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September 29, 2008

Sidewalk in Pictures

I forgot to mention that when I got on the plane en route to Birmingham this past Thursday, the lady at security took a gander at my drivers' license and said "oh, it's you!" This either means that I've hit a new apex in traveling (which may be true, but I've also got a long way to go) or, more likely, that that I have an instantly recognizable license.

I'd initially planned on documenting Sidewalk in pictures, as I did at Sundance in January, but I wound up taking only a single photo over the weekend. Depicted below are Ashley Sabin, who along with David Redmon won the Best Documentary award for their film Intimidad; Clay Liford, who premiered his short film My Mom Smokes Weed to much acclaim; and, betwixt the two of them, Thomas the Driver, who tirelessly shuttled us to and fro throughout the festival, partaking in the merriment and generally being a superstar. He was the life of the party, especially when that party spilled over from the bars to his van.

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Sidewalk lived up to all the anticipation I'd applied to it; two years in a row now, it's provided the most relaxing festival experience I've had with my films (that I was good friends with just about all the visiting filmmakers, even moreso than last time, certainly didn't hurt). There were two standout moments; the first, at the opening night party, when everyone gathered at bar, tucked away on sleepy street, with free beer on tap and, miraculously, no music to get in the way of conversation. The mood was quietly electric; everyone was just really happy to be there, and we gradually drifted from inside to the cool outdoors and the cobblestone avenue, talking and talking and drinking and talking. It was like a deeply Southern version of the late night communes at the patio bar of Le Grand Hotel in Cannes, and in its sustained, freewheeling congeniality it summed up everything I loved about this festival.

The second thing that'll stick with me after all the festival hopscotch wears off was when Clay, Frank and I served as the jury for the teenage short film program. We gave the grand prize to a girl who'd made a terrific little handdrawn animated film. It was an easy choice; she'd put more care and natural talent into each frame than most of her peers had put into their entire pieces, and we told her that we hoped being rewarded for it would inspire her to continue on this path. She won Final Cut Studio, which is a heck of a prize, if I do say so myself.

I watched a lot of films, too - but I'm going to have to write about Let The Right One In in a separate entry.

Now I'm in Chicago, where I took a second photo, this one depicting my famous pink backpack, the Pelican case containing one of the St. Nick hard drives, and Frank Ross' feet.

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I'll be slowing down slightly, staying here for the next month or so, working on Frank's new feature. It's one of the best scripts I've read in ages; I'm really honored that I get to be a part of it. I also heard that last year it snowed in mid-October. My hopes are already up.

P.S.One last picture, courtesy of Blood Car director (and The Adventure producer) Alex Orr.

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The only person not immediately recognizable in the recesses of this mafia booth is Glory At Sea helmer Benh Zeitlin, who I was happy to be programmed alongside once more, and who is apparently quite the crooner of traditional Irish folksongs. I didn't get to witness his performance, however, since I retired early from the closing night party with a killer tooth ache. I think I need a root canal.

Posted by David Lowery at 8:14 PM | Comments (2)

September 25, 2008

Shiraz For Breakfast

A reminder: Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light, which is very unlikely to be bested as film of the year, opened at MoMA yesterday. I rue, regret, am remiss over the fact that I haven't had the opportunity to see it on the big screen; if you're in New York, don't pass it up. You can read my review of it here; elsewhere, David Hudson has rounded up other coverage at GreenCine, including Manohla Dargis' lovely piece for the Times.

* * *

I spent the last two days getting the first pass at Bryan's film all cut up, right up until one AM last night, when I packed my bags and drove up to Dallas, where I was catching a flight to Birmingham for the Sidewalk Film Festival at 7 AM. At the airport, I turned my car over to Curtis, who'll be adopting it for the next few months; it was strangely liberating to realize that I could hand over my entire keychain, that I didn't need a single one of them. When I was in high school, I halfway adopted James Spader's motif from sex lies and videotape - that no person should need more than two keys in their lives. Getting rid of all of them belies a certain faultiness on my part, but it was a nice feeling nonetheless.

Two short flights later and I was at the Birmingham airport, where I met up with Frank Ross and Co. Upon reaching our hotel, we discovered that the filmmaker gift bags came with a bottle of Australian Shiraz, which we all agreed would make a decent enough mid-morning repast. I love this festival.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:48 PM

September 22, 2008

Why I Never Get Anything Done


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Posted by David Lowery at 3:48 PM | Comments (3)

September 21, 2008

Incidental Anecdote

I got on the L this evening, coming to or from getting a cup of coffee, and found a place to stand amidst the thin crowd and opened my book. Other passengers trickled in, and amongst them was a woman who, in her rush to make it aboard before the doors whisked shut, tripped and fell, her foot sliding through the partition between the platform and the train. She tried to right herself, to extricate her foot, but could not. Her entire body seemed to contract, and the air around her thinned and turned sharp as she exclaimed in a calm, strained voice that she was stuck. Those nearest the door joined her friends in helping her tug her ankle from betwixt its moorings. After a moment she was free and aboard the train, and those doors innocuously slid shut and the platform slipped off into darkness as the train departed. The space between passengers returned. Her friends were laughing in relief, and she was too, but her eyes were still wild, desperate, swimming with something more base than fear. Her body was reacting to the conclusion to which she had immediately jumped; the same one her friends had leaped to, and to which you the reader surely made as well, placing you, for just a moment there between sentences, at the fore of that train car with a dozen other strangers who all, for that same moment, were thinking the very same thing: that this could have been one of those stories.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:27 AM

September 19, 2008

Shooting Myself In The Foot and other adventures with IFP

Today is an absolutely beautiful fall day; the sort that makes me love being in New York just twelve short hours after feeling entirely sick of it. And now I've learned that I'll be leaving just in time to miss the screenings of Bela Tarr's The Man From London and, even worse, Silent Light at MoMA next week. Alas! I've been plagued with bad timing lately.

Meanwhile: I've written, in a mild shade of purple, a brief chronicle of my plunge (sort of) into Independent Film Week:

So what exactly goes on at Independent Film Week? Let me avoid answering this question by noting that, in asking a filmmaker to cover the event, my editors here have perhaps unknowingly run the risk of entrusting their coverage to someone whose approach to the business of motion pictures might be described by some as self-sabotage; someone who might actively avoid taking meetings or even talking about his film; someone who might, on a whim and for reasons entirely unrelated, decide he needs to give up coffee one day into the week and thereby incapacitate himself with severe caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Someone who may, indeed, spend the entire first day of Independent Film Week off in Brooklyn making an independent film.

Read the rest of it over at Hammer To Nail.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:01 AM

September 16, 2008

Hop Skip Burn Jump

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This is a picture of me photographing Kevin Bewersdorf photographing me on the set of Bryan Poyser's new short film, The Crane House in San Antonio. It was a very fun, very sweltering production. I was serving as cinematographer, and I'm happy to say that the sunlight, though brutal in temperature, was kind enough to hold my hand and walk me through the shoot and make me look like I really knew what I was doing.

We wrapped at sundown this past Friday and drove back to Austin. I woke up at five the next morning and went for a run around Town Lake. I decided to push for ten miles and, sure enough, I made it the entire distance. This satisfaction was shortlived: my body decided that it wanted me to stop, on all fronts, and left the backdoor open for some flu germs that overtook me before I'd even gotten out of the shower. I spent the rest of the day wracked with fever and stomach pain, drifting in and out of intense delirium and having those awful deathbed dreams that run short and repeat themselves ad inifinitum. At one point I stumbled into the bathroom, looking for something - anything!- to alleviate the pain, and found some Aleve. I have an annoyingly stoic tendency to sweat things out, but desperate times call for over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, even ones who's labels loudly proclaim that they 'May Cause Stomach Bleeding.'

Twelve hours later and I was walking through the airport, trying to stomp on the viral surges that still threatened my equilibrium, reading about David Foster Wallace's death and looking for whatever gate my flight had been moved to. And less than twelve hours from that point I was back in Brooklyn with Joe and company, holding a boom microphone as we shot a few extra scenes for the new feature film that we'd wrapped for the first time exactly four months prior. We finished that up at midnight and spent the next few hours winding down at a bar.

Now I'm technically in the midst of IFP's Independent Film Week. I don't really feel like I'm here, though. I need to climb out of my head.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:46 PM

September 11, 2008

Railroad

Could I justifiably include a film on a year-end top ten list without actually having seen it? That I've yet to see any of James Benning's films leads me to believe that his latest, RR, won't be any easier to come by; and yet Darren Hughes' review from the Toronto premiere has very nearly assured me of my love for it. He captures what I imagine the film to be so succinctly and comprehensively that almost feel like I could write about it myself, with some degree of specificity. Here's hoping I don't have to resort to that, and that this one makes the rounds. I love trains - symbolically, industrially, historically, they're one of the most potent cinematic signifiers a filmmaker can turn to. St. Nick is certainly rife with them; even before they become an integral element of the story, they're an omnipresent aural element of the film. I didn't plan it that way - that's just what you get when you shoot a movie in Fort Worth - but it's also a little more deeply ingrained than a mere happy accident.

* * *

I'm currently in a hotel in San Antonio. I've never really been here before; I have vague impressions of visiting the Alamo a long time ago, but they're mostly overshadowed by vivid memories of my near-drowning on the same family vacation, and also by Pee Wee's Big Adventure, which immortalized this town for me far more than John Wayne ever did.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:09 AM | Comments (2)

September 9, 2008

The Best Thing Ever

Barlow sent me this video yesterday, with a simple note that said "It is one of those things in this world that makes me happy just to know it exists." Indeed. I watched it all day yesterday. I already gave into the irrepressible cheesy brilliance of the song earlier this summer - and this makes it about a million times better.

I have extremely vivid memories of being awed and terrified by the band the handful of times I went to Showbiz Pizza as a child. The lighting was too dramatic, these strange animals too large and looming, their movements too confined to that uncanny valley. I loved that place, but it gave me nightmares - I remember one or two traumatic birthday parties there (but I was the sort of kid for whom all birthday parties were traumatic) where I got stuck in some room with a strobe light and was too scared to find my way out. I remember thinking all my friends looked like they were melting.

There is, incidentally, a documentary playing at Sidewalk about this animatronic band and the guy who made the video above. Out of their whole lineup, this is the one I'm looking forward to the most - it looks amazing.


* * *

Oh, and I've got a brief review of The Fall up at Hammer To Nail.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:49 PM | Comments (2)

September 6, 2008

Texas Ain't The Same Without You

I'm back in Austin temporarily, where the fact that it's now September means absolutely nothing at all. The Texas heat is comforting, in a strange, overbearing, nostalgic way, but it certainly doesn't make life easy. I heard some vague mention today that Orion's current position in the night sky signifies eight more weeks of summer, which if true is a terrifying thought - but then again, I'll be taking off before too long, heading for increasingly cooler climes and that obligatory note here in which I'll wax ecstatic about the first day of fall....

My arrival was perfectly timed for the screening of Ciao at the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival . Yen invited me to come do the Q&A with him, and when he introduced me before the theater he mentioned that the film was very much a collaboration between the two of us. That's just as true of any of the key players who helped make the film happen, but it was very touching to hear, and watching the first few minutes before we stepped out to get coffee, I once again felt very proud of it, and what we managed to do with it. All those winter evenings we spent cutting the film at my parents' house (and once in a hospital) definitely comprised one of the most satisfying artistic endeavors of my life, precisely because it was such a great collaboration. I can't wait for him to make another film, just so I can work on it! And it looks like that might be happening sooner rather than later. In the meantime, over the next few months, Ciao will be playing at festivals all over the world, from Paris to Hong Kong to Oklahoma, all the way up until its domestic theatrical release...

On the subject of film festivals, in three weeks I'll be heading back to the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham for the second year in a row, along with what seems like just about every other filmmaker I know on the planet. Catalog is screening there, and in a case of great cross-pollination, Clay's film My Mom Smoked Weed and James' Merrily Merrily are in the short film program too. Sidewalk is the most laid-back and friendliest festival I've ever been too. I'm looking forward to once again breaking into the rooftop deck of our hotel, and also smelting some iron at the Sloss Furnaces...because what other festival offers that sort of opportunity?

Time to go make some coffee so I can get some sleep.

Posted by David Lowery at 7:31 PM

September 4, 2008

Grand

It seems that this is my 1000th post here. I'll dedicate it to Orson and Veruca, my two favorite cats, both of whom died on the same day this past week back in Texas. The latter was almost nine years old, the former not even one. Veruca was my first cat and, before being adopted into my family at large, she lived with me and James in Gay Manor, our first ill-fated abode. She was mean and spiteful and moody and hated almost everyone, and I loved her for it. Orson, who James and Amy adopted last winter, was exactly the opposite in ever possible way, and never failed to lighten the mood at homebase throughout the St. Nick shoot. I miss them both very much - more than I thought I would before I ever considered the possibility of their absence from the periphery of my life. Oh, animals.

* * *

I shot the closing credits for St. Nick the other day; seeing as how I filmed the opening titles in New York, I figured it was fitting to do these in California.

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I've spent the last few days making little trims, polishing up odds and ends, crossfading sounds, recording rough foley and all the other things that will make this picture a little more capable of standing on its own two feet. We did a first pass at color correction on the shots that needed it the most. There was one scene that required ADR, involving Tucker and Toby; keeping with our cross-country theme, James recorded Tucker's half in Texas, and we did the other half here in LA, in a whaler's rum-fueled session that quickly turned hilariously obscene; and then, through the magic of FTP, both sessions were mixed, made one and bound together by an old country tune on the radio, performed by my brother. I also attempted to record some temp score myself, and let me tell you, it ain't easy. My compositional aptitude is horribly at odds with the exactitude I require from a film score. I managed to come up with a nice organ number to close out the film, and then, for an earlier sequence that needed a little something melodic, I fell back on Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1. Not the most original choice, but it actually works quite beautifully. I wonder how much it would cost to license.

And now I think I've taken this movie just about as far as I can on my own. Time to find some folks to turn it over who can carry it that last quarter mile...

Posted by David Lowery at 3:15 AM | Comments (2)

September 3, 2008

Personal Best (for now)

When I told Kat almost a month ago that I'd just started running, she suggested I set my sights on a half-marathon in Austin in January. When I bought new shoes upon my arrival in LA, I hadn't been for so much as a jog in well over a year, and even when I did so fairly regularly, I never pushed myself past two miles. But I like challenges, and so over the past month I've gone out every day, running one and then two miles and then last week hitting three. And then this evening, out along the PCH, I jumped all the way up to seven miles without skipping a beat or stopping or really even losing my breath. Does that mean I'm halfway there? I can't really move now, which is annoying, but I'm sure I'll be fine tomorrow.

(I'd forgotten the sheer ebullience that comes from listening to music while running. I keep my iPod on shuffle, and when the right song comes on at the right time, it seeps into my head and trickles down through my body and carries me for its duration. I fall into its sway without thinking. Major chords and marching tempos can work wonders, but some of the best moments come from the quiet songs, the ones that hold their notes and take their time. They sooth your heart and smooth out the folds in the ground and make everything around you hushed, a little bit smaller, a little bit further away. It's as close to a spiritual experience as I can get.)

In news of other firsts, I tried my hand at surfing the other day. Which is to say, I walked along the path to the beach and down towards the water, carrying a surfboard, and an hour or two later walked back the way I came, wet from the ocean, once again carrying a surfboard. What happened in between those impressionistic bookends is hardly important, or at the very least not worth mentioning. Maybe I'll just stick to skydiving.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:04 AM | Comments (1)

September 1, 2008

Photo Booth

Kent Osborne had the best party favor ever at his birthday bash the other night: an old fashioned photo booth.

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I love photo booths; I remember driving around with certain friends, trying to find all the real ones in town, as opposed to the cheap digital imitations. Cramming in, affixing that bug-eyed stare, hoping for an unexpected kiss on the cheek (spanning time) and spilling out again four bursts of a shutter later.

The next day was Joe's birthday and, stepping even further back in time to when I was about ten, we all went putt-putt golfing to celebrate. Directly ahead of us on the course were a group of deaf women, whose silent cheers whenever they scored a hole in one were peacefully invigorating.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:09 PM | Comments (2)