. They were hoping for a girl, but they really just wanted a child with zest and an emotional range, a pint-sized “warrior of the heart.” According to Zeitlin, the composers proved to be intuitive to the importance of Hushpuppy and helped the film to come full circle via a soundtrack that seems as if it bubbled naturally out of the characters.
“We go through a long process of basically figuring what is broadcasting out of our main characters head at any given moment. What is the song that she thinks is playing? It took us a long time to separate out what we felt the audience would think would be playing or what objectively should be playing from what is subjectively coming out of the character’s head.”
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a story about an unconventional family unit living in a nearly forgotten region known simply as The Bathtub. It has all of the trappings of an epic tale in the neat packaging of an independent film, and if you missed it, it hits Blu-ray and DVD on December 4, the same day the film’s accompanying soundtrack hits vinyl.