We the Animals Director Jeremiah Zagar Discovered His First Narrative Feature in a Bookstore and Shot it on 16mm
Photo Courtesy of the Orchard
Walking through SoHo’s McNally Jackson bookstore back in 2012, director Jeremiah Zagar came across a novel that would dictate the major part of the next six years of his life.
The culprit, We the Animals, by Puerto Rican-American author Justin Torres, was displayed on the “We Recommend” pile—a detail he found humorous after discovering Torres had worked at that very establishment in the past.
Transfixed by its ravishing first page, Zagar sat down at the bookshop’s café and devoured the whole tome, cover to cover in one sitting. Its writing was so textured and corporeal, he could immediately imagine what it would look and sound like as a film. “I could see the movie playing out in my head when I read it. I could feel it sonically, and I could feel it visually,” he told MovieMaker over the phone.
Torres’ semi-autobiographical and rapturous debut follows three rowdy brothers growing up in 1980s New York with two emotionally unstable parents. Nine-year-old Jonah, the vulnerable hero of the pack, is becoming aware of his sexual orientation which creates unspoken distance with his once-inseparable siblings.
Out the door after buying five copies, Zagar shared his precious new discovery with producer Jeremy Yaches, co-founder of their production company Public Record, and Daniel Kitrosser, who would become his co-writer on this venture. Torres met the earnest filmmaker and was convinced that Zagar’s comprehension of the piece and rationale on how to transmute into cinema were accurate. He agreed to let Zagar make it but was very specific that the movie needed to be a queer film.
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