October 15, 2007
SXSW Panel Announcements...
Matt Dentler is taking a cross blog-o-sphere approach to announcing...
Organizers at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference & Festival are happy to announce the first batch of new panel topics scheduled for the 2008 panels. The SXSW Film Festival takes place in Austin, TX from March 7 to 15. The SXSW Film Conference and Panels, will occur during March 8 to 11. Here's a sneak peek at one topic already taking shape:
Animation and Digital Effects on a Budget
(Sunday, March 9)
Sophisticated visual effects and computer-generated animation used to be big-ticket items, best left to the $100 million blockbusters from Pixar and the Hollywood majors. But new tools are making visual effects and CG-animation more accessible to independent filmmakers, and also spawning smaller VFX and CG shops willing to work with indies. We'll get an update from several innovators on the front lines.
Stay tuned to the SXSW Film Conference site for updates on panels and confirmed speakers.
In other SXSW news, I'd like to announce that there's going to be mad crazy party in my hotel room at some point during the festival. Stay tuned for details!
October 13, 2007
In Marfa a few days ago.
Outside my car while climbing from the front seat to the back.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:14 AM
October 8, 2007
St. Nick Is Late
Back in July, I wrote that the sort of arbitrary start date for my new film was October 6th. Seeing as how it's October 8th, I figure I'd better provide a bit of exposition on this project, which I've been typically keen to keep under wraps. For starters, here's a portion of the official synopsis, which was included in my TFPF application:
St. Nick is the story of a brother and sister on the run. They've left their home for some unknown reason and are living in the woods, hiding in barns and sheds, doing what they can to survive. As the bitter Texas winter sets in, they strike up residence in an abandoned country house and, for a brief, happy period, manage to escape the harsh realities of their circumstances.
This film actually began life not as a film at all, but as series of short episodes for a still-gestating web project from Joe Swanberg. I shot five segments between February and March of this year (the image above is from the first one), before realizing that I'd rather be telling the same story on a wider canvas. So I decided to start over from scratch, and now here we are - not shooting yet, but getting closer. I want this to be a great film. It'll be done when it's done. Working with me in a producing capacity on this project are James M. Johnston and Adam Donaghey. I've got a few more people who hopefully will be involved, but regardless, the crew is going to be very small. Very intimate. Very loose. I'm going to put everything I've learned making short films these past few years to the test and see if I can't make a feature the same way.
More to come...
October 5, 2007
Small Town Docs
About A Son opens in Los Angles today, following its New York bow this past Wednesday. I can't say enough about the film, and so I won't - but if you're in either city, do set aside some time to take it in. It's an experience that deserves the big screen.
As I'm on neither coast at the moment, I'm going to wait until November 2nd to see it again. That's when it opens in Springfield, Missouri at The Moxie Cinema - the amazing theater that is the titular subject of my own first official documentary. It's the perfect reason to make a return trip, and to show off the film to its subjects. My goal was to finish the first cut by the end of the summer, but then the summer somehow disappeared and, true to form, I just finished editing it this evening. I think I've got about a minute or two to cut out of it, and then of course all the sound and music and the one effects shot to complete, but suffice to say I think it'll be ready in time for a few key festival deadlines.
I'm really happy with it. I think I've just about hit the right balance between traditional documentary form and my own cinematic interests (which were recently classified by a friend as a movement ever closer towards still photography, but marked by a refusal to relinquish temporal imposition). To my own surprise, I scarcely included my homage to Goodbye Dragon Inn; it's rather nice when a film doesn't have room to be anything but itself.
Posted by David Lowery at 1:46 AM
October 3, 2007
Into The Wild
- The film is troubled by an inconsistent narrator. It begins with McCandless reciting his mantra, and then continues, sporadically, with musings from his sister (his real sister, and not Jena Malone, who plays her onscreen - a coup on Penn's part), while generally ignoring the one voice that should be most predominant, whose name is cited in the title. The land never becomes a character the way I wish it could have been. The scenery is picturesque, but it rarely is given time to breath.
- As a typographic stickler, I have to mention that the opening titles feel like weak imitations of really amazing opening titles. I think it's because they're supposed to look old fashioned, but they don't have that optically printed grit to them.
- There's a moment early on where McCandless is eating an apple. It's a series of quick cuts - a sign of extended improvisation pared down to its best moments - and it ends with McCandless (or, rather, Emile Hirsch) turning directly towards the camera and making a face. It's an overt acknowledgment of Penn's lens, and it's the first sign of the formal recklessness that ultimately defines the film.
- I've given a lot of thought lately to just driving off somewhere and disappearing.
- The film's incohesiveness and stylistic disparity were frustrating to me, but ultimately I think they provided the film a scope I don't think it would have had otherwise. When McCandless reaches the end of his journey, we're left with a palpable sense of the life - the big, wild, rambling life, soon lost - that lays behind him. It's a mess, but in a way that messiness works.
- I think Eddie Vedder may be a good musician. Unfortunately, I'm allergic to him.
- I hope Kirsten Stewart keeps making strong film choices. She may have played this sort of role before, but she sure nails it every time.
- The episode with the moose was one of the most memorable in the book. Likewise, it's one of the most striking in the film - primarily because it looks like that's a real dead moose that Hirsch is carving up. I hope it wasn't killed explicitly for the purpose of the film, but there's no denying the primal power its fallen form, hewn open and red, lends the sequence.
- Which leads, of course, to the fateful climax, which Penn seems to have modeled, quite effectively, after Brakhage's Dog Star Man.
- I'd actually like to see Penn's four hour cut. On that note, if anyone ever wants to talk about how amazing a film The Pledge is, I'm always game.
- Krakaeur ends his book much as he begins it, with the objective discovery of the boy in the bus. Penn, on the other hand, takes a completely subjective approach, and although there is tragedy implicit in the final shot, there is also a wild, exuberant triumph, with thundering drums and spiring visuals. It's also a CGI shot, which feels wrong somehow; but the irrationality of that choice only adds to the effect. It is an ending at odds with McCandless' accidental fate, while simultaneously serving as a perfect summation of that heedless, irresponsible and idealistic spirit of both Penn's subject, and Penn himself.
And on the completey opposite side of things - the stylistically precise, precisely confined - there is Wes Anderson's Hotel Chevalier. I was completely surprised at how moved I was by it, and also by how beautifully it was written. Take the same script and subject it to a different director and it would hold up, as raw and hurtful and full of hurt as it is through Anderson's twee perspective.
Or maybe I've just been sensitive lately. As I wrote in a comment on Michael Tully's review, I see in the film "a sort of broken hearted misogyny that I'm not particularly proud of but that I'm certainly a little too familiar with." When Schwartzman tells Portman that he'll never be friends with her, I loved him for saying it and hated myself for knowing exactly what he meant.
Posted by David Lowery at 1:14 AM
October 1, 2007
Low And Behold Wins At Sidewalk
I left Birmingham yesterday at five in the morning, climbing into a taxi in slow motion as well-wishers gave me a fond farewell from the curb (it felt a bit like Chris Eigeman's departure in Metropolitan), and thus missed the awards presentation last night where Barlow Jacobs and Zach Godshall received two awards - Best Director and Best Narrative Feature - for their beautiful film, Low And Behold. A big congratulations to them both. These awards follow wins at the Rome Film Festival and the New Orleans Film Festival (which starts in two weeks but has already announced its winners).
Me, I got home and promptly fell asleep for nearly twenty four hours. I hate it when that happens. Guess I just couldn't wait another day for October.