Today: April 16, 2024

Dinosaur 13 Director Talks

When Palaeontologist Peter Larson and his team from the Black Hills Institute discovered a cache of dinosaur bones in 1990, they knew that it was the discovery of a lifetime: the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. But during a ten-year battle the team found themselves fighting not only to keep their dinosaur (nicknamed Sue) but their freedom as well. This T-riffic tale roars its way onto DVD on 12th January. To mark the event, FilmJuice chatted to Director Todd Miller about his quest to unearth one of the biggest tales in palaeontology.

How did you come to hear the story of the discovery of Sue – the 65-million-year old T-Rex?
I first heard bits and pieces about Sue when I was younger, but I didn’t know the real story until I read Rex Appeal, which was written by Pete Larson (the paleontologist) and Kristin Donnan.

So why did you decide to make Dinosaur 13?
I became fascinated by the story and saw that it was written in a cinematic language that I thought would translate well to the screen.

The film doesn’t follow the traditional structure of a documentary. Tell us more about the style of the film?
It was important for us to have first-person narratives, and we wanted to make sure that we got as many perspectives as we could. We also wanted to make more of a film, as opposed to a traditional documentary.

How did you approach paleontologist Peter Larson, who made the discovery?
We spoke on the phone several times before actually meeting.  Once I finally visited him and his Institute I knew that it was a story that needed to be told.

Did Peter have any reservations about making the film?
Pete had been approached many times over the years by production companies. However, once I explained our approach I think he felt confident enough for us to tell his story.

Pete Larson and his team underwent a terrible ordeal at the hands of the FBI and Native American tribes who claimed ownership of the T-Rex. Do you think the treatment was justified?
First, I don’t think that Pete was treated poorly by the FBI or the tribes in general. There were a select few who did treat him poorly, and some of these folks were in positions of power. They also were in positions of trying to support political or other agendas, which is what makes the subject so rich and also confusing sometimes.

How did you fund the film?
With my own money! Fortunately the response in the Us has been overwhelmingly positive.

You are an award-winning short filmmaker and this is your first feature-length film. What advice do you have for budding filmmakers wishing to make documentaries?
First and foremost, I would suggest they find a good story that they’re passionate about. If you do what you love, you’ll always be happy.

What projects are you currently working on?
We’re working on two projects: covering an event that happened in the space industry and an underwater discovery that happened 25 years ago.

DINOSAUR 13 is available to rent and own on DVD and download from 12th January 2015



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