Michael Bergeron
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Trey Shults on Krisha

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Trey Edward Shults grew up in Spring, Texas. “I went to Kline High,” Shults tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview.

Shults has turned indie filmmaking on its head with a intimate film he wrote and helmed and made for $30,000, cast with relatives and shot in a single location in Conroe in nine days.

Krisha, currently playing at the downtown Sundance Cinemas, portrays a family holiday dinner where the main maladjustment is the title character that nobody really wants to be around.

Shults shot Krisha using rented digital Red cameras and shooting in three distinct aspect ratios. “The motivation of the different looks was that they would be character motivated and they would change with Krisha’s mental state. The first half of the movie, everything during the day is in a 1.85:1 ratio with wide lenses and long takes. This was the perfect way to represent the house with its tall ceilings, the depth and the family. Everything that Krisha kind of abandoned,” says Shults.

Krisha, played by Trey’s real life aunt Krisha Fairchild, finds a secluded room to compulsively guzzle some wine and pop pills. Trey’s mom also appears in the film as does he as one of the family members. In fact, everyone in the cast, except two actors, are related to Trey or are personal friends who are actors.

“After she starts drinking it goes to a 2.35:1 ratio with anamorphic lenses, which was to me the appropriate way to represent what the bottle of wine does to her head,” says Shults.

Krisha goes into a dream mode as she falls asleep. “When she wakes up we’re in 1.33:1. It’s like the walls are literally closing in on her. More faces and longer lenses. By the end we’re in a drug-fueled delirium. The goal anyways was to disport reality.”maxresdefault

Krisha had its world premiere last year at the SXSW Film Festival where it received both the Grand Jury Award and Audience Award for narrative feature. Subsequently the film played at the Cannes Film Festival and is now being released by specialty distributor A24.

Krisha’s composer Brian McOmber lays down a fragmented percussive score that mirror’s the lead character’s mindset. “In hindsight I see it like the film flows like a piece of music with peaks and valleys.”

Shults worked as a camera loader for Terrence Malick, a gig he stumbled on when he was 19 and living in Hawaii with Krisha. “She was doing voice work on commercials. She happened to be friends with Paul Atkins, who was shooting second unit for Malick at a near by volcano. I was hired as an intern,” recalls Shults.

“I worked on second unit and got to travel the world: Hawaii, Iceland, Monterrey.” Malick shoots multiple films at once and some of the footage Shults worked on can be seen in The Tree of Life, Weightless (scheduled for release later this year), as well as an IMAX film, Voyage of Time, which depicts the birth of universe and has yet to be completed.

“That was the beginning of a real journey. It has always been my dream to make movies.” Based on his debut film, Shults is a filmmaker who we will only hear more from.

— Michael Bergeron