When last we caught up with H-B Woodlawn graduate Cutter Hodierne, he was a plucky 22-year-old shooting a music video in Silver Spring, recalling with relief his decision to drop out of Emerson College after his freshman year. At that point, he’d already toured with U2, shooting and editing concert footage that would end up in the 2010 concert documentary “U2: 360 Degrees at the Rose Bowl.” How do you follow a gig like that? By going to Utah, baby!
In November, Hodierne, now 25, learned that his short film “Fishing Without Nets” had been accepted to the Sundance Film Festival, where it will have its world premiere Thursday night at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre. The 17-minute film, a fictional drama about an impoverished Somali fisherman who is lured into working with a group of pirates, is the result of an interest in Somali pirates that took hold of Hodierne when he began reading about them in 2008. He had already been researching the subject when he took the job with U2 (which he calls “the ride of a lifetime”). When he returned from the road, he found that he was “still obsessed.”
“I started to work on a feature-length script about pirates in Somalia,” he recalled, “but I knew that there was something I was missing, which was that I didn’t know what day-to-day life looked like and felt like in East Africa. So I decided I had to go. I convinced my friend and collaborator John Hibey to come with me, and we basically just got plane tickets and flew to Kenya and said, ‘Let’s figure it out when we get there.’ ”
Hodierne and Hibey, a Georgetown Prep graduate, traveled to Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, in late 2010 and early 2011 to do research and maybe make a trailer for Hodierne’s feature (they were joined along the way by co-producer Raphael Swann, another Woodlawn alum). “When we got there, we knew we wanted to make a short,” Hodierne said from his home in Los Angeles. “We basically wrote it the first couple of weeks we were there and used the people we met to inspire what it was going to be about.”
Although many of the cast members of “Fishing Without Nets” are people the filmmakers met on the streets of Mombasa, the lead actor, a 17-year-old named Abdi, was cast after a formal audition at a local nightclub. But if casting was relatively easy thanks to Mombasa’s large Somali refugee population, shooting was another story. With government corruption, the production’s microscopic budget and gun-permit issues that briefly landed the filmmakers in jail, Hodierne said, “putting this project together was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”
The arduous work seems to be paying off: “Fishing Without Nets” began garnering interest in Hollywood in the fall, and Hodierne hopes to be shooting the feature-length version this summer, perhaps in South Africa. Still, even if the film had already begun getting buzz, that 11 o’clock call from Sundance the night before Thanksgiving was priceless, Hodierne said. “Raphael and I are literally getting ready to go see some Woodlawn friends and the phone rings,” he recalled. “I come in and tell him the news, and we go straight to a party with a bunch of our friends from high school. It was this perfect ‘Entourage’ moment.”