For 'Beasts' director Benh Zeitlin, no time to work on new movies

One of the best things that can happen to a first-time filmmaker is attracting awards season attention. But be careful what you wish for — that kind of notice also means your filmmaking career can come to a screeching halt.

Benh Zeitlin, the director and co-writer of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” has been on a worldwide publicity and awards-collection tour ever since his movie debuted in theaters in June. By his tally, he’s not been in any one city for more than four days over the last five months. With so much travel and promotion — within just the last few days the 30-year-old filmmaker was in Abu Dhabi, London and Los Angeles — there’s little time or energy left to write a new script or develop a new idea.

“It’s been absolutely nonstop,” Zeitlin said this week in Beverly Hills, where he was accompanying his 9-year-old star, Quvenzhané Wallis, to the Hollywood Film Awards, where she was honored for playing Hushpuppy. “And it’s hard to talk about movies all day and then go home and write.”

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Zeitlin, who co-wrote the musical score to “Beasts” with collaborator Dan Romer, has been working with Romer on some new musical compositions, which potentially could be turned into an album. Zeitlin is scheduled to travel to France soon to tout the December release of “Beasts” there, and then his schedule will improve, he said, potentially allowing him to return to his New Orleans home longer than just to do laundry. 

All of the promotion does have its benefits, though. “Beasts” has won awards at film festivals in Seattle, Los Angeles and Deauville, France — to go along with the film’s big wins at May's Cannes Film Festival and January's Sundance Film Festival, where “Beasts” premiered and was acquired by Fox Searchlight.

At last week’s Gotham Independent Film Awards, Zeitlin was nominated for breakthrough director and Wallis was nominated for breakthrough actor. And both Zeitlin and Wallis are considered leading contenders for Academy Awards when nominations are announced Jan. 10.


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