Film Scouts Interviews

Carroll Ballard on "Fly Away Home"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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September 1, 1996

Leslie Rigoulot: Do you think "Fly Away Home is too mainstream for a film festival?

Carroll Ballard: No, well, I would hope that it isn't because I tried to make the film so it
would have different levels to it. On the metaphorical level it could appeal to a lot of
people who are interested in seeing a little more esoteric films than this is. And the
festival has a lot of uplifting films this year.

LR: How did you decide to work in the environmentalist versus real estate developer
theme or was that already part of the true story?

CB: No, it wasn't. In the first draft the bad guys were the hunters. Being Hollywood,
you have to have the bad guys; you have to have the good guys. So we opted to make the
bad guy the real estate developers. In fact, what is wiping out the geese is us. What
we've done them and what we've crated. We have totally changed the surface of the
earth. And they don't recognize it anymore. The real bad guy is us. I tried to sort of
diffuse that a little bit, and concentrate on the girl's relationship with her dad and the

LR: Do you have children?

CB: Yes, two daughters.

LR: So that father-daughter relationship thing must have hit pretty close to home?

CB: Yes, very close to home because we went through a divorce so I went through that.
Very painful memories. For me it was an exorcism of all that and bad memories. But we
did get back together.

LR: I've noticed that when a kid needs to be straightened out he gets involved with
football, hockey, martial arts some sports, but with your films it is different. The animals
act as a force.

CB: That's just because my first film (Black Stallion) was about a child and horse and
primal bonding. That's the kind of film I can get financed. I personally would like to do
westerns and other kids of films.

LR: Do you have any western film scripts lined up?

CB: I have a barn full of scripts! There are incredible stories of the old west that no has
ever approached. I'm part Cherokee, myself. To me the problem with the Hollywood
western has always been the good guys and bad guys having a shoot out on Main Street,
the same old formula. "Dances with Wolves" was an attempt at a much larger story and a
different way of treating it. The conflict between the European culture and the native
culture and what happened. It isn't just the tragedy of what happened. That doesn't need
to be dwelt on anymore. But there are just so many different stories to be told against the
landscape. That was the last great migration of human beings and it is still an untold
story as far as I'm concerned. I grew up in the Sierra Nevada's when it was still
wilderness and there were still cowboys. One of my closest neighbors was the
granddaughter of a survivor of the Donner party.

LR: You've created some incredible visuals with the geese in "Fly Away Home". Do you
think your upbringing influenced that?

CB: Yeah. Do you think the general audience is going to appreciate the film?

LR: You didn't get to stick around and hear the audience clap at the end? It was great.

CB: I'm worried about the perceptions of the film. These days a picture comes out and it
has one or two weekends to make it, to start paying off or it gone. Once people see the
film I think they'll like it. But getting them in the theater is dubious.

LR: Columbia's doing a good job of promoting it, but I'm not too fond of the
commercials. They are too Disneyesque.

CB: That's right! It is hard to get over the assumption that this is a mamby-pamby kiddy-
animal story. I tried to avoid that and steer the film into a little different territory.

LR: In my review I've asked people to ignore the commercials and go. Don't take the
commercials for the movie.

CB: Oh, thank you. That's a message I would really like to get out there. Some of the
still they've selected all convey the wrong message. They allow me to come in a tell
them what I thought. They are all well intentioned and there are no villains here. But I
don't know that end of the business. It is like giving birth and the last picture I made
(Wind) was out there three days. It didn't make the numbers they wanted and they pulled
it. To work so hard on something and then have it whoosh, gone. I'm really scared about
this. But I think the country is sick and tired of flying bodies and formulaic comedies. I
think it is time for a change. I think this picture could be a bellweather movie. But it
could also be a total flop and the difference is going to what happens in that week when
it first comes out.

LR: I thought of "Babe" as a turning point for movies.

CB: Yes, but that was platformed. It didn't open on fifteen hundred screens. Who
wanted to go see a movie about a talking pig? Who wants to go see a movie about a little
girl and a bunch of geese? Nobody. But on the critics got the word out and the it was
allowed to build. It did phenomenal. And it was truly the best, most inventive movie
made last year. Ninety percent of what is in movies now is mind poison. It's short term
kicks. Mass marketed hamburger movies. I refuse to make violent movies. Anybody
who denies that has their head in the sand.

LR: What made you decide to do this movie?

CB: Bill Lishman. I got sucked into it when I met Bill Lishman, who is a wonderful
eccentric guy. I began to see another dimension to the film after I saw his documentary
and saw all the kinds of visual metaphors you could put into the film.
("Fly Away Home" is based on Lishman's actual experience with geese)

LR: That little Anna Paquin, she's a scene stealer!

CB: She's a natural. She doesn't know a thing about acting. She just does it. She's going
to be around. She doesn't really need it. She is such a strong character. But she is going
to keep going in my opinion. She has a quality about her.

LR: So what have you planned for the future?

CB: What happens for me is totally dependent on this movie. It doesn't matter what I
have planned. OR if I have 20 other projects in development. If it does well, I have a
chance to make another movie. If it does phenomenal business, I might be able to do a
movie I really want to make.

LR: Hopefully, it will do the business to give you the chance to do what you want.

CB: Thank you.

Milchan, describing Schumacher as "my mentor, my friend" announced that "Probably the best thing that happened to me in Hollywood was Joel Schumacher." John Grisham and theatre owners across America must be feeling roughly the same way right about now.

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