Bart Freundlich began writing the screenplay for “Wolves,” his new movie, when he was 16.
The filmmaker is now 47 and the finished project hits theaters and on-demand platforms on Friday.
It takes a long time to make a movie as a general rule, and emotions often run high as a release dawns and a yearslong process draws to a close.
So you can only imagine what it feels like to finally let go of a project that’s been with you for most of your life.
“It’s surprisingly emotional. I had a really emotional time shooting this movie, actually,” Freundlich says. “There are words and lines in that screenplay that we took to the set that I wrote when I was 16 years old. Most of it changed, but there are things that have been in me for so long, so to bring that to fruition was emotional in a wonderful way.”
The picture is set around the city’s prep basketball scene, with sequences shot at the West Fourth Street courts and in high school gyms, and it concerns a highly touted recruit named Anthony Keller (newcomer Taylor John Smith), who must navigate those pressures along with the challenges posed by a gambling addict father (Michael Shannon) and other troubles.
Freundlich, a native of Manhattan who lives in the West Village and has two children with wife Julianne Moore (yes, that Julianne Moore), says his movie is inextricably entwined with the famed basketball culture in New York City, a subject that has inspired past movies ranging from “White Men Can’t Jump” to “He Got Game.”
“Basketball’s this great equalizer, because you barely need any equipment and you don’t need a lot of space,” Freundlich says. “It’s an interesting mixture of a one-on-one sport and a team sport. I feel like that is a good personification of what New York is. Everyone’s very individual, but yet it’s a really strong community also.”
Freundlich has been making films and directing television for 20 years — he met Moore when he cast her in “The Myth of Fingerprints,” his 1997 debut. Doubtlessly, he has plenty of interesting movies left to make. But “Wolves” will always be in a class of its own.
“I’m so proud of this film ... [and] I do find myself feeling it’s a big deal for me and I’m looking forward to letting it go,” Freundlich says.