Filmmakers in Focus - Premature, Song From the Forest and The Wilderness of James

Written by Jim Kolmar | February 18, 2014

Filmmakers Dan Beers, Michael Obert and Michael JohnsonThe three very different films featured in today's Filmmakers in Focus, all drawn from the Visions section. As filmmaker Dan Beers says, Premature is essentially "Groundhog Day, but with orgasms". Michael Obert's poetic documentary Song from the Forest follows American Louis Sarno as he makes his life with a Pygmy tribe, deep in the rainforest. In Michael Johnson's The Wilderness of James, we experience a different kind of wildness.

Read the interviews below, and see all the Filmmakers in Focus interviews on this page.

Dan Beers on Premature

SXSW Visions film Premature, image courtesy FilmNation Entertainment

Tell us a little about your film.

It is about a young man in high school who has to re-live his failed first time at having sex over and over again until he gets it right. You can say it's Groundhog Day, but with orgasms. I was raised on John Hughes' films and this is definitely inspired by his work. Hopefully the movie portrays teenagers in an honest, loving way - but it never forgets that it's a comedy first and foremost. You can probably figure that out by the concept.

Why did you start making films?

I was bitten at a young age; I think 3rd or 4th grade. My first movie was made when I was 12 and it was called Travis: Portrait of a Homicidal Teenager. It was my 8th grade homage to Taxi Driver. I wish I still had the video. If I recall, it was terrible - but the special effects were good!

Have you been to SXSW before? Any tips?

Yes, a short film I made was shown here in the interactive section in 2012. My trip was brief, but a lot of fun. My tip is to spend a few days and take the time to enjoy the city, the food, the nightlife and the movies! Austin is a great town with a wonderful attitude. Come with a smile and an empty stomach.

Tell us a random fact (or two!) that would help our attendees get a better idea of who you are.

I have 3-year-old twin daughters (who I hope never see this movie).

Michael Obert on Song From The Forest

SXSW Visions film, Song From The Forest. Courtesy the filmmakers

Tell us a little about your film.

As a young man, American Louis Sarno heard a song on the radio that gripped his imagination. He followed the mysterious sounds all the way to the Central African rainforest and found their source with the Bayaka Pygmies, a tribe of hunters and gatherers. He never left.

Today, twenty-five years later, Louis Sarno has recorded more than 1,000 hours of unique Bayaka music. He is a fully accepted member of the Bayaka society and has a 13-year-old son, Samedi. Once, when Samedi was a baby, he became seriously ill and Louis feared for his life. He held his son in his arms through a frightful night and made him a promise: “If you get through this, one day I’ll show you the world I come from.”

Now the time has come to fulfill his promise, and Louis travels with Samedi from the African rainforest to another jungle, one of concrete, glass, and asphalt: New York City. Together, they meet Louis’ family and old friends, including his closest friend from college, Jim Jarmusch.

Song from the Forest is a modern epic set between rainforest and skyscrapers.

Why did you start making films?

It happened to me. Like love happens to you. First love in my case as Song from the Forest is my debut movie.

Have you been to SXSW before? What are you most looking forward to?

First time. I have heard wild things about the people of Austin. Looking foward to meeting them.

Tell us a random fact (or two!) that would help our attendees get a better idea of who you are.

Picture a person without a real home, driven from place to place, a collector of stories who has spent the past 20 years traveling to the most remote corners of the Earth.

I love life.

Everyday is my birthday.

Michael Johnson on The Wilderness of James

SXSW Visions film The Wilderness of James. Courtesy the filmmakers

Tell us a little about your film.

It's about a kid who's lost. It's about not having a dad around. It's about being a teenager. It's about the world as a wilderness.

Why did you start making films?

I remember watching, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and thinking... ""Oh, this is what I need to do. I need to make movies."

There's nothing quite like making a film. It's such a distinct marriage of images, sound, music and humanity. I love trying to make people feel.

Have you been to SXSW before?

Never been to the festival but Austin is great. I love bats.

Tell us a random fact (or two!) that would help our attendees get a better idea of who you are.

I've lived at sea.

I own the domain, ponytailsummer.com

I was born on Flag Day.