Last Thursday evening the RISD Auditorium was filled with Beasts lovers – students and other members of the RISD community who were profoundly moved and encouraged by the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild – due both to the impact of the film itself and the crazy communal, creative and hand-built way it was made.
Director Benh Zeitlin and his sister and artistic collaborator Eliza Zeitlin 08 SC were at RISD to talk with fervent fans about their process and what they hope to do now given the mutually inspirational group of collaborators – including several RISD alums – who got involved in the project.
Benh on the Beasts set with natural talent Quvenzhané Wallis, the phenomenal 6-year-old who earned an Oscar nomination for her first film role.
Students asked all sort of questions – mostly preceded by expressions of profound gratitude to the Zeitlins “for making such a beautiful film” – including what Eliza has learned about making art in the years since she graduated from RISD.
“The most important thing I’ve gleaned is to start with an idea but not a plan,” she responded. “If you just start and let the plan evolve naturally, you’ll reach a lot further.” You just need to sort of “guide” or channel the process, she said.
At RISD the Zeitlins showed a few minutes from Glory at Sea, a short film that was also set in the watery bayous outside of New Orleans and opened the door to making Beasts.
Among Benh’s many bits of advice for aspiring filmmakers and others students in the crowd: enjoy the “freedom” you have in college “to work all the time.” And recognize it as “a great time to find collaborators” you’ll want to work with in the future.
After graduation “don’t wait for permission to create art. Just do it,” Benh urged. “And don’t be afraid to be poor,” he added with a laugh. “It’ll kill you a lot more slowly than having a job you hate.”