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Here's a how-to 'Primer' in film

Shane Carruth's audacious learn-it-on-the-fly method of getting his first feature in the can and then to theaters was a three-year journey that left even him a bit amazed.

November 07, 2004|Chris Lee | Special to The Times

Although Carruth entered into negotiations with both ThinkFilm and Magnolia Pictures, which offered him almost identical deals for upfront money, he ultimately entered into a handshake agreement with ThinkFilm's Urman -- that is, before Carruth got cold feet and decided to protract negotiations with the company to land a greater percentage of back-end participation.

"Negotiations were lengthy, and quite frankly, they needn't have been so lengthy," Urman remembered. "But it was more about Shane learning than a tough negotiation. In the same way he taught himself how to make a film, he taught himself how to make a deal."

"I wasn't trying to strain every last penny out of them," Carruth said. "But the bigger thing is, if I'm lucky enough to ever make another film, I want to know about this process also."

In the final analysis, Carruth said he still can't explain how he persuaded himself he could defy all the odds. "I don't know why I thought I was going to be able to go out and do this," he said flatly. "It all boils down to one part being naive, but also I have a religious fanaticism when it comes to story.

"It makes it so that I'm much less likely to compromise anything," he added, sounding like some kind of dispassionate mathematician. "I'd rather work by myself for months, doing something the way it needs to be done, than to find some compromising way around."

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