March 30, 2005
It's our third day at the Texas Film Festival; I've only just now managed to find a computer to use.
It's a pretty swell festival. The opening night film was Primer, which makes this the second festival in the same week that will be playing both that and Deadroom. It's odd walking around the campus and seeing flyers with our faces on it everywhere, advertising our lecture/panel/workshop thing. That occurred yesterday afternoon, and it seemed to go well; we managed to stay on topic, in a very free-associative sort of way. I think we made our points fairly well; at the very least, I think we might have inspired a few people to check out films by a handful of our favorite directors.
Last night, we had dinner and drinks (more of the latter than the former) last night with the festival crew and a few of the other filmmakers. Bryan Poyser was in town for the evening, for the screening of Dear Pillow, and it was great to have a chance to talk with him at greater length than we did at SXSW. I believe that James, typing at the computer next to me at this very moment, will be providing a more detailed expose the evening.
Before I left, I intended to write a long post about watching Jonathan Demme's Melvin & Howard and Robert Altman's Secret Honor; and how the latter was highly inspirational, given that it consisted of one man talking in one room for ninety minutes; and how both of them really offered a bit of insight into where Paul Thomas Anderson's style evolved from (I first learned of both of these films from his commentary track on Hard Eight). Obviously, I never wrote that post, and don't have time to now, but perhaps a link to the first hard news on PTA's new project will suffice its stead?
I know what book I'm checking out of the library when I get home on Sunday.
March 27, 2005
This BraintrustDV interview with Assisted Living writer/director Elliot Greenebaum is one of the best things I've read in a while. There's too much quality material there for me to choose just one excerpt to entice you to click on the link. So, just trust me and click on it.
Both of these interviews, as one might expect given the site publishing them, revolve in part around discussions of digital cinema, and how to best utilize an ever evolving technology. This is a topic that I've fluctuated over ever since I started making films, of course, and which I'm sure I'll discuss further as I develop the aesthetic details for my next project. I will say: for all of our talk about how one should traverse and exploit the channels opened by the DV format, I'm exceedingly guilty of shooting it only for lack of film stock; in other words, shooting it as if it were film. Deadroom is both the worst and the best example of this: the worst, because we didn't take advantage of a single aesthetic opportunity the format provided - only the economic ones; the best, because we understood the technology enough that we were able to play within, or just barely outside of, the lines, and thus people do mistake it, at least in part, for film, which makes our DP Jim very happy. In the end, it was the correct compromise for the project; which brings us to ultimatum that the film should dictate the medium, and not the other way around (except that this ultimatum can actually be broken, when one considers the possibilities of letting a format dictate the film, thereby allowing asethetic values that would be otherwise untapped to flower in the face of technological adversity).
I feel rather empowered by both these interviews and by my decision the other day to forget about HD for my next feature. But did I mention that I want to shoot a short on 35mm before I do Drift?
Anyway, Matt discusses some similar issues in this post on his site.
I'm going to attempt get some extremely pressing writing done while playing Magnolia on the television behind me. Guess which one is probably going to win my attention...
March 25, 2005
The Catholic upbringing so integral to my nature left me feeling very guilty for forgetting it was Good Friday today.
Hopefully, this deeply ingrained conflict will result in a good film someday.
ADDENDUM: the latest issue of Paste (which came in the swag bag at SXSW) has a small sidebar article called 'Religion and Metaphysics in Film 101,' in which there is a 16 week syllabus made up of various DVD collections. Included, of course, are the various boxed sets from Bergman and Kieslowski, along with some Kurosawa and Bresson and Tarkovsky. But of course, any cinephile would already know about the value of those films. What I found humorously notable about the list was its last entry: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season Six.
Posted by David Lowery at 11:30 AM
March 24, 2005
More press: eFilmCritic gave Deadroom four stars.
On the festival front, I found out that we're sandwiched between Primer and The Bicycle Thief in Louisiana next week. That'll be a good triple feature.
Posted by David Lowery at 9:51 PM
A nice summary of the history of Aronofsky's The Fountain can be found in last Sunday's New York Times. Most of it won't be news to those who've been following the project, except for the part about the budget: what was once a 100 million dollar picture is now down to 35 million. I have a suspicion that, in that cut, quite a bit might have been gained.
My own philosphical sci-fi piece has been revised over the past two days - to good effect, I think. I did a lot of work on the dialogue (obviously, since that's all the script is) - in particular, the technical descriptions of the situation, which were previously too numerous and never completely congruent with each other; they read almost as if I was trying to explain the science to myself (which I actually was, since I had no clue what I was talking about). Awkward lines were lost, emotional segues strengthened, overall cohesion increased. I also replaced an old, pointless monologue with a new one, dealing in part with the consonance of certain Latin prayers; including the phrase qui es en celis, which the lead character tries to remember the meaning of, but cannot.
I originally wanted to shoot the project on HD - and would actually have chosen HD over film, if given the choice - but after seeing so many projects shot on the DVX-100a in the past few months and mistaking the footage for 16mm so consistently, I'm thinking I may slash a few grand from the budget and just use that instead. The primary concern would be whether or not it could handle the infrequent-but-important composite shots. On that note, let me direct you to Yen's SXSW coverage; his acknowledgement of the ridiculous DV stigmatism we kept encountering at the festival is a prime example of the maturity and reason which the corporate stooges who kept telling us we were 'videomakers' rather than 'filmmakers' completely lacked.
Posted by David Lowery at 1:29 AM
March 22, 2005
FILM: Since returning home the other day, I've been repeatedly watching Guy Maddin's six minute epic The Heart Of The World, which arrived in the mail (as part of this Zeitgeist collection) in my absence. I wonder if it would be too hyperbolic to call it one of the most important films ever made? Of course, being a Maddin film, with its exclamatory title cards and frenetic pacing, hyperbole is quite appropriate. The film is, as the synopsis states, a parody of Soviet propaganda films. It is also an astonishing realization of three very important concepts: the beautiful and affirming value of cinema as an art form, of art as the ultimate form of emotional expression, and of the inevitable triumph of art over commerce. I'd heard great things about it ever since it premiered at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival as part of a series of commissioned shorts on the subject of cinema from other notable Canadian filmmakers (it was not only the best of that bunch - it was generally regarded as the best film of the entire festival, and made several top ten lists at the end of the year). It lived up to the hype, and then some; is is giddy and exhilarating, as Maddin's films usually are, and ultimately emotionally breathtaking; as true and sincere a love letter to cinema as ever has been written.
MUSIC: Extraordinary Machine has been leaked in its entirety; here's where I got it. It's been a long time coming, and my god, is it ever beautiful. Just like I always knew it would be. Just as when When The Pawn was the only thing I listened to in those bittersweet months at the turn of the century, I don't want to hear anything else right now.
Posted by David Lowery at 2:31 AM
It looks like James and I simultaneously published our SXSW reports.His take is better than mine, so do check it out.
And if you don't read his blog regularly, you really should. You're only getting a quarter perspective of this creative team here on this site.
Posted by David Lowery at 1:57 AM
March 21, 2005
I imagine (hope) that some day, not too far from now, I won't really care too much about when someone writes something about a film I've made; well, I'll care, certainly, but I won't necessarily feel the need to obsessively link to everything that might offer an opinion on, or even mention the name of, something I've done.
However, being at the stage we're at, that day has clearly not yet come. So bear with me here...
I actually don't have that much press to link to, now that I think about it. There's the obvious: the wonderful AICN review that totally erased the scathing piece from the Daily Texan from our minds (a piece I'm still not linking to, by the way, because I want it to disappear from the first page when you do a Google search on our film - but until it does, you can read it by doing just that). It was especially great coming as it did right after that very first screening, which we weren't sure went that well.
After the second screening, we were reviewed, briefly but positively, in The Austin Chronicle. And that was preceeded, of course, by that first positive piece at Moviehole.net, which has been reprinted by several other sites.
Only one person has rated us at eFilmCritic so far, but that person gave us a score of 100 and called the film "(an) intricate thread of pain and hope and love and desire illustrated by a sublime cast." Likewise, we've had one vote at IMDB - an eight out of ten. On the other hand, on the last day of the festival, I was talking to a random woman in line for a film, and she mentioned she'd seen "that one called Deadroom," which she thought was "not quite there" and "too much like a play." Oh well, at least she saw it. Had I been been more alert, I would have tried to engage her in a constructive conversation about the film (while remaining anonymous, of course).
There may be more to come. A critic from Variety said he'd attend a screening and review the film, but we don't know if he did, or will. We'll also be getting video from our appearance(s) on the Austin Movie Show, and perhaps News 8, who focused on our opening night film status. We won't be getting a copy of our radio interview, which we all were half-asleep during, and that's probably a good thing.
More gratifying than any of these reviews, though, were all the people who stayed long after the Q&A following the second screening to talk about the film with us; these were people who really loved it, who seemed to get exactly what it was we were doing. One of the best parts of that screening was when I was sitting in the back of the theater and I looked across and saw a woman sitting forward in her chair, and just smiling. It made my spirits soar even higher than they already were. So, I'd like to express a sincere thanks to everyone who saw the film, everyone who spoke to us about it, and everyone who wrote about it (even the guy from the Daily Texan, who made our skin a bit thicker).
So as for the rest of the festival...well, it was great, of course. I didn't realize until I went to Berlin that I've never had a full fledged film festival experience; I'm certainly making up for that shortcoming now. My slew of hastily-written capsule reviews is up at AICN. Just as wonderful as seeing these films was meeting all the filmmakers and having the chance to talk with them, on a peer-to-peer basis. We'll be staying in touch with many of them. And then there were other people who I've become acquainted with online but finally had a chance to meet in person: Chuck Olsen, and also David Hudson and Bryan Poyser. And, of course, Kat Candler and her wonderful production team.
Also, the open bar at all the parties was a nice touch.
So now I'm home, trying to keep track of all the things I have to work on before I leave next Monday for the Texas Film Festival. Deadroom is the closing night film, but James and I are running a panel on Tuesday called 'Artistic Integrity In Independent Film' (which we really need to plan out sometime in the next couple of days). While we're down there, Yen and possibly Nick will be heading to the Ozone Film Festival in Louisiana, where out film will also be screening. Then, two weeks after that, it's off to Philadelphia (I really like their catalog description of the film). I booked my plane tickets this morning, allowing for a few days to take the train up to New York and have lunch with a few producers and other folks we met in Austin.
And amidst all of this, we've hardly even thought about the Cleveland Film Festival, where our screenings occured late last week; Yen did talk to an aquaintance who attended the first show, though, who said about 150 people showed up. I hope they left happy.
I think I'm done with this post. I need to go work on polishing Drift for my Nicholl Fellowship submission.
It was interesting how, this past Wednesday, the SXSW Film Festival suddenly became so marginalized by the SXSW Music Festival. The filmmaker's lounge suddenly vanished; the lines outside movies were no longer wrapping around the block; director's we'd met started leaving, the streets were full of rock stars and our own status as filmmakers wasn't quite so noteworthy anymore.
And now it's all through and man, am I exhausted, and man, do I want to move to Austin.
Full reports, links to any press we received, capsule reviews of the 20 (only 20) films I saw and all that jazz will be coming tomorrow. For now, why don't you head over to Chuck's Blogumentary to see me, via the miracle of videoblogging, fumble clumsily for words, live and in person! More impressively, you can see James standing imperiously behind me.
March 18, 2005
Our last screening was yesterday. It was at noon, after the first day of the Music Festival, and given that fact, we actually had a pretty large turn out - 30 people or so. Chief among them: Chuck, who was going to videotape our Q&A for us until we decided not to have one (more on Chuck later, of course, along with a great many other things).
I skipped out on the screening altogether, myself, and paged through graphic novels in a nearby comic books shop. Somewhere in that ninety seven minutes, my mom called to say Happy Birthday, which gave me the chance to tell her about all the reviews and the fantastic Tuesday screening and the generally great time this festival has been. Having two birthdays is really nice.
March 16, 2005
That revolving door continued to turn: the screening tonight was great, and part of the reason was that I decided I loved the movie again. More importantly, so did the audience (just about sold out again).
I've got a lot of things to link to when I have the time; right now, we're all on cloud nine, or something close to it.
Posted by David Lowery at 2:45 AM
March 14, 2005
When News 8 briefly interviewed us on Friday, the reporter mentioned he liked my segment the best because it was the funniest and most appealing - in so many words, the most commercial. Oh god, I thought, it really is. Not that I didn't already know that, and hadn't already dealt with it over the past year, but there I was, about to hop on that ever-turning merry go round again.
9:00 rolled around and the people began to gather outside the theater, people we didn't know, and it gradually became apparent that we were going to have a close to sold out show. 10:00, the film began, I sat outside, I went in here and there, listening, peeking through my fingers, it ended, the Q&A was good, and next time I'm determined to not be so outwardly self defacing when people ask about my segment - I was just really nervous.
The next night, Yen and I ducked out of a screening for a fairly big movie that was really bad. We headed down 6th Street to the party where Elijah Wood was DJing. We met up with Nick and James, who were already in the process of schmoozing, and we were all standing around when Matt Dentler walked by.
"Have you guys seen Aint It Cool News yet?" he asked.
We shook our heads...
"You really need to check it out."
I now have a screening to catch. I've only seen four movies so far. I underestimated the importance of going to parties and meeting certain people.
March 11, 2005
Okay, so that new Star Wars trailer was pretty amazing.
I'll be hitting the road in a few hours. I haven't subjected my car to a long distance drive in quite a while - hopefully, this won't be the death of it. My plan of attack is: make it to Austin by noon, register, look through the schwag bag, meet up with the rest of the crew, go do our interview with News 8 (who apparently ran a few clips from our film on Thursday night as part of their SXSW coverage), get something to eat, go watch a movie (either The Chumscrubber or La Sierra) and then sit back and hope more than a few people show up at our screening. Stay tuned for details...
I was hoping to have a review of the troubling, brilliant The Downfall finished before I left, and also one for Nobody Knows; but I've run out of time. What I do have is a review of a film I just saw yesterday morning that is one of the best independent films I've seen in quite a while: Elliot Greenebaum's Assisted Living. Almost immediately after I saw it, I had the chance to interview Greenebaum; that's online now, too, and well worth reading.
March 10, 2005
I've got more I could write about Deadroom at the moment, but I'm not going to. Instead...
There are three genre films coming out this fall that rank amongst the releases I'm anticipating the most this year. One is Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, which I hear might be moved back to next year. The other two are Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, and the adaptation of Alan Moore's V For Vendetta.
I'm been following the progress of the former ever since it was first rumored (by Aronofsky himself at the screening of Requiem we met him at), announced (with the initial title The Last Man), and then, just before production was to begin, canceled. It was really disappointing news. Every hint of the plot that seeped through sounded quite extraordinary - a really daring, intelligent and uncommercial science fiction film - the kind that studios rarely get behind. (Why must we equate amazing with uncommercial? That's so depressing.) But since then, the script was rewritten, the film recast, and just last month photography quietly wrapped. The two shots to the right are the first images to surface online; Moriarty from AICN visited the set earlier in February, but his report isn't up yet.
Hopefully, the project's two-year stasis was for the best. Aronofsky's been attached to quite a few different projects since Requiem, most of which have fallen through or been stuck in development hell, and through them all this seems like the only one he's been really passionate about. I can't wait to find out what it's actually about.
More recently, I became very excited, very quickly about the adaptation of V For Vendetta, which, for my money, is Alan Moore's second best work (of those I've read) after the incomparable From Hell. I first read it in high school (in theater class, to be exact) and, like any property that I loved, entertained daydreams about one day directing an adaptation of it myself. I knew the Wachowskis had written a screenplay for it years ago, but its sudden greenlight was a surprise announcement early this year, with pre-production having already taken place in relative secrecy in Berlin. Now, normally, I wouldn't expect terribly profound things from the combination of Joel Silver, The Wachowskis, and a first time director (James McTiegue is his name) - but the source material is so strong (and so much more conducive to a cinematic adaptation than Moore's Watchmen, which is currently being developed and which Aronofsky, incidentally, abandoned when The Fountain picked up steam) and the respect with which everyone seems to be treating it (as suggested at the press conference) gives me quite a bit of hope. Likewise, the casting of Natalie Portman in the lead adds quite a bit of credence to the project, especially given her political activism of late. Add to that the fact that, other than Portman, there are no big names in the cast; and that the film is actually going to be released on November 4th to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Guy Fawks day; and it becomes clear that everyone involved considers this a pretty important picture and not just a potential sci-fi blockbuster (which, given the subject matter, it most likely won't be - another depressing fact). The film just started shooting, and Warner Brothers already has a website up.
Both this film and The Fountain are probably doomed, in most respects, to a fairly lukewarm response from the public - I hate to underestimate people, but look what happened with Soderbergh and Solaris. What's exciting, aside from the potential of the films themselves, is the fact that they are being made. I don't know the first thing about business, but some projects just don't seem to make any sense from a commercial perspective; that they're greenlit anyway seems to me indicative that there are people in the business who understand that this commercial perspective is ultimately not what film is about at all. These days, particularly, it seems that the film that are being remembered are the ones that initially don't make any money; when art is concerned, posterity is the ultimate bottom line.
Posted by David Lowery at 2:46 AM
March 9, 2005
Speaking of not winning an audience award...from all the DVDs we sent out, we've received two advance reviews in return - one very positive, and one very negative. Which is fine, except that the negative one is more skillfully written and, coming out two days before the premiere, will probably be far more disuasive to audience members than the positive one will be persuasive. It's good to be put a little bit on edge, though, because I'm sure there will be plenty more of the same in the months ahead (and I'm reserving my right, by the way, to not link to any reviews until at least this time next week).
Interestingly, the negative review suggests that Hirokazu Koreeda's After Life was an influence on the film; in fact, it was, (mainly in the way its lack of overt context fortified our feelings that we needed none ourselves), but rather than discuss that, I'd just like to mention that Yen and I went to see Koreeda's Nobody Knows last night and it was brilliant - a far better film than After Life, actually, and definitely something to lift from when we begin our next projects.
I'm kidding about that last part, I think.
March 8, 2005
We papered Austin with Deadroom flyers, posters and postcards all day yesterday. Hopefully, they won't all be completely covered up by Friday. Special thanks to the girl at the Alamo (North location), who hung the posters in the box office window so that everyone buying tickets will see them.
Doing all this marketing work is a.) for the birds and b.) helpful in understanding how important of a step it is in making a film. In the process of putting all the materials up in as many prime locations as possible, we realized that the posters themselves probably won't inspire many people who don't care about SXSW to change their plans for the weekend; but it may get the people who are going but haven't made decided what to see yet be subconsciously predisposed to our film. Or something like that. In any case, hopefully at least a handful of people will show up as a result. We saw someone pick up a few postcards only a few moments after we left them on the counter at the Dobie Theater, so at least we know the image we're using looks appealing.
I've been using SXSW's very handy iCal feature to put together my own viewing schedule. I'm averaging out with about four features a day, but the one thing I haven't been including is time to drive to and from theaters, find parking, and eat. Well, I don't ever really need to eat, but the transportation part is going to be an issue. With any luck, I'll see almost everything I want to see (although I haven't even begun to schedule any panels, aside from the Film Blog discussion with David Hudson and Wiley Wiggins). Anyway, if anyone in the know has any recommendations/warnings regarding any films, feel free to let me know; I'm all ears. I'm trying to see as many films as possible that won't be distributed in the immediate future (with one of two exceptions. like Palindromes).
Also, I just realized we're in the running for the Audience Award, which we have absolutely no chance of winning (looking at some of the other trailers seems proof enough of this, I think). I wonder if there's a way to find out if anyone at all actually voted for us, though, after the fact.
March 6, 2005
To steal a rather irresistible idea from Matt (vis a vis the progenitors of the notion, who he lists), here are the first fifteen songs to randomly play on my iPod (in shuffle mode) this morning. Fifteen out of 3848 - which in their arbitrary order may possibly present a disguarded supposition, an aural microcosm, of myself.
Hmmm. Conisdering what could have been, that's not the greatest list. All of those songs are good or great (three of my favorite artists showed up, two of them twice) with the possible exception of those I'm just not all that familiar with (Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello) - but I really wish I could list random selections sixteen, seventeen and eighteen, too. But no, I'll play by the rules.
1. Catherine by PJ Harvey
2. Untitled 2 by Sigur Ros
3. Hello Again by Neil Diamond
4. I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman by the White Stripes
5. Let Me Tell You About Her by Elvis Costello
6. Lady Margaret by Cassie Franklin
7. Story Of Bo Didley by The Animals
8. Hope Fails by Howard Shore
9. Pony by Tom Waits
10. Main Title Theme (from Eternal Sunshine) by Jon Brion
11. Satellite by Elliot Smith
12. Intro by Tom Waits
13. God Give Me Strength by Elvis Costello
14. Astartofrar by Bjork
15. Aeroplane by Bjork
On the musical front, I bought one of those transluscent silicone iPod protective skins the other day, which has transformed the device's basic physical (although not ergonomical) aesthetic from something that was rather Kubrickian, in the 2001 sense, to what could be considered quite Cronenbergesqe, a la Existenz or Videodrome.
And yes, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a great big dork.
March 5, 2005
I finally watched Kim Ki-Duk's The Isle this evening. It was almost very good. I'm not sure how I feel about the last shot, and its overt symbolism; it was intriguing, but the shot that preceeded it, of the man disappearing into the green oasis in the middle of the lake, was so perfect that I wish it had ended there instead.
I really wish I could have seen it in the theater; the audience reactions must have been priceless.
The worst e-mail I received to day was a festival rejection, which wasn't so bad in and of itself - we're certainly used to them at this point, and it's not too hard to ignore them right now. And even if we get rejected from every other festival we submit to, we're still better off than we were in December, when we were about ready to sweep the movie under the rug.
The best e-mail I received today was from Jonathan Rosenbaum, writing to say he would do his best to catch one of the Deadroom screenings.
March 4, 2005
I meant to write about Tsai Ming Liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn a few entries ago; but my thoughts on it spun into a well-deserved full length review. Here, I'll simply say that had I seen the film last year, it would easily have made my top ten list.
Last week, Yen and I went to see a press screening of Danny Boyle's Millions. The movie was a fine family film, but more memorable to me was the girl sitting next to me - or, to be more precise, the perfume she was wearing. I've known some girl who wore that perfume, whatever it is; and I know it was one of two (or perhaps three) particular girl; but I can't for the life of me remember which one it was. Regardless, both (or perhaps all three) mean (meant) mostly the same thing to me, and when I catch that scent every now and then, it makes that thing all the more vivid, haunting, (beautiful), unattainable; and it also tempts me to inhabit certain memories, and to pretend for a few seconds that it's not a stranger sitting next to me in the dark. Pretend, pretend, pretend...
Fucking pretending. And you know, every time I smell it, I'm usually (suitably) at the cinema. My one true love, I suppose.
Transcendent moment number eight hundred and thirty nine: running while listening to Godspeed, You Black Emperor. I completely forgot that I was out of breath. Second best musical experience of late, after listening to David Byrne's last album while walking through the airport the other week.
Oh, and this is how those Fiona Apple tracks wound up online (Not About Love is my favorite of the new ones).
March 3, 2005
You all have surely heard about how Kubrick would frequently send people to the theaters his films were booked in, to make sure the presentation would be suitable; and then send them again, after the film was playing, to ascertain whether or not those specifications were being maintained.
That was a very, very good idea.
March 1, 2005
As James mentioned on his blog, the Texas Filmmakers Cooperative will be showing Deadroom (in yet another pre-premiere screening) tomorrow night, followed by a Q&A. I don't know all the details off the top of my head, but just click that link above to get them. They seem like a pretty swell upstart organization, trying to do for North Texas what the Austin Film Society - in particular, their production fund - does for the state in general. Hopefully, it'll be a good forebearer of our upcoming shows.
Also on James's blog is a musical recommendation you'd do very well to follow. I also have a recommendation of my own: more bootlegs from that never-to-be-released potential-masterpiece. I don't know where they keep coming from, but I ain't complaining.
Not on James's blog: photographic proof of his dedication to the greatest film ever made.
Tonight I'm going to try to finally get through at least one of the Netflix DVDs I've had sitting around since before I went to Germany; after that, I'm going to finally get back to work on that stop motion short, which is still only forty seconds long at this point and could really use another shot or two. Either that, or I'm going to write a short script for the Berlin Today Awards...both need doing, and doing soon. But actually, I probably need to spend the evening just writing e-mails, inviting more and more people to the SXSW screenings.
Posted by David Lowery at 5:29 PM