Optimus announced that CaveDigger, cut by the post and production house’s own editor, Erin Nordstrom, was shortlisted in the Academy Award documentary short category. Jeffrey Karoff produced and directed the independent documentary film that focuses on the art of Ra Paulette, who digs cathedral-like caves into the sandstone cliffs of Northern New Mexico. Final nominees will be announced Jan. 16.
Now playing in festivals around the world, CaveDigger follows Paulette as he digs his creations, each of which takes him years to complete. But patrons who have commissioned caves have cut off nearly all of his projects due to artistic differences. The documentary finds Paulette – fed up with working for others – foregoing commissions altogether and creating a massive, 10-year project.
“I like the challenge of documentary work because it allows me to exercise my muscles as a writer,” Nordstrom said. “In commercial work, everything is so planned out ahead of time so that when you get the footage, there is already a solid structure within which you have to work. In documentaries, you get to create the structure in the edit. There is no script or pre-known outcome. The filmmaker captures whatever happens in the moment and then we figure out the most engaging story within the moments that were filmed. It’s a much more collaborative process.”
Nordstrom began working with Karoff after he reached out to her and she viewed a one-minute cut of the footage. She immediately knew she wanted to get involved in this project, which has already been met with critical acclaim, including Best Short Audience Award, Maui Film Festival, Best Short Documentary, San Antonio Film Festival, Best Documentary (Non European), ECU – The European Independent Film Festival, Best Short, Newburyport Doc Film Fest, Finalist, Best Documentary Short, Guam International Film Festival and Official Selection: Brooklyn Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Doctober Film Festival.
“Working with Erin was one of the most satisfying collaborations I’ve had in my career,” Karoff said. “I knew I wanted to work with her when I saw I am Trying to Break Your Heart, the documentary she edited about the band, Wilco. Yet, until we began cutting together, I had no idea of the depth of her storytelling talent. Erin comes to storytelling from a very intuitive place. From the first rough cut she had bridged sequences with such elegance that even I was swept along in the story. Everything I suggested, she somehow would make better. She was always focused on how to make the point stronger, the story richer. Plus, everyone at Optimus, with Therese Hunsberger leading the way, was exceptionally supportive, offering up their Santa Monica offices, personnel and technical support so that we could cut CaveDigger between Erin’s commercial projects.”