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Vermont Oscar Nominee Pens New Movie

State of the Arts


Published April 12, 2007 at 3:53 a.m.

If you got a glimpse of disaster in your near future, would you live your life differently? That's the intriguing question posed by First Snow an indie film written by Hawk Ostby of South Burlington and his L.A. collaborator Mark Fergus. It premieres in Vermont this Friday, at Merrill's Roxy Cinemas in Burlington.

Ostby and Fergus were on the team that scripted last year's acclaimed dystopian drama Children of Men, which netted them an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. First Snow is their first film with Fergus as director. Shot in 2005, it evolved from an idea the pair had been nurturing since their days as struggling writers in New York City.

"We were just trying to write for the market," recalls Ostby, on the phone from Lone Pine, California, where he and Fergus are working on the set of Iron Man, a superhero drama starring Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Back in those days, Ostby says, he and Fergus were inspired by the success of indie writer-directors such as Neil LaBute. "So we decided, let's just write what we like from now on."

First Snow tells the story of Jimmy Starks, a shady salesman who's an expert at fleeing consequences - until a fortuneteller informs him his life will end with the year's first snow. Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential) gives a haunting performance as a venal man struggling to deny, and then accept, his own mortality.

Ostby says the plot grew from a real incident with a friend who "went and had his fortune read. He came out and was white as a sheet, and he wouldn't say anything except that he knew too much."

Ostby will fly back East to answer questions about the film at the Roxy this weekend. Though he and Fergus are currently doing "adaptations, work-for-hire stuff," he hopes they'll make more films of their own. "We have tons of ideas," Ostby says.

First Snow opens April 13 at Merrill's Roxy Cinemas in Burlington (see Movie Times). Ostby is scheduled to do a Q&A after the 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows.