EAST BEND, N.C. — Director Andrew Droz Palermo is having a busy week, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
He spent most of it wrapping up production of his next film, a supernatural drama tentatively titled “One & Two,” which was shot in Winston-Salem, East Bend and other parts of the Triad.
And tonight, before flying home Monday to Los Angeles after the two-month shoot, he will speak at a screening of his most recent completed film, “Rich Hill,” an acclaimed documentary about kids growing up in poverty in a small Missouri town.
Palermo, 29, co-directed “Rich Hill” with his cousin Tracy Droz Tragos, traveling back to the impoverished town where his mother and her father grew up.
Rich Hill, in southwestern Missouri, was once a thriving coal mining town, but the mines have long been tapped out. The film focuses on three boys growing up in poor households: Appachey, a blustery skateboarder with a love of art but dealing with rage issues; Andrew, a sweet-natured, self-aware kid; and Harley, a troubled, brooding youth prone to defiant acts. The filmmakers followed them for several years and plenty of turmoil in their lives.
The movie won the grand jury prize for documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, and Palermo will answer questions from the audience after tonight’s 7:30 screening of the film at Aperture Cinema.
“This is a tough film to Q&A,” he said. “With this documentary, it’s like everyone’s wounded afterwards.”
The main thing people want to know, he said, is whether the three boys are OK now. After the screening, Palermo will share the latest updates on the boys.
He said that many people want to help the three, and the film’s website —Richhillfilm.com — includes ways for people to donate to them specifically, but Palermo said he hopes the film will make people more aware of the needs of the poor in their own neighborhoods.
“I hope they lean in to their own communities,” he said. “Even in America, there are people living like this, without water, without electricity.”
Palermo has been a cinematographer and director of photography on such films as “You’re Next” and the horror anthology “V/H/S,” and is comfortable working on narrative films such as “One & Two” and documentaries such as “Rich Hill.”
“The way I shoot most narrative films is in documentary style,” he said.
With documentaries, he said, it takes “a long haul to do it right,” referring to the three years spent on “Rich Hill” and the almost 500 hours of footage he shot before whittling it down to the final 91-minute running time.
Narrative features, by comparison, are “a lot more collaborative.” He has been developing “One & Two,” which he also co-wrote, for several years, and developed it through Sundance Creative Producing Labs, a program at the Sundance Institute that helps identify and nurture independent film production.
“The film is about a family that lives in purposeful isolation and how that seclusion erodes as supernatural occurrences happen within the home,” he said. The main location has been Horne Creek, a historical farm in Pinnacle that serves as the family home in the film. The cast includes Kiernan Shipka, 14, who is best known for her role as Sally Draper, the daughter of Don and Betty on the hit AMC series “Mad Men.”
Palermo worked closely with the Piedmont Triad Film Commission.
“Rebecca Clark (the executive director) has been amazing,” he said. “She helped us find our locations.” He also cited Lisa Turney at Horne Creek for her help, saying that the site has “been so very generous to us.”
He also said that North Carolina’s film tax incentives, which are set to expire at the end of this year, were “100 percent the reason we came here” after considering other states in which to film.
The crew of about 50 people includes some alumni and some current students at the UNC School of the Arts, and Palermo said that he found the local crew base to be very helpful in getting the film made.
Filming wrapped up Friday, and the film will be in post-production for five or six months, Palermo said.