An Interview with Men Go To Battle Director Zachary Treitz

Writer/director Zachary Treitz and writer/actor Kate Lyn Sheil will be attending the festival for screenings of their fraternal Civil War drama, Men Go To Battleboth today and tomorrow. Read on for an interview with Treitz and be sure to check out the film.

NFF: What kind of research went in to creating the period setting? Do you feel like your film is entirely realistic to Civil War era Kentucky, or did you take any liberties in writing the script?

Zachary Treitz: We wanted to create the feeling of immersion, like we were dropped into an unfamiliar world. A large part of that meant being as specific as possible with the language, interactions, and physical environment, and the clearest path toward that was drawing upon first-person documents from the specific time and place we were capturing. So Kate and I spent our time in archives reading through unpublished diaries and letters written in 1860s Kentucky. Many of these probably had not been read since they were catalogued. We tried to use these sources to inform the tone and thought processes of the characters. We do not pretend to be historians, but we were probably much more literal and historically accurate than many period films just because we did not want to take liberties with the timeline or environment. We used the constraints and details we found in the research to bolster the narrative and create something we had not seen before. We were also working with people who take the history very seriously, and we didn't want them to cringe when they saw something anachronistic. But the idea was to create the illusion of a specific time and place. Whether its actually accurate is sort of beside the point for us.

NFF: You worked with professional re-enactors in creating some of your battle sequences. What was that like?

Treitz: Re-enactment for all of the people we worked with is a pastime. They call it the "hobby" and its one they enjoy like any other. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Working with them was a challenge of convincing them that we as outsiders could approach it as seriously and sincerely as they do, without being a distraction. We tried to be an asset, and even having one more soldier on the field with them (our character Henry) was appreciated because it turned out he was a good soldier. Calling it fun would belie how difficult those weekends could be, but it was in the end incredibly rewarding. It was our kind of fun.

NFF: Having undertaken an ambitious period piece for your first film, do you have the desire to do something much more contemporary for your next one?

Treitz: Yes. 1000 times yes.

NFF Award Winners Announced!

NFF is proud to announce the winners of this year’s Audience Awards: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL for Best Narrative Feature, Ron Davis’ HARRY & SNOWMAN for Best Documentary Feature, and Eric Rockey’s PINK BOY for Best Short. Me and Earl will screen tomorrow at 9:30 am in the Dreamland Main, and Harry & Snowman will follow at 10 am in the Dreamland Studio.

The Audience Award Best Film runner up was animated comedy SHAUN THE SHEEP THE MOVIE, written & directed by Richard Starzak & Mark Burton.

Kristen Dávila’s COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, a political satire set in Pakistan involving the CIA, a budding jihadist group, and an indebted gambler who plays the two off one another in an attempt to save his own neck. Dávila receives $5000 cash prize and one of only four coveted spots to participate in partner organization the Screenwriters Colony month-long writing retreat in October.

The Feature Screenplay Competition jury was comprised of Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Director, The Stanford Prison Experiment; Franklin Leonard, Founder, The Black List; and Nigel M. Smith, Managing Editor, Indiewire.

NFF recognizes the remarkable renaissance on the small screen through two Television Pilot Competitions, one for Hour-Long Pilots and the other for Half-Hour Pilots. Both winners receive a $1000 cash prize, as well as a consultation with a Showtime executive.

The Half-Hour Television Pilot winner is SOLD by Jonathan Schwartz, which is set in a fine-arts auction house.

The Hour-Long Television Pilot winner is ICE by Estella Gabriel, which details the conflicts and violence faced by a border patrol agent.

The Television Pilot Competition jury was comprised of Jacob Fenton, Agent, TV Talent, United Talent Agency; Bob Fisher, Executive Producer/Co-Creator, Sirens; and Cynthia Littleton, Managing Editor, TV, Variety.

The Short Screenplay Competition winner is MORE COW BELL by Andy Nellis, a dark portrait of a farm family. Nellis receives a $500 cash prize.

The winner of the Best Screenwriting in a Short Film Award, given to an exceptional short film featured in this year’s festival, went to writer/director Shaka King and writer Kristan Sprague for MULIGNANS.

The Shorts Competition jury was comprised of New York film critic and author Thelma Adams; Kate Lyn Sheil, Actress, House of Cards & Writer, Men Go to Battle; and Trey Edward Shults, Writer/Director, Krisha.

The Festival’s Teen View Jury Award, selected by a group of Nantucket junior high school students, went to BIRTHDAY, written & directed by Chris King.

Earlier this weekend, the winner of the ninth annual Adrienne Shelly Foundation Excellence in Filmmaking Award was announced, which bestows a cash prize to a female filmmaker in honor of the late director. The award went to director Crystal Moselle for her acclaimed debut documentary, THE WOLFPACK.