Director Debra Granik
Producers Anne Rosellini, Alix Madigan-Yorkin
Production company Anonymous Content
US distributor Roadside Attractions
Int’l distributor Fortissimo Films
US release date June 11, 2010
Debra Granik’s $2m thriller Winter’s Bone is one of the year’s cinematic gems, enthralling critics and making an indie star of its lead, Jennifer Lawrence. Since picking up the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the film has accumulated a string of awards wins and nominations, including Oscar nominatoins for Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.
Granik and writer/producer Anne Rosellini were first sent Daniel Woodrell’s then-unpublished novel, about the 17-year-old Ree who embarks on a dangerous mission to find her errant father, by Anonymous Content in 2005. The pair knew it was for them and after writing a first draft they teamed with Anonymous producer Alix Madigan-Yorkin.
When an early backer dropped out in 2007, the team had to explore self-funding options before deciding to cut the proposed budget by half. The move paved the way for financing from “an intensely private philanthropist who adored Debra’s work”, says Rosellini.
According to Rosellini the greatest challenge was gaining the trust of the Ozark community, in a remote region of southern Missouri, around which the story is based.
“How do you make a film about a place you’ve never been to, where you don’t know anybody, but with whose community you are desperate to make a connection?” asks Granik.
The answer was slow assimilation. Over three years, Granik and Rosellini developed bonds with members of the poor rural region. Some 25 Ozarks played supporting roles in the film, including strong turns from Lauren Sweetser who plays Ree’s best friend and Ronnie Hall as the menacing Thump Milton. Lawrence was the final piece in the casting puzzle, coming on board a couple of months before the February 2009 shoot.
Sundance was always the intended launch pad, but in light of the perceived “darkness” of Winter’s Bone, their sales advisers initially urged Granik and Rosellini to check anticipation of commercial success.
However, Fortissimo enthusiastically took international sales, Roadside Attractions snapped up domestic rights (despite an eleventh hour bid from a larger distributor) and the film has grossed more than $6m in the US alone.