Dana Harris is editor in chief and general manager at Indiewire. She has written about the industry for many years through a stint at The Hollywood Reporter and 11 years at Variety. Some of her favourite films are Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Hal Ashby’s Being There, and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.
Indie Reign: Did you always want to write about film?
Dana Harris: Honestly, no. I had a whole career in food first. I always wanted to write and I did corporate writing, which I hated, and I quit to become a prep cook. I wound up becoming a sous chef and then became a restaurant critic, and then an editor at Fine Cooking. And then I just kind of got bored with food. The whole indie film thing was kind of exploding in the early 90s and I decided I wanted to learn about that. So I was a PA at a couple of sets and then took myself to Sundance for the first time, without an assignment just figuring I would find one when I got there – which I did. That was ’95 and it just went from there.
IR: So you’ve been writing about this now for a really long time, what do you love about indie film?
DH: I love that it’s such an optimistic, creative, and completely impractical industry.
DH: Yep. And it always will be. So that always makes it very interesting, very young – whatever your current logical age may be, because it takes a lot of hope to be able to continue to do the work. And it also just produces the best movies.
IR: What have been some of the moments that stand out for you in your time covering film?
DH: Gosh, I don’t know. The silly ones kind of stand out. I got a tip that there was someone at the AFM [American Film Market] who was, I guess, stealing copyright of some film and somehow that meant the ATF was going to get involved. It’s not alcohol, tobacco or firearms, so I don’t know. But they came in with their vests and the ATF logo on the back and someone tipped me off that it would be happening so I did the story and I took pictures and then I had the guy calling to threaten me, saying ‘I’m going to sue you for a million dollars!’
And going to Cannes and opening night party for Moulin Rouge, one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life, I think. That was really incredible. Being the first to see certain films and feeling the excitement around that, that’s really special too.
IR: Out of the films that really stand out to you or speak to you, is there something that unifies them?
DH: I don’t think movies work like that. I think it’s all a very personal, there was a movie I absolutely loathed this year – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – and one of my best friends said she couldn’t stop sobbing while she was watching it, because it was very personal to her. And I thought it was dreck. It’s something that really aligns with the individual.
IR: Did you go to Sundance this year? Were there any standout performances or films?
DH: The big one for me was getting to see the sneak of Nymphomaniac. The Lars Von Trier film. That was fantastic. It’s really good, and it was a very exciting thing. Word kind of got around [earlier in the festival] that’s probably what it was, and it was just this sort of small scale – the Egyptian’s not that big – and it was really great.