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Brutal Season explores universal drama of family at Phoenix International Film Festival

Brutal Season marks debut of Lil Cowboy films at Phoenix film festival
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

What first started as a dream, then commercial assignments and eventually short films has blossomed into ‘Brutal Season’ a feature film that in recent months has been notching official selection designations at film fests across the country.

The feature film is the first cinematic narrative offered by the Atlanta-based Lil Cowboy film company, which is led by the husband-and-wife duo of Gavin Fields and Shelby Grady.

The log line of the film reads: ‘In 1948, the Trouths are facing no income and the hottest summer on record. When their estranged son inexplicably returns, the apartment is full again – but is it big enough for the gambling, trauma, and substantial life insurance policy that comes in his wake?

Playing at the Phoenix International Film Festival, Brutal Season seeks to expose audiences to a drama of fatal consequences surrounded by the universal ideas of filial piety.

The synopsis of the film offers a peek into the cinematic experience, which unfolds in one room.

It is the summer of 1948 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The crime rate is rising as quickly as the temperature, and both hang oppressively in the air. The Trouths, a family with no source of income, have little more entertainment than to look out the window of their kitchen towards the harbour. That is, until their estranged oldest son inexplicably returns home after a 12-year disappearance.

Gavin Fields, director of Brutal Season, spoke with the Arizona Digital Free Press about what has led his filmmaker odyssey to be showcased at the Phoenix International Film Festival.

“You know? I have been writing and directing short films since college in 2010, graduating in 2014 when I made a few shorts that went to film festivals and from there I created a production company in 2014,” he said of the natural progression of things. “I started making commercials all with the hopes of building up enough funds to make a feature film.”

Mr. Fields explained he has been writing screenplays for some time but most when it came down to practical application created large financial obstacles to from paper to silver screen.

“I wrote a lot of features and just about all of them were high budget,” he quipped. “But then I said, ‘I will write a screenplay that will be cheap.’ And that was the end of 2019 and into early 2020, which is when Shelby became involved.”

Brutal Season marks debut of Lil Cowboy productions at Phoenix film festival

Shelby Grady, a producer and actress in the film, says the time was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and every facet of the film production industry ceased almost altogether.

“We pulled every single favor that we have ever accrued in our entire lifetimes to make this film,” Ms. Grady said of the financial realities of producing a feature film. “In some capacity, it was a passion project for many of them as well. The pandemic hit and it became clear the industry is going to slow down or be nonexistent for a bit.”

On location in Georgia, the husband-and-wife team learned to embrace financial limitations.

“Income capacity —- we thought that we were going to be very limited by our budget. But we were able to say, ‘we are not going to have the budget limitations limit ourselves creatively,” Ms. Grady pointed out. “The film is 101 minutes and I think the limited budget actually heightened the experience rather than detracted while filming.”

At first an actress, Ms. Grady says this is her first production with producing credit.

“We want distribution, but there are other wins rather than monetary,” she said.

Mr. Fields offers the film that ultimately came from a set location on the boarder of Georgia and Tennessee somewhere near Chattanooga is an homage to the classic American stage play.

“It is a theater meets cinema concept,” he said. “Moving it away from modern times, making it a modern period piece, helps the subject matter not be so on the nose so to speak. We know the subject matter will make it polarizing — we knew it has a very distinct audience. The goal is to prove ourselves as filmmakers.”

Brutal Season plays 4:55 p.m. Friday, March 31; 7:15 p.m. Saturday, April 1; and 9:15 a.m. Sunday April 2, at the Phoenix International Film Festival. For a listing of films playing at the Phoenix International Film Festival go HERE.

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