News Column

'All Is Lost' producer and Central York grad Neal Dodson talks about working with Robert Redford

November 8, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 08--Neal Dodson said it had to be Robert Redford.

The quiet thriller "All Is Lost" centers on one man, and Dodson said the production team needed a strong actor to take a risk.

"He was definitely the guy that we wanted," Dodson said of Redford. "We knew it was a longshot."

But Dodson's production company Before the Door, which he runs with friends Corey Moosa and Zachary Quinto, generated buzz with its debut feature in 2011. "Margin Call" earned critical raves and an Oscar nomination for writer/director J.C. Chandor.

The movie's success gave the team an opportunity to make another film. They could have gone the blockbuster route, Dodson said, which would have been fun. But Chandor's next script veered away from the traditional Hollywood model. "All Is Lost" is about an unnamed man on a boat, adrift at sea -- no exposition; scant dialogue.

Dodson, a Central York High School grad, and Anna Gerb signed on to produce the project. Moosa and Quinto are among the executive producers. The next step was getting it into Redford's hands.

"It was as if he was in the script's DNA," Dodson said, adding that Chandor wrote the film with Redford in mind. "(Chandor) wanted people to care about the character."

The movie's one actor had to be someone of a certain age who audience members felt they knew. With 50 years in the movie business as an actor and director, Redford, now 77, fit the bill.

If the Academy-Award winner had turned them down, Dodson said the team would have likely mourned and moved on with another version of the script. But they didn't have to. Redford ingested the story and told the team it was "pure cinema."

"He had a gut instinct about the material," Dodson added. "(During one take) he looked at the camera and said, 'this is a crazy movie.'"

Redford brought his expertise to the project in the form of trust. The role required physical and emotional endurance, as the character faces disaster at sea. Dodson said Redford was climbing, swimming and getting thrown around, all while striking a balance between vulnerability and resolve.

The production team knew the movie had a risky premise but had to suspend doubt while shooting.

When the movie premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival in May, the players sat in the screening room among family members, celebrities and critics.

"When the lights came up and the applause kept continuing, we were crying," Dodson said. "We didn't realize how scared we were or how much tension we were holding on to."

The raves and calls for an Oscar nomination for Redford have continued.

Many critics have latched onto thematic similarities between "All Is Lost" and this season's other early Oscar frontrunner "Gravity" -- about a woman adrift in space.

Dodson said it's probably just a coincidence that the movies came out at the same time. "Gravity" took about four years to make, while "All Is Lost" took about two.

"It's more about the originality," Dodson said of a connection between both movies. "The audacity of both projects is a selling point." But for "All Is Lost," it's also a great challenge.

The movie is part introspective journey, part swashbuckling adventure, but Dodson said younger viewers might not connect with the story.

The lack of dialogue and backstory won't work for everyone. But it isn't a silent film. Chandor used imagery and sound to help tell the story. Alex Ebert, of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, composed the score.

"All Is Lost" had a limited release Oct. 18. It expanded to more than 100 screens through last month and will continue to open nationally and internationally through spring, Dodson said. He'll be doing a lot of traveling with the movie. And on Feb. 6, he'll present it at York College.

"It's a heck of a journey," Dodson said. "We got to make a movie we were proud of. We'd love to have (Redford) take the long ride during awards season. We'll cross our fingers."

Contact Erin McCracken at 717-771-2051.

Quote from the actor :

"They had a great crew. I mean, what they were able to put together with the budget they had, which was very low, how they were able to pull in all these elements that would have been costly, how they were able to maneuver and manipulate things to get the maximum effect, I think is a tribute to the producers, Neal and Anna. I think they did a great job. Not an easy film to make. Inside of a boat that's filling up water, storms are washing over this way and that way, waves are crashing, the special effects are bashing you with hoses, wind, rain, waves, the whole thing going full-bore." -- Robert Redford via email

See "All Is Lost"

The movie is screenings at The Charles Theater, 1711 N. Charles St., Baltimore, Md. For details, tickets and showtimes, call 410-727-FILM or visit www.thecharles.com.

Producer Neal Dodson will present "All Is Lost" 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Waldner Performing Arts Center at York College, 441 Country Club Road, Spring Garden Township. The screening, which is part of the college's Humanities Film Series, is free and open to the public. For details, call 717-815-1349 or visit ycp.edu.

For details about the movie, visit allislostfilm.com

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(c)2013 York Daily Record (York, Pa.)

Visit York Daily Record (York, Pa.) at www.ydr.com

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