Finding His Feet: After 15 Years, a Breakthrough for Indiana Filmmaker Scott Schirmer – Zechari Scott, The Ryder Magazine, July 2012

It’s an exciting time for Scott Schirmer, who is polishing off his new film Found, a coming-of-age horror about a boy whose brother is a murderer, for its July 14th premiere at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre. If this weren’t his fourth feature, I’d have thought he’d never experienced anything like it.

Raised in Hanover, Indiana (“a beautiful place visually, but certainly not culturally”), Scott came to Bloomington with what for anyone else might have been an unmanageably diverse palette of interests. At IU, he studied film theory, screenwriting, psychology, gender; and after four-years-plus he’d cobbled together a bachelor’s in sociology. That’s not so incongruous, Scott says. “Norman Lear [producer of All in the Family, Sanford and Sons, and The Jeffersons] talks a lot about how understanding sociology and human behavior gives you the ability to write believably.” And it’s nice to know that Norman Lear is still being referenced in the creative community.

Even with his first film, when the subject was youth and the setting was the playground, Scott was attracted to darkness and angst. His first feature, Boy in the Making (2000)–a story about those liminal years when all boys in school pretend their voices have dropped–marked Scott’s first narrative exploration of adolescent psychology. Scott’s earliest creative preoccupations accord with his academic ones.

Next came the wildcard: Never fanatical about the genre, Scott tried his hand at horror. In 2002, he started filming House of Hope, a cabin-in-the-woods thriller in which a Fundamentalist brother and sister kidnap an expecting couple.

Why horror? “I lived with some guys who challenged me to watch The Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and some other stuff.” That’s it? I press. “Well, a lot of directors start out in horror–Peter Jackson, even Peter Weir,” he defends. “Of course it’s not about showing off, but genre films do allow you to show off.”

A decade later–that’s one more feature, three shorts, and a stint in Los Angeles during which he learned that “Hollywood’s not a goal”–he’s come to feel ambivalent toward this encyclopedic approach.

That’s in part why he was so excited, one day at work at a local publishing house, to come upon the novel Found by local author Todd Rigney. “To varying degrees it deals with racism, homophobia, incest, bullying… but he just kind of tells this story and the themes are there.” For the first time, Scott would direct a story he hadn’t written.

The sense of claustrophobia and hopelessness in this film have tripled. Found unfolds with a vengefulness Scott has not previously breached. Viewers will note its resolution to exhaust every nightmare in recounting the collapse of all trust and faith for the young Marty, a bully’s chump obsessed with horror, whose brother keeps a human head in his closet. “Usually they’re black women,” Marty narrates, “but one time he had a white man’s head in there.”

Like Scott warned (smirking to assuage anxiety and, I like to imagine, exhilaration), there’s nudity, profanity and dizzying violence. Racism, incest, youth violence, homophobia and the effect of movies on young minds are all on the table.

“I think it earns the right to tinker with its themes,” he said. He assured me that he’s confident word-of-mouth will bring the movie to a sympathetic audience. Then he grinned a little and confessed, “The only thing we’re worried about is right at the front.”

I suddenly envisioned a riot spilling out of the Buskirk-Chumley, something like Rite of Spring at the Ballets Russes. I like the image quite a lot.

I kept coming back to that one dismissal: “We’re not really doing anything different.” It occurred to me that that’s precisely the point. It’s a curious fact of experience that not really doing anything different, after nearly fifteen years, will begin to yield wildly different returns.

Add to those fifteen years Scott’s compulsion for self-analysis and what you have is simple artistic growth. “Whereas my last couple of movies made me consider giving up this hobby, Found has reinvigorated me and left me eager to make more.” It seems fitting that its premiere should be a kind of sonic boom: On July 14th Scott’s career stands to be inaugurated–but also venerated.

Behind-the-Scenes of “Found”: Actor Gavin Brown and director Scott Schirmer work out a scene beneath an abandoned train car at Baker’s Junction in Bloomington, Indiana.

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