André Holland and Steven Soderbergh (photo by Shutterstock for Sundance)
By Bailey Pennick
Filmmakers Lodge was packed for a very special edition of Cinema Café, featuring a casual conversation between Steven Soderbergh and André Holland — two frequent collaborators starting with the far-too-short-lived TV show The Knick and blossoming into features including 2019’s High Flying Bird and Fleeing (a film currently in post-production). The pair’s discussion ran the gamut from projects that both men have currently premiering at the 2024 Festival (Presence and Exhibiting Forgiveness, respectively) to figuring out whether Soderbergh should give more “attaboys” to his cast while he’s directing.
As the conversation twisted to filmmaking as an artform and the way that both men approach their crafts and passions, you could feel the energy radiating from the audience. Even with just an hour in their company, it was impossible not to get swept up in their commitment to cinema and how to connect new ideas and pathways with audiences.
Read some of our favorite quotes from the pair below, and make sure to catch their films while on the mountain, and Exhibiting Forgiveness online as well.
Soderbergh on the experience of bringing sex, lies and videotape to Sundance 35 years ago:
“There was a lot of pressure to change the title of the film at that time. After each screening I would ask a show of hands to see if I should change the title. At the first screening, maybe a third thought I should. By the end of the four screenings over the 10 days, no one thought we should, and it was very helpful going back to Columbia with that because the film was now defined by that title.”
Holland on the 13-day shoot for High Flying Bird:
“I loved it, every second. There were always two iPhones in front of me: one to the side, maybe one on the ceiling, and we would just go. It felt like doing a play because there wasn’t a lot of waiting around.”
Soderbergh on his endless pursuit of knowledge (and theft):
“I’m still learning. I’m still looking for stuff to steal, I’m looking to be inspired. I’m trying to go deeper, and what that means mostly, to me, is a process of distillation as opposed to increasing complexity.”
Soderbergh on how he knows when a project is working:
“I’m constantly trying to strip away anything that was extraneous. [I ask myself] what really matters here for the audience, and what the thing wants to be. And it pushes back! One reason I don’t talk a lot on set is because I’m listening to hear what this thing wants to be, and I can’t do that while I’m talking.
“You have to take your ego out of it. I try to explain the difference between confidence and ego because people who are egomaniacs cannot solve problems for themselves — they’re not listening. People who are confident can listen.”
Holland on the importance of pushing Black storytelling forward:
“If we’re not doing things anymore that are obviously stereotypical and harmful, can we now being making things that are doing work in the community? Things that can be helping us. I don’t think it’s enough to be neutral anymore. We wonder whether we get it wrong, but can we make sure to get it right?”
Soderbergh on his 2024 Sundance Film Festival schedule:
“This has been an interesting few days. I’ve just taken this project out to find a buyer, [and] the next 12 months are going to be decided within the next few days. And there’s no guarantee of anything. You’re always trying to find this balance of doing something that’s interesting to you and finding an audience because it’s a very public art form.”
Soderbergh on the next generation of independent storytellers:
“I’m most excited about potential. There are filmmakers here for the first time that in the next 10 days, they’ve got something that’s going to pop… that’s what excites me. Somebody out there right now is making something that’s going to blow us away and I can’t wait. Seeing great work makes me want to work.”
To see more of the magic of the 2024 Festival, click here.