Director of Extremis plots his next two projects
Filmmaker Dan Krauss did not plan to give himself much time to recover from the Oscars.
"On Monday we go back to work and this all goes away," he told Nonfictionfilm.com, on the eve of the Academy Awards, where his film Extremis was nominated for best documentary short subject. "It feels much like a wedding where the anticipation lasts weeks and months and then it's over in a flash and it all feels like a dream."
To be suddenly thrust into this world... is thrilling and also odd.
Krauss' awards season run included prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival last April, where Extremis premiered, The San Francisco International Film Festival, nominations for the International Documentary Association awards and the Cinema Eye Honors, as well as the Academy Award nomination.
Netflix released the film on its streaming platform, offering a potentially vast audience to the story that focuses on families making end-of-life decisions for loved ones in a hospital ICU. On Sunday night it was another Netflix title, The White Helmets, that would win the Oscar for best short documentary.
Krauss said for him awards season was not about wins and losses but about what the attention meant for the people who took part in his film.
"There's a lot of focus on the filmmakers and the film team but equally important to me -- and I think this is true of all the documentary filmmakers -- is the validation that the subjects of the film feel with this recognition, the people who shared themselves with me and courageously allowed me behind the curtain to witness a part of their lives that most people wouldn't want recorded," Krauss told NFF.com. "For them to see the film recognized in this way is incredibly validating that their stories meant something, that they had an impact, that they were worth sharing and that they might change other people's lives."
The Oscar experience came in two primary stages -- first making the short list of 10 nominated short documentaries. And then the announcement of the final five nominees -- besides Extremis and The White Helmets they were Watani: My Homeland, 4.1 Miles and Joe's Violin. Assorted Academy events dotted the calendar, including the Oscar Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, a glam occasion that draws the majority of nominees.
"At turns exhausting, at turns exhilarating," is how Krauss described the Oscar buildup. "I think 'surreal' is a word that comes up a lot. Because we are as documentary filmmakers often working in a very small crew situation, sometimes we're shooting by ourselves, as was the case in this film [Extremis], so to be suddenly thrust into this world that is so boisterous and full of talented people and artists from walks of life that you have no contact with in your ordinary day-to-day work is thrilling and also odd because we don't get to have a lot of contact with makeup artists and production designers and other artists that are not normally a part of the documentary world."
Rubbing shoulders with makeup artists, production designers and others who work behind the scenes on narrative features will come in handy for one of Krauss' upcoming projects.
"This summer I'll be starting on my first fiction film. We just recently locked in financing and we'll be shooting most likely in the fall of this year," Krauss revealed.
But he hasn't given up on documentaries. He has another of those in the works.
"I'm already in production on a film -- it's a story that harkens back to the early days of the AIDS crisis. We're just starting to enter post-production on it and we're hoping to have it out in the fall."
With that timetable Krauss may find himself plunged into the awards season cycle for a second consecutive year.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.