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May 29, 2004

Some rough drafts. I had this concept in my head of a Francis Bacon-ish promotional image. It's getting there.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:27 AM

May 14, 2004

Greg Pak Interview

Robot Stories opens in Dallas today, and I took part in the round table (or circle of couches, in this case) interview with director Greg Pak. Being that I'm not a professional reporter, or even a competent amateur, I didn't have one of those handy tape recorders that everyone else did -- I brought Yen's little one-chip miniDV camera (which he's graciously let me hang onto throughout the post-production of Deadroom,) but there wasn't a place to plug it in. So here, based upon my erratic notes, is the interview-by-way-of-mass-paraphrasing, augmented far more precisely by a few follow up questions I asked via e-mail.

PART ONE

ON WHAT HE DID BEFORE ROBOT STORIES: Made short films for ten years (ten years!) after graduating from NYU (after a stint studying poli-sci at Yale and history at Oxford). He recommended having a feature screenplay to back up one's short films. Doesn't everyone?

ON MAKING AN ANTHOLOGY FILM: It's a big challenge with anthologies to make each story distinctive enough: to make them "part of the whole story, so each story is essential to the impact of the film."

HIS FAVORITE SEGMENTS OF THE FILM: The Robot Fixer is is the one that'll probably make him cry in 25 years, but The Robot Worker, which was the "runt of the litter" and took the most work in editing to get right, is the one he feels the most affinity towards (speaking of which, he did write the lead role in it for himself, as an acting follow-up to his performance in his high school production of Macbeth).

ON MAKING A SCI-FI FILM WITH FEW TECHNOLOGICAL RESOURCES: "I took comfort from the stories about the making of Jaws, although (we were) clearly on a smaller scale."

ON THE BUDGET: Under a million (that's what everyone says).

ON THE PRODUCTION: The first day of production involved the ending of The Robot Fixer, which was being shot in Central Park. It began to rain; they kept shooting, and it ended up being a beautiful final touch. "Things that seem disastrous on set can actually be amazing." Then second day of production was 9/11. Every day was plagued by some "crazy logistical thing," but it forced them to focus on essential moments rather than getting set-up that might have initially been planned.

ON DISTRIBUTION: From pre-production to finished print, it took 9 months to make the film. It premiered at the Hamptons Film Festival in the fall of 2002 and subsequently played at about 60 festivals over the next two years. There were a few lowball (with little to no advance) offers from distributors, but "in the end, I couldn't make those deals. for financial reasons...I had too many filmmaker friends who signed those kind of deals and never saw a dime." Greg paired with publicity/booking agent Sasha Berman and set out to release the film himself, beginning with a few art houses in good markets which had hosted the film at festivals and specifically expressed interest in showing it again, with or without a distributor.

ON WATCHING THE FILM AT FESTIVALS: "The first 20 times I watched the whole thing," after which intermittent peaks into the theater sufficed.

ON THE OPPORTUNITIES THE SUCCESS OF THE FILM HAS PROVIDED HIM: "I'm paying rent."

PART TWO (via e-mail)

What model camera did you use to shoot the film? Any technical
specs (progressive scan, aspect ratio, etc.)? Any other equipment or
lack thereof of note?

Sony DSR-500, DVCAM, PAL. Here's an article I wrote about the tape-to-film
process, which says something about how we shot.
http://www.gregpak.com/filmhelp/archives/000030.html.

Did you have film prints made for the festivals, or was that step
relegated to the distribution phase? How many prints did you make for
distribution? Are you happy with the transfer?

I'd made sure to budget from the beginning for a tape-to-film transfer and
for film prints for festivals. I always knew the film needed to be seen on
film -- that was the final step in giving the picture the organic look we
wanted. We have a total of six prints right now for our theatrical
distribution. I'm VERY happy with the transfer. Swiss Effects did it --
here's an article about the process:
http://www.gregpak.com/filmhelp/archives/000030.html/

Following the city-by-city progress via your mailing list, it seems that
the film's been pretty consistently successful. Have there been any
drawbacks (aside from being financially straining)? Would you recommend
this distribution method to other low-budget filmmakers -- do the ends
justify the means?

The biggest drawback is that self-distribution seems to require nearly
constant travel. I've been on the road with the film essentially for three
months now. Makes it very, very hard to have a normal life. But I have no
regrets about doing this -- it's essential for the film to reach its full
potential and for me to take the next steps in building my career.

What are some
movies/music/art you find inspiration in?

My all time favorite films include "Seven Samurai," "Sunset Boulevard,"
"Some Like It Hot," "Psycho," "Jaws," "A Night at the Opera"... Recent
films I loved include "Yi Yi" and "You Can Count on Me." But my immediate
inspirations tend to change depending on what I happen to be working on at
the time. I've been working on an adaptation of a memoir from the 1960s for Antidote Films -- and I've drawn a lot of inspiration from a lot of great music from that time period. So my current musical faves include the
Chambers Brothers and Blood Sweat and Tears. Writing and directing Robot
Stories
has gotten me back into reading science fiction novels -- my
current fave is Greg Bear.

And that's that...hopefully, you found that interesting/inspiring/etc. Again, I highly recommend visiting Greg's site(s), and I highly recommend seeing his film (particularly tonight, in Dallas, since Greg will be at all the showings and there will be receptions afterwards at a nearby sushi bar, with, reportedly, free sushi, which I can't endorse, but I can endorse you going for the movie and hanging out).

Speaking of the Hamptons Film Festival...we were supposed to submit to that today. We're a little behind on a few things.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:09 AM

May 6, 2004


I went to The Modern today to see the Pierre Huyghe video installation. I'd already seen one portion of it, The Third Memory, which is a recreation of the actual events (by way of memory) depicted in Dog Day Afternoon, at the Guggenheim, but the real standout was 'Les Grands Ensemble.' This 8 minute film depicts two 60s-era Parisian apartment buildings on a misty, wintry street facing off in a battle for domination, represented by the arrays of lit windows on their facades. Each building reaches a state of electrical frenzy that is almost nerve wracking; one eventually wins out, but by that point their struggle has become pointless, their purposes lost. The whole thing is accompanied by an effective ambient soundtrack that pulses along with the lights. It's a stunning piece of work, and it got me thinking....

...if we ever get that Deadroom installation off the ground in the way that we (or at least I) envision it, an interesting solution to the sound would be to not have any sound at all, and let the effect of the installation be storytelling solely through the human face.

Shortly after that ocurred to me, I realized that it was a great idea and that I should probably just make it an entity unto itself, something specifically designed for that intention, rather than try to fit our film into it.

Anyway, the Huyghe installation runs throughout the summer, and I highly recommend checking it out if you're in the area.

I'm making good progress on the Henry Lee rewrite, nearing the sixty page mark. My intention with it was to cut the fat and strengthen the spine of the story, which I'm definitely doing -- entire scenes have fallen by the wayside more than once. I try to always remember the notion that films should not contain too many comings and goings; that you can often enter a scene in progress and leave before it's over, and the audience will fill in the blanks (conversely, it's said that a boring film is marked by too many doors opening and closing), and making cuts of this nature has become something of a game to me.

And yet this new version is already six pages longer than the last...but I ain't worrying about that.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:00 AM