Meet the Filmmaker: Trey Edwards Shults (Krisha)

Krisha is seeing her family for the first time in many years. What starts out as a normal, if slightly strained, family gathering quickly begins to spiral out of control as tension escalates and Krisha fails at keeping her personal demons at bay.

We spoke with director Trey Edwards Shults about the process behind his intense short film, and the project’s future as a feature.

Krisha screens on Saturday, August 16 as part of our closing night celebration Rooftop Shots. Tickets are on sale now!

Rooftop Films: The film is driven by a powerhouse performance from Krisha Fairchild. What kind of work was done to flesh out this character? Was the process of creating this character a collaborative effort with Ms. Fairchild?

Trey Shults: Thank you so much for your compliment of Krisha’s performance! I agree! I think she is amazing and she is my aunt! The process of creating the character was incredibly collaborative and personal for us. It is a combination of different people in our family as well as a little bit of us both. I am even prouder of Krisha’s work in the feature we just shot. She was amazing. The short is so compressed. There is not enough time to live with the character or the family. For the feature Krisha was able to bring more of herself to the role. Krisha’s performance in the short is fantastic because it is nothing like her in real life. A festival programmer asked me if that is just how Krisha is and if I just filmed her being herself but the truth is the total opposite of that! Krisha is just an amazing actress who never drinks a drop of alcohol and she is a HUGE animal lover. The co lead in the feature and short is my mother and my grandmother plays the grandmother. I am so proud of them all! Even if my sweet beautiful grandma didn’t realize she was being filmed and in a movie haha.

RTF: The editing work in this film is a large part of how Krisha’s story is told. Can you speak about the editing process and how you wanted the editing work to reflect Krisha’s state?

TS: I really just approached the editing in the same way as the cinematography or what we were doing with the camera. In my mind everything had to be through Krisha’s subjective experience. The score is from Krisha’s point of view and the classic songs used were meant to represent the music Krisha’s mother might have listened to. I just wanted the audience to go on this emotional journey with Krisha and I tried to tell the story visually with as little exposition as I could. We also shot a ton of footage and I took my time editing until it felt right. I just tried to go with my gut in general but at a point you can loose your mind with so much footage! I would send rough cuts to friends I respect and trust so I could still keep some perspective. I just finished shooting the feature a day ago and I know I have a job ahead of me in the editing room. So many good scenes and so much footage! I think it’s the best kind of problem to have!

RTF: You’ve recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to expand Krisha into a feature film. When did you begin to think about the possibility of a feature film? What are your plans for the production of the feature and how do you plan to expand this story?

TS: I always saw this story as a feature film and I just didn’t have the resources to pull it off. The short gave me that opportunity and let me finally realize the film I always envisioned. The feature takes the same structure as the short. Everything happens in one day and long night. The big difference is how much lighter the feature will be at the start. I see the short as a quick little 14 minute gut punch that for the most part just holds the same tone through out. Everyone that see’s it seems to think it’s very intense. My intention with the feature is to fall into that tone. I think it will be told in two parts, day and night. I think there is room for a lot of the day stuff to be lighter and feel the rest of the family more. Then as the film progresses it slowly gets more and more intense until the walls literally start closing in on Krisha. I am so proud of everyone involved with the feature. It was the best collaboration of my life and the most fun I’ve ever had. Hard work but so so fun and I am so sad that filming is over. I can’t wait to get in the editing room and hopefully have something to show very soon! We don’t have any money for post so it helps that I am doing the edit myself and we are in the process for applying for grants! Wish us luck!