SxSW 2020 Interview – GOOD OL GIRL director Sarah Brennan Kolb

“GOOD OL GIRL is a documentary western following three modern day cowgirls as they work their way up in the volatile Texas cattle industry. It’s a study of changing landscape, the female perspective, and what happens to our often oppressive traditions when only those who have been overlooked are left to carry them on.” Director Sarah Brennan Kolb on GOOD OL GIRL which screens at SxSW 2020 Film! 

Welcome to SxSW! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

It’s my first time here as a director. I grew up in Austin and went to SXSW every year with my dad, back when you could just cruise around South Congress in the back of a pickup truck and listen to bands play on street corners. I’ll be there at all the screenings. 

So let’s hear more about you and how you got started in the business and what you have worked on in the past?

I started making things during my time as a film school undergrad at UT Austin. After graduation I made my way to New York and worked as a Line Producer and Producer. I got the chance to work on films like LINGUA FRANCA (Venice 2019), LITTLE WOODS (Tribeca 2018) and MAJOR ARCANA (Raindance 2018). I have also produced a LOT of beer commercials. GOOD OL GIRL is my directorial debut. 

How did GOOD OL GIRL come together?

I was 24 and got fired from a tiny narrative feature I was line producing. It was winter and I was miserable in NYC. I moved back to Texas to take a breather and met a woman who owned a ranch outside of Kenedy where my family was living at the time. I ended up shadowing her for a while and she taught me the very basics of ranching. I was fascinated by her work ethic and the obstacles she faced running the ranch as a recent widow. I knew there was a story somewhere. 

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

The people who I’m filming keep me going. Throughout the five years of making GOOD OL GIRL, there were lots of times I wanted to quit, but I would quickly be reminded that the three women entrusted me with their stories and I was never going to let them down if I could help it.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The biggest challenge for me has been how many expectations people come with when they  hear that the movie is about cattle and Texas. So many people have passed on the movie because there aren’t any cowboys or gun fights. So many people have told me this movie isn’t a western. It IS a western, it’s just from a totally different perspective than anyone has ever listened to before. 

The most rewarding part resulted in a tattoo. In the movie, Mandy gets a heart tattooed on her ring finger to remind herself that she doesn’t need to change to be accepted. It was the very last thing we ever filmed and I bawled the entire time. As soon as we wrapped I got a matching tattoo. 

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed!

We shot everything on the Fs7 with a 2.39:1 crop. I knew very early on that I wanted to keep that same, wide Western frame as all my old favorite movies. I got so incredibly lucky that Kyle Kelley wasn’t just my director of photography, but also our producer. His sense of verite and knack for quiet moments made the movie what it is. I know most people who film for as long as we do have to coordinate a whole team of shooters. Kyle made it to every single shoot, except just one, and gave up so much to be there with me throughout the whole thing. It’s a rare privilege to be able to take that time and develop a singular, visual language together. 

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

Austin is my hometown. It’s just an incredible experience to premiere this film in a town that means so much to me.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

We’ll be doing a festival and outreach tour and aiming to land the film somewhere accessible online. 

If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

IFC in New York City. When I first moved to Brooklyn at 22, I had a friend who worked there and would sneak me in. Afterwards I would buy her pie and coffee at the Washington Square Diner across the street. My friends and I would stay there for hours talking about what we saw and what we wanted to make. I told myself I’d screen a film there one day.

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive, like talking or texting, through a screening even if it was your own?

I don’t think I’d say anything. I’d steal their popcorn or phone instead. 

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Always read and understand your production insurance policy and don’t cast antique beat up pickup trucks as your hero car. 

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

I got the opportunity to catch THEM THAT FOLLOW last year at Sundance. It was such an intense choice for a 9am screening. The movie is beautiful, and terrifying, and somehow leaves you with such a relief and warm feeling at the end. Watching hungover people who couldn’t handle the intensity run out of the theater during the climax only added to the experience. It’s by far my favorite movie from the last few years!

This is one of the many films playing at SxSW 2020! For more information on this film, screening times and info on the entire SxSW experience, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film

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