Monterey Bay Area filmmaker makes it to Sundance
You don’t have to live in Hollywood to make it in the film industry. Just ask Douglas Mueller, who’s on his way to Park City, Utah, this week for the renowned Sundance Film Festival, where the feature-length movie he co-produced, Prairie Love, will debut.
Mueller, a California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) alumni, and local resident, is among the respected, small cadre of filmmakers whose work will be shown at Sundance this year. The festival, founded by actor Robert Redford, can turn the names of relatively unknown films, producers, directors and actors, into movie magic. Think top contender Winter’s Bone and Jennifer Lawrence from last year’s festival.
Prairie Love is being featured in a category of films that were made for under $500,000. “The film is about three eccentric characters who are trying to find companionship in a desolate situation,” Mueller says. “A vagrant comes across a man who is ill and nurses him to health. In the process he discovers that the man was on his way to meet his pen pal girlfriend, and he reads his letters. The vagrant kills the other fellow, takes up his identity and goes to pick up his convict girlfriend.”
Prairie Love has a running time of 80 minutes and is directed by Mueller’s friend, Dusty Bias. It stars Jeremy Clark, Holly Lynn Ellis and Garth Blomberg. The story is set and was filmed in North Dakota, where Mueller went to high school. Even so, Mueller plans to film future projects in the Monterey area, where he learned the fundamentals to filmmaking at CSUMB.
“CSUMB was great for me,” Mueller says of his alma mater, where he graduated from in 2003. “At the time, there were only about 70-90 kids in the department and that meant … in every class you could pitch a project and shoot it. … My buddy went to NYU (New York University) and when we compared schools, he said that I had more production experience than he did, and I think there’s something to that.”
Clearly there is, since competition to get into Sundance is painfully stiff for filmmakers. According to the Sundance website, nearly 200 films will be screened, and that number has been whittled down from more than 10,000 entries. Securing a slot at Sundance is a highly coveted accomplishment.
“The goal is for a distributor to pick it up (buy it) … and they’ll do what they like with it,” Mueller says. “Once sold, the ideal situation is for them to release it in some theaters and then roll out a DVD and pay-per-view afterwards.”
He goes on to explain that because the film is being screened at Sundance, his team of filmmakers also has the opportunity to generate attention from people who finance, produce and distribute films, which could prove helpful with any future movies they create.
“As a filmmaker from Monterey, it’s also important to me to get the word out locally for people who love film and the arts, and want to be a part of a film made in the area,” Mueller says.
Mueller received his degree from CSUMB in teledramatic arts and technology. He works a day job as a production manager for the Carmel Bach Festival, but he has full intentions to stay in the area and invest his time in developing films locally.
“I would love to shoot a feature film in Monterey,” Mueller says. “I love it here for the climate, topography and lush scenery. It’s so photogenic to me and I relish in the opportunity to show it off. I have a Western that I’ve written for the redwood valleys and foggy hills. I’d also really like to make a film in Salinas Valley—the fields are so beautiful and the workers so inspiring. I’d also really be interested in shooting a documentary about making music at the Carmel Bach Festival.”
Mueller adds, “I feel like I can make a living in Monterey as a filmmaker. People will invest in me for my brain, not my zip code. I’m living where I want and making a living doing what I want. It has been the goal since I graduated, and Sundance is one major push in that direction.”
From Monterey to Sundance, this is one filmmaker to keep an eye on. And meanwhile, he’ll be keeping his lens zoomed in on us.
To learn more about the film, Prairie Love, visit prairielove.com. The movie debuts at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this week, and will be shown Jan. 23, 25, 27, 28. For more information about the film’s co-producer, visit douglasmueller.net.