It's been almost 8 and a half years since our previous film The Unforeseen premiered at Sundance. The movie, which focused on Austin's struggles to preserve its natural heritage in the face of ever-increasing growth, proved unexpectedly prescient. Since its release, Austin's growth has exploded beyond anyone's imagination (outside of the Austin Chamber of Commerce). The Austin of The Unforeseen was a city whose growth still, in large part, came from people who were in and around Texas. Not so today.
It was the making of The Unforeseen that in fact that prompted Laura to want to make a film about Wendell Berry. True story. If you've seen the film, you know that Wendell Berry's voice comes and goes reading his poem "Santa Clara Valley". But it wasn't always that way. During a rough cut screening, [executive producer] Terry Malick observed how powerful it would be if we could get Wendell Berry himself reading his own words. In Terry's words "[Berry's] voice would be like an oblique angle piercing the film."
To record Wendell, Laura initially wrote for permission. Once granted, we traveled to Henry County in what became a treacherous icestorm. Our four-wheel drive gave out during the trip, but we hobbled to the Berry's with two-wheel drive. Despite the conditions, and to the shock of our host, we arrived when we said we would. Wendell graciously hosted us, visited a bit and allowed us to record his reading of the poem. We left, went on our way and proceeded to become stranded in Louisville while the car was repaired.
It was this visit to the Berry's farm that perhaps, more than anything, germinated Laura's idea for THE SEER. Rather than make a traditional biopic ABOUT Wendell, could we somehow approximate the sense of a visit with Berry for the viewer? Could we convey Wendell's words to viewers in a way that left them hungering for more? (i.e. his novels, essays and poems.) That is what we hope to accomplish with our new film, and we very much have our old film to thank for it.