March 30, 2009
We somehow managed to sell out both of our AFI Dallas screenings, including the one this morning, which was in the biggest auditorium at the Magnolia theater. 300 people, skipping church to come see my movie! Amazing. Despite the turnout, I was a bit on edge - partially because we'd had technical difficulties during the previous screening, including a deficit of surround sound, which this time was remedied to an egregious amount (I think this morning's audience suffered permanent cochlear trauma during the birthday party scene); and also because, admittedly through my own devices, I'd turned the screening into something like a scene from 8 1/2. I was delighted and terrified. It made my head spin a bit. And there was other strangeness afoot, too, things I couldn't quite put my finger on. Something in the air. I didn't know quite what to say during the Q&A. Afterwards, I had to retire for a bit and listen to Joanna Newsom and not think for a while.
I have to say that, technical difficulties aside, this festival has done an amazing job getting the word out about the films. As I mentioned before, I shamefully neglected to send them any press screeners, and yet somehow the press is seeing the film, and writing about. I've done a good job thus far about not bothering with reviews (I read every single one of them, of course, and am content to leave it at that), but I have to admit that I kinda hope I can track down the copy of yesterday's Dallas Morning News that, I've been told, featured a front page story about St. Nick in the Entertainment section. I grew up reading the movie reviews in that paper. I'm nostalgic.
Also, it was a true joy to have the chance to take my young actors on the red carpet. As we made our way past all the flashbulbs, we ran into Jess Weixler, who I hadn't realized was coming to town. She saw an early cut of St. Nick, and so of course recognized the kids and was able to give Savana some tips on courting the press. Which, indeed, she did. She loved it, and they loved her, and it was a wonderful thing to watch.
March 27, 2009
Expletives Will Follow
Yesterday, Yen sent me an e-mail containing a link to the trailer for a movie called After Last Season. For all I can tell, it's a real movie, shot on 35mm, approved by the MPAA and poised for release sometime this year. Go watch it.
It seems that the response is unanimous. Very few words suitably describe this thing. The subject heading of Yen's e-mail was 'Holy Fuck' - and similar responses were yielded after I sent the link to various friends. A sampling:
"Oh my God, dude! What the fucking fuck!???" - Bryan Poyser
"HOLY MOTHERFUCK." - Michael Tully (who's since written about it himself)
"I am so confused by it?!*#^$%#& What could this movie be?!!!!!!" - Amy Seimetz
I've watched the trailer about ten times now, and have yet to tire of it. It is so beyond logic in its construction that it essentially reinvents itself anew upon each viewing. The sad thing, of course, is that the brilliance likely ends here: either this is an entirely intentional joke which I am doing my part in turning into a viral phenomenon, or it's just a happy accident in service of something truly unwatchable. Either way, it made my day.
James put together a very lovely press release for the AFI Dallas screenings this weekend, plus an upcoming exhibition at The Modern in Fort Worth. This is a homecoming of sorts, and I'm really excited to show the film to a few specific folks, as well as whoever else comes out to see it. Will anyone come to see it? I'm not sure if our halfway-buzz has spread to Dallas. I was so caught up with finishing the film for SXSW, and then with SXSW itself, that I've done zero publicity for this festival. I didn't have any screeners to send them for press, I still haven't made up posters or postcards. My movie plays in less than 24 hours and here I am still lounging around in Austin, drinking Yerba Mate like a damn hippy. I'm the worst at this. I fully expect the theater to be half empty and full of echoes and coughs.
So. I suppose this is my opportunity. Time for a hard sell. If, by chance, you are reading this, and you live in DFW, and you aren't already planning on coming to see St. Nick - change your mind! It's playing today, Friday, at 4:15 and on Sunday at 12:30 at the wonderful Magnolia theater. It's good, I promise. It's like Where The Wild Things Are, only without the monsters.
Hopefully whatever imminent mechanical failure the 'Check Engine' light on my car is indicating will remain dormant until after the three hour drive tomorrow morning, so that I might be able to join you there myself.
March 25, 2009
I went to see Two Lovers last night, after months of anticipation fueled by I know not what - reviews, the trailer, the entire nation of France? I haven't seen any of James Gray's prior work, but something in the images in the trailer and the words in what I was reading about it took my hand, pulled me through the past few days and week and all the films at the festival, into a little seat at the Dobie, the only place in town where it was still playing, and where, from the moment Vinessa Shaw looked at the camera from the center of that medium shot, I was entranced, bewitched, harpooned. I haven't been so physically caught up in a film in I don't remember how long. I'm not sure how much of it was the film reaching out to me and how much was me leaping forward to take it in (I moved up a few rows ten minutes in), but my response was consistently visceral. I was delighted, enraged, laughing out loud.
I think it was simply the steady, formalist hand applied to such a simple story that excited me so, that made me lose my head and almost send a text message I shouldn't have. Gray teases the heart of his script's conflict out with such elegance, such stateliness, all within the confines of a narrative that by all means shouldn't feel so new and immediate, that he practically lays bare cinema's entire raison d'etre. The handful of flagrant formalist moments are perfectly balanced within a text that isn't merely classical, but classic (after watching the film, I read Zach Campbell's brief analysis and was thrilled to recognize the Hitchcock allusions that had been right there in front of me all along).
But that's hardly an explanation. I've contained some void of late that this film managed to fill. Had I a Netflix queue, Gray's other films would be first in line. While I'm at the next festival this weekend, going through the same routine, I might just have to duck back into this one again.
March 24, 2009
It's raining outside.
I'm still getting over whatever flu I've had for the past three days.
Season One of The Wire is sitting next to me...
I love it when everything lines up like that.
Posted by David Lowery at 11:35 AM
March 21, 2009
Moving Right Along...
Our last screening was full of friends and familiar faces, and Savanna and Tucker were more than a little hopped up on sugar, which made for a particularly good Q&A. It was a lovely conclusion to the week. I wish I'd taken more pictures.
A few weeks ago, I read over the film's final shooting script for the first time since production, and was surprised to find it even more exiguous than I remembered. It was designed as a blueprint, and the resulting film has supplanted whatever implicit worth it might have contained. As it should be. Nonetheless, I'd always wanted to make it available once the film had premiered, and so here it is - all 30 pages of it:
Reading it before you see it won't ruin the film; reading it after you see it may serve as supporting evidence to whatever opinion you may have formed, positive or negative. You may wonder how in my right mind I can call myself a writer - to which I'd say that I wrote this thing to direct. To which some of you might respond that I'm not too hot in that regard either, for which I can do nothing but shrug and agree to disagree.
And as to where you can see it: next up is AFI Dallas, where the film will be screening on Friday, March 27th and Sunday, March 29th. Tickets are currently on sale here.
The week after that, we'll be at the Sarasota Film Festival on April 3rd and 5th. I was recently informed that Alex Karpovsky and I are the first filmmakers to attend show our work at the festival for three consecutive years; indeed, I can't wait to go back. St. Nick tickets can be procured here.
Beyond that...we're working on it.
Thanks to everyone who came out to see it this week, and to those who wrote about it or told their friends or sent little whispers trickling through the streets. And thanks to Janet and everyone else at SXSW for treating us so well this week. I love you all.
March 19, 2009
St. Nick is now a book
The sold-out premiere was a grand experience; the second show was even more sold-out, and to all the right people. One more to go tomorrow.
After that first screening, Ellen Weaver, our production designer, gave me a box, and in that box was a book she'd made.
Every piece of it was taken from the house we shot in or the props we found. Bound in floorboards with the twine the kids used to lay traps; filled with photos and snippets of wallpaper and matchsticks and even those three nails that protruded from the wall just so. The book was made out of the movie itself. All the textures and tones - the entire experience of making the film distilled into this little volume. It's one of the best gifts I've ever received. I have very few prized possessions left, very few objects I treasure; but I treasure this. Thank you, Ellen!
And thank you, too, to Adam, James, Clay, Martin, Jonathan, Mark, Tucker, Savanna, Amy and everyone else who came out to see what we made for the first time. I'm glad you all could be there and I hope you're as happy with it as I am.
March 13, 2009
Here We Go
I picked up my SXSW badge this evening, and am now trying to stay warm and finish a script before the madness of the weekend sets in. We'll see what happens with St. Nick. I couldn't afford to print up posters or postcards, and I didn't send too many copies off to press. Will anyone come see it? I can't help but shoot myself in the foot sometimes, but I'm hoping that it somehow draws a crowd nonetheless, and that the folks who make up that crowd will talk about it. I want people to love it, I really do, but even more than that I hope that it just makes them feel something and that this something is a feeling they can't quite qualify. I don't know. Those are the types of films that I remember.
(But before that, there's the premiere of Joe's Alexander The Last, which is at long last finished. I was reading through the production journal we kept during the first leg of production; I can't believe that this little movie we made out of that apartment in Williamsburg is now getting raves from the New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly. And after that comes Kris' film It Was Great, But I Was Ready To Come Home, which we shot in Costa Rica in December, which I edited in Chicago in January and which at the last minute made a lot of people fall in love with it. I can't remember. And in between is my esteemed producer James M. Johnston's exceedingly dirty three-minute short, Receive Bacon, which is based on one of the funniest real-world sight gags I've ever seen.)
But now back to this script. We were supposed to have it to our producers over a week ago. There I go shooting myself again, and not just in the foot this time.
March 11, 2009
I just returned from being a guest speaking engagement at Kat's film class at UT. I wish I could be a professor.
I'm still not sleeping. Among the causes: those little flaws I'd detected in the film which, in spite of the sage reminders from friends and colleagues that such minute imperfections would always be there for me to find, plagued my mind to no end, growing larger and more officious the more I tried to let them go. I knew they would continue to taunt me; I would watch the film and wait for them, cringing and wincing. Those few shorts frames would infect all the others and make me resent the movie. They would force me to make excuses for its deficiencies, and I swore this would be a film I would make no excuses for. I felt like I was being crushed. I went for a run that night, hoping a car would lose control and plow into me and shatter this growing weight on my mind along with every bone in my body. But the evening traffic was particularly orderly that evening. I returned with a clearer head, and showered, and sat back down in the edit bay for another all-night session of fixing problems and double-checking them and fixing them some more. I didn't just address those issues I'd initially noticed; I went through the movie with a fine-toothed comb, looking for anything that might have ever annoyed me in any capacity. I saw a reflection in a window that annoyed me and I erased it. I saw cars driving by in the background of shots and rotoscoped them out:
I exported the project, made a DVD, played it on the TV, noticed some thunder effects that deserved a bit more work, fixed them, exported another version, took the thing back to the post house and had another HD master made. It's now been turned in to the festival, and I think I can officially look forward to Sunday now. The bill can wait until after.
March 9, 2009
Wow. Adriane Tomine.
Posted by David Lowery at 11:25 AM
March 8, 2009
A Certain Point
I watched the supposedly final version of the film last night with fresh and rested eyes and ears and noticed some things I didn't like: music that's mixed too low in one scene, the crackle of a fire mixed too high, an annoying bird mixed in too prevalently, a transition that's mixed too abruptly.
But seeing as how I can't afford to make another HD master, I think maybe I'm just going to try to let it all go.
March 7, 2009
...and their cocentric circles.
Something like this does little to benefit the films in question, but from a historical perspective it's interesting. At least I hope it will be. I think some people look at all these lines and see a bunch of congratulatory self-servitude; the word 'incestuous' gets thrown about a lot. I'm not so naive that I don't understand where these negative connotations come from, but I also feel they tarnish something that's very intrinsic, very simple and very good. I've always enjoyed helping people out, especially people whose work I admire; and the folks with whom I form strong ties feel the same way. Creativity and generosity aren't mutually inclusive, but in the case of my best friends, we all have plenty of both, and that naturally leads to collaboration. Gravity gives way to chemistry. In the 70s, all the directors who paved those brave paths knew each other and helped each other out, and traded points on each other's pictures. There are no points these days, or any money at all, and no studio system to fall back on, but the physics of collaboration remain the same. That people ultimately find value in our work is a wonderful thing, but that value comes from the work itself, and the work is the result not of the names printed in the credits but the good people who gave their all to bringing it to fruition. Some of the many films I've worked on this past year are on this list, and some of them aren't. I'm equally proud to have been a part of all of them.
March 6, 2009
One in production, one out of it (and about to be everywhere)....
March 5, 2009
The sun just rose outside, I'm drinking a cup of green tea and a long night of putting the finishing touches on the film seems to have come to an end. There's always the risk when you're working on something with no sleep with an impending deadline right around the corner that you'll make stupid snap decisions, but I think everything balanced out okay. We're outputting the film to tape in a few hours. I guess, for the time being, the movie is officially done.
The last thing I added was a touch of whale song. One final bellowing grace note. It's perfect.
March 3, 2009
Bosque Brown's Baby
Finally, finally finally, Bosque Brown's second full length record is here. Baby sounds even more plucked out of time than Mara's first album did; her sound is richer, older, more playful and more wise in equal measure. I can't tell which songs are happy and which are sad, which is the best emotional space any music can occupy. You can hear two tracks here. The album itself is in stores on CD and vinyl (I wish I had a record player), and of course it's at iTunes as well.
Mara and her band will be playing several shows at SXSW to support the record; and of course, she'll also be appearing onscreen in St. Nick. I still can't believe she's actually in it. We filmed her scene twice that night, each time with a different song. I wanted her to play that old gospel hymn Leanin' on Jesus as an homage to Night Of The Hunter - but just in case it was too on on the nose, we shot a second version with one of Mara's original songs. That's what wound up in the film, and it's unbelievable. But her version of Leanin' was beautiful, too, and so to celebrate her record's release, here it is:
P.S. If you've never seen Night Of The Hunter, then shame on you - but here is the final unforgettable occurrence of the same song in that film.
March 1, 2009
Dusting One Shoulder Off
A nervous breakdown long in the making finally hit. I slept for seventeen hours. Woke up and was borne away by a generous friend. Slept for three hours. Worked. Slept for three more. Woke up and ran the Fort Worth Half Marathon in an hour and forty nine minutes, and then went to the studio for another marathon, this time to finish the sound mix. We finished that at seven o'clock this morning, and it's beautiful, and at that point I'd been awake for twenty seven hours. My hands were skinned and bloodied from foley work. Everything evens out and it felt good to walk out into that icy morning air. Two weeks from now my palms will have healed and I'll have new boots and the film will have just finished playing for the first time.
Posted by David Lowery at 2:02 PM