It's that time again -  when the film industry's eyes are on the awards shows and the Sundance Film Festival.  What films will be the talk of the town this year?  Will some have staying power, making it all the way to Oscars 2014?  Who will be the breakout sensation - the next big thing?  As we all watch it unfold, we'll be introducing you to some of this year's filmmakers who have contributed to our first annual Sundance Guest Blogging Series.


Here to kick-off Sundance 2013 is writer/director Chad Hartigan.  Hartigan's film This is Martin Bonner is in this year's NEXT section. Sundance describes NEXT as, "Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity proves the films selected in this section will inform a "greater" next wave in American cinema." Hartigan tells Indiewire that Bonner is about "the difficulties of starting over at a late stage in your life."

Martin Bonner has just moved to Reno for a new job in prison rehabilitation. Starting over at age 58, he struggles to adapt until an unlikely friendship with an ex-con blossoms, helping him confront the issues he left behind.

We asked Hartigan to talk about any influences a Miramax film or filmmaker may have had on his current filmmaking and artistic voice.  Here's what he had to say.

For as long as I can remember going to movies, Miramax films have had a huge influence on me. Beginning with Pulp Fiction, which was the first rated-R movie I ever saw in the theatre and the first time I realized that scenes could have nothing to do with plot and yet still be essential to moving the story forward. Then in high school, no film made me more excited about one day making movies than Good Will Hunting and the well-documented, inspiring journey of its makers. I went home and immediately started writing (terrible) scripts of my own.

However, it's another collaboration between Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant that has its fingerprints all over my new film, This is Martin Bonner, and that film is Gerry. From the opening shots of Damon and Casey Affleck driving in silence (a shot I steal from directly, as you can see in my trailer), I was completely entranced and transported into the psychological state of those characters. I didn't feel like I was watching a movie about people lost in the desert. I felt like I was lost in the desert, and it was boring and frustrating and monotonous, which are all adjectives I would have thought you could never associate with a good film. Yet I knew instantly that Gerry was going to be an all-time favorite and ever since I've always tried to actually capture an experience or an emotion rather than show a quick representation of it.

In other words, to let the audience know how lonely my main character, Martin Bonner, is, I could have done a quick montage of him doing lonely things over the course of one day and everyone's brain would register what I was trying to say. Instead, I settle on one long take of him eating a sandwich and reading a book, which gives the brain plenty of time to register what I'm trying to say and then even more time to come up with all sorts of other insinuations and assumptions. Hopefully even long enough to really feel that experience rather than just recognize it. It's a minor moment in the film, but it follows the principle that I've taken from Gerry and apply to every aspect of story now.

This is Martin Bonner premieres at Sundance, Sunday January 20th, 9pm at the Egyptian Theatre. Additional screening times are listed on their website along with more information about the film.

Chad Hartigan was born in Nicosia, Cyprus and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking. He wrote and directed his first feature, Luke and Brie are on a First Date, in 2008, which premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival and went on to spawn a Latin American remake in 2013 called Luna en LeoThis is Martin Bonner is his second feature.

The Sundance Film Festival runs January 17-27 in Park City, Utah. This year's film program can be found on their website.

Gerry is available on DVD.

Next up: Meet David Kruta, Director of Photography for the feauture film, Concussion