Regardless of how It Comes at Night plays in the long run -- and with more than $6 million at the box office and the kind of mixed reviews a risky, director-driven drama should provoke, it's a win for anyone in the art-as-commerce business -- Shults is going back to work. After Krisha blew up at SXSW, calls poured in from Hollywood. "What I didn't want was to get swallowed by that and fall into the bullshit. I was very paranoid about that." When it came time to pick an agent, he called friend and director David Lowery (Pete's Dragon), who encouraged him to sign at the major William Morris Entertainment agency, where Lowery and Shults' pal Robert Eggers (The Witch) both found representation after making the leap with indie hits.
Having friends by your side when you jump to the big leagues is great, but Hollywood's still Hollywood, even for filmmakers from Orlando. The first thing Shults heard from his agent is exactly what you think he heard from his agent. "They're like, 'We'll get you a Marvel movie. Let's do it.' It's like, no. He's like 'Star Wars would be amazing.' It's like, no, I don't think it would."
Everyone quickly got on the same page, Shults says, because he's a commercial artist who wants to make movies he deeply believes in. It's possible, he says, to make the shit you want to make, as long as you have the right people (he does now), you're willing to be vulnerable (have you seen his movies?), and know when to turn down the money. But he also needs money. He needs to survive. His place in Orlando won't pay for itself. He intends to make more movies. He could make someone else's movie. Hell, he could direct a television show -- it's all the rage.
"I'm open to whatever. My agent sent me a ton of scripts. I'm reading scripts, like interested in TV or whatever. Directing is fun. If I get a script that I love and I believe in and I can stay behind the camera, stay fresh and use my craft and hopefully make a story."
To be 28 and hungry and thoughtful and wounded and driven and troubled and empathetic to a colossally screwed up world and hopeful that art can make a difference to someone, somewhere is a load to bear. Shults believes he can get it done, and if he gave me reason to follow into whatever murky territory he's willing to venture, it was his mantra-like reminder that movies like Krisha, It Comes at Night, and whatever else he sets out to do need to be authentic, paycheck be damned.
"I've got to believe in it and believe I need to do this," he says, "because our world doesn't need more shit."
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