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Gus Van Sant, Jr. was born in Louisville, but moved around the country as a child. After earning a B.F.A. in Film at Rhode Island School of Design, he moved to Hollywood, where he began working with Ken Shapiro, the maker of the cult classic, "The Groove Tube." While in Los Angeles, he made a small independent feature (which he later cut to featurette length), "Alice in Hollywood," a tongue-in-cheek look at the perils of "making it" from the point of view of a naive young actress.
Moving to Manhattan, Van Sant spent the next two years creating commecials for a Madison Avenue advertising firm. After saving enough money to move, he crossed the continent to Portland, Oregon. He has lived and worked in Portland ever since, writing and directing films, shooting commercials and music videos, and, for a brief period, teaching film production at the Oregon Art Institute. He has also continued to pursue another of his talents -- painting.
Since the early 1980's, Gus Van Sant's short films have been winning awards in film festivals around the world. His work includes an adaptation of his literary hero William S. Burrough's short story, "The Discipline of D.E.," a deadpan black and white gem which debuted at the New York Film Festival, and the darkly personal meditation "Five Ways to Kill Yourself."
Van Sant's first widely acclaimed feature, "Mala Noche," is an extraordinary chronicle of a doomed romance between a Mexican migrant worker and a clerk in a skid row liquor store. It won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Independent/Experimental Feature of 1987.
"Drugstore Cowboy," directed and co-written by Van Sant, starred Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch. It won the 1989 National Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director.
The completion of "My Own Private Idaho," which Van Sant considers to be a more personal film, represents the fulfillment of a decade of determination.
"I used to like L.A. with all the Hollywood lore, but now when I go back I just feel uptight," says Van Sant when asked why a major American filmmaker would choose to live in Portland. "Portland's a friendly place; I'm happy here."
Laurie Parker participated in the Directors Guild of America's unit production manager/assistant director trainee program in 1984, after receiving her MFA in film production from UCLA. She entered into an internship at the Samuel Goldwyn Company and was hired full-time by them three months later to work on the distribution of such films as "Stranger Than Paradise" and "Another Time, Another Place," among others.
In 1985, Parker joined Island Alive and worked in advertising and publicity before being promoted to vice president of marketing after the company became Island Pictures. During her time at Island, she was involved in the domestic marketing of such films as "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "She's Gotta Have It," "Down By Law," "The Trip to Bountiful" and "Mona Lisa."
By the end of 1986, Parker was promoted to vice president of production. Based in London, she supervised filming of "Crusoe" in Africa and European post-production on the acquisitions "Dark Eyes" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold." The following year, she joined Avenue Entertainment as vice president of production and acquisition and was executive in charge of production on "Drugstore Cowboy." In April, 1989, Parker left Avenue to become an independent producer.
Just prior to the shooting of "My Own Private Idaho," Parker executive produced "The Rapture," starring Mimi Rogers, for New Line Cinema and "Afraid of the Dark" for Ariane-Revcom, Sovereign and New Line Cinema. "Afraid of the Dark" is written and directed by Mark Peploe, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of "The Last Emperor." Both "The Rapture" and "Afraid of the Dark" will be released by Fine Line Features, a division of New Line Cinema.
On Parker's 1991 slate is Van Sant's next film, an adaptation of Tom Robbins's contemporary classic, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. She will also produced an epic based on the life of Richard Nixon as an American Macbeth (in development with Hollywood Pictures), and "Before She Met Me," a love story about a man obsessed with his lover's past, to be directed by Christoper Cleveland.
Parker describes Gus Van Sant's work as "humanitarian." "He's interested in nature and in the natural behavior of the human race," she says. "It's an unusual quality in a director. Besides that, he really likes the audience; he's a genuine populist filmmaker."
(Director of Photography)
Cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards and filmmaker Gus Van Sant began their collaboration in high school, where the two friends shared a talent in photography. Together they attended the Rhode Island School of Design, with Edwards graduating in 1975.
Returning to his hometown of Portland, Edwards shot his first feature films, "Property" and "Paydirt," both directed by Penny Allen. These were followed by "Last Night at the Alamo," directed by Texas filmmaker Eagle Pennell. "Last Night at the Alamo" was chosen for several festivals, including the New York Film Festival in 1983. The film and its photography was unanimously praised, with The New York Times Vincent Canby comparing Edwards black & white photography with the great James Wong Howe. Edward's talents were soon being utilized in music videos, working with such performers as Michael Jackson, Paul Simon and Tears for Fears.
Edwards has continued his collaboration with Van Sant, shooting commercials and videos, as well as several of Van Sant's own short films, such as "Five Ways to Kill Yourself" and "Five Naked Boys and a Gun," etc.
(Director of Photography)
John Campbell spent his early years in a movie repertory theatre in Berkley watching the films of Ingmar Bergman. Moving to Portland, Oregon, in 1975, Campbell studied anthropology and ethnographic film and began shooting television news and documentaries. He met Gus Van Sant in 1984 and shortly thereafter shot Van Sant's "Mala Noche," which won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award in 1987.
Campbell also shot the documentary "Woman Wove It In a Basket" which won the 1990 Film Prize at the International Festival of Ethnographic Film in London. Currently, Campbell is producing a documentary called "Tony the Cat Man."
Production designer David Brisbin continues his collaboration with Gus Van Sant with his work in "My Own Private Idaho," having also designed "Drugstore Cowboy." A graduate of California Institute of the Arts and Rice University, Brisbin's other credits include Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow," "The Tender" and James Foley's "After Dark, My Sweet."
Curtiss Clayton has been an editor of feature films and documentaries since 1982. Editing both "My Own Private Idaho" and "Drugstore Cowboy" for director Gus Van Sant, Clayton has also edited "A Rage in Harlem," Tim Hunter's "Paint It Black" and "Made in USA." He is currently editing "Unlawful Entry" directed by Jonathan Kaplan. Clayton's other credits include music videos by such artists as John Cougar Mellencamp, Cowboy Junkies and Guns 'N' Roses.