It's Hard to Compete With My Blind Brother

Sophie Goodhart on expanding her award-winning short into a feature


For Sophie Goodhart, one of the toughest challenges of turning her 2003 short film "My Blind Brother" into a full-length feature of the same name was staying afloat. Literally.

"One of the greatest challenges of trying to make your first film is that it's really, really hard. It wasn't a very expensive film, but the main scene is on the water. You can't shoot it for $300,000, so trying to get someone to give you enough money to make this as a first film was really difficult. It was the perfect storm of getting money, finding a producer who was great, and getting agents excited who would show actors. I kept having near misses and by the time it came together, I was pregnant and thought, 'Oh shit, is anyone actually going to allow me to get in a boat six months pregnant?'"

Pregnancy was the least of Goodhart's concerns. Thirteen years after her short film version of My Blind Brother played SXSW in 2003 and led to her nomination for a Palme d'Or at Cannes, she returns to Austin for the world premiere of her first feature film, a remake of the wildly successful short under the same name, about the sibling rivalry between an egotistical, athletic blind man named Robbie (Adam Scott) and his sighted, guilt-manipulated brother Bill (Nick Kroll) as they prepare for Robbie to compete in a triathlon. Though the feature hews closely to the original short, Goodhart, who wrote and directed both films, didn't intend to remake her own work at all.

"After Cannes, I thought it was done and I was finished with this story. And I was thinking about the Rose character," says Goodman, referencing the film's origin story for Jenny Slate, who plays Kroll's love interest. "You know when boyfriends die? There's this sweet victim/hero of the girlfriend, and I wondered, 'What the fuck would happen if you broke up with your boyfriend on the day of his death and everyone knows?' You're just a shit villain.

"So I started thinking about Rose and I wrote a whole different script, just about her. And then I started thinking, what if I put her in a relationship with Bill, because they both have strange, complex relationships with guilt?"

By Goodhart's own admission, the 14-minute short film is much darker than the updated tone of the slightly romantic (yet firmly blue) feature, a conscientious choice to keep the film from veering into a grudge match between two seemingly unlikable characters – the vainglorious, blind Robbie, and perpetual sad sack Bill.

"I got these great actors, so I could quite quickly connect to seeing them in the roles. What I love about Robbie is this discovery that he has to be this way in order to manage his life. It's really, really hard work. He's got to carry on pushing because no one is going to push for him, and you give that character to Adam and suddenly he brings such a beautiful sensibility to those moments. You think he's a dick, and then he shows you a flicker of vulnerability."

It's the acting that Goodhart credits most – heaping praise equally on Kroll, Scott, Slate, and an immensely charming Zoe Kazan – with elevating My Blind Brother to more than just a taffy-stretched remake of the original. And lest you consider it selective bias, Goodhart's gut may have been more than just a little intuitive.

"I was very, very pregnant during this film. I was enormous, and sort of hormonal, and a few of the times I'd be watching Adam do something and just say 'Oh my God,' and the next thing you know, I'm violently weeping."


Narrative Spotlight, World Premiere

My Blind Brother
Saturday, March 12, 7:15pm, Topfer Theatre
Monday, March 14, 4pm, Alamo South Lamar
Friday, March 18, 2:15pm, Alamo Ritz

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. For scheduling on the go, here's a SXSW Film Pocket Guide, which includes the handy Film Grid. Sign up for our South-by-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters/ for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest Tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

READ MORE
More SXSW 2016
A Song for All
A Song for All
Doc Presenting Princess Shaw looks at connectivity in the modern age

Jessi Cape, March 18, 2016

SXSW 2016 Film Awards
SXSW 2016 Film Awards

March 18, 2016

More by Beejoli Shah
How Smart Is Your City?
How Smart Is Your City?
Interactive panels dive into the data

March 10, 2017

When the Movies You Loved as a Kid Don’t Hold Up
When the Movies You Loved as a Kid Don’t Hold Up
Shedding film nostalgia

July 29, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

My Blind Brother, SXSW 2016, SXSW Film 2016, Sophie Goodhart, Adam Scott, Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)