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September 29, 2009

Mise en Sidewalk

James called me yesterday afternoon to let me know that filmgoers who turned out in droves to see St. Nick at the Sidewalk Film Festival all left the theater with equal alacrity...before the movie was actually over. They can't all be winners, we agreed.

A few hours later, he and Adam both texted me from the awards ceremony to let me know that, in spite of this reaction, we'd been awarded a Special Jury Prize (for Mise en Scene) in the narrative competition. So I guess this one was a winner after all! A big thanks to the jurors, the city of Birmingham, and of course Kyle and Natalie for loving our movie enough to program it.

Meanwhile, Ti won the Best Narrative Feature award for The House of the Devil. Magnolia just released his trailer, and the film itself will be available on VOD this coming weekend, prior to hitting the big screen just in time for Halloween.

Oh man. I can't wait wait for Halloween.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:42 AM

September 27, 2009

Boycrazy (one last time for now)

By this point, the first Boycrazy video alone has been viewed many more times than every film I've ever made put together. Which is sort of insane. And now all five are online, including this last one, which was the first one we shot:

I originally thouht that it would be my favorite of the series - it's the sort of thing I've dealt with before - but I guess it's a sign of my maturation as a stortyteller that grievous personal injury doesn't excite me quite as much as it used to. There are a lot of things I like and am proud of about this, but none so much as the distinct feeling of having expanded my horizons.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:51 AM

September 23, 2009

And yet more Boycrazy

This is the other spot that ties with the first for my favorite:

We shot this in the wonderful Family bookstore at Fairfax and Melrose. David Kramer, the proprietor, kindly agreed to act in the film as well. It was his first time on camera, and I thought he did an excellent job - so excellent that it's no surprise that he quickly followed up this debut performance with a featured part in a new top secret Spike Jonze short film about robots in love.

Posted by David Lowery at 5:38 PM

Fall Program Notes

One year ago this weekend, a handful of us stole away to our hotel in Birmingham, Alabama to watch the first Presidential Debate. Later, Kris Swanberg and I stayed in that room and ordered room service french fries and ate the hell out of them. We were at the beloved Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, which begins again this weekend and which will be showing St. Nick on Sunday. After two consecutive years with shorts in the film festival, it's something of a warm, cozy triumph to be showing my first feature there. I also served as a judge on their screenplay competition, but the less said about that, the better.

Exactly three weeks later, the film will also be screening at the Indie Memphis festival, which has just announced its own stellar lineup. I completely fell in love with Memphis during the two weeks I spent there last month, and I can't wait to go back. I love the program notes for this one:

Two runaway children take refuge in an old clapboard house, their youthful curiosity and mischievousness succumbing to focused movement and the necessity of survival. The story is one not so much of innocence lost as of independence gained as the brother and sister forage and scrape to get by, setting up housekeeping -- including building a fort of sheets in the abandoned house -- as kids will do to feel safe. Director David Lowery weaves a narrative less from dialogue than from nail-studded planks, shards of glass, iron pipeworks and fragments of maps. There is a post-apocalyptic sense to ST. NICK, though we're uncertain of the particular apocalypse, save for the hint of an implosion in the nuclear family. It is a film that seems borne of still photography with the stark images of abandonment and emptiness giving way to the plot of a coming Texas winter, impending adult interference and youthful defiance.

So come join us on this sojourn into the South! See the film, spread the word, come say hello, offer us mint julips. Or if you're more Northbound, perhaps you can venture out to the Calgary Film Festival, where we'll be screening this coming Tuesday, September 29th in a rare late evening slot. 9:30pm! That's a new record.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:52 AM

September 21, 2009

More Boycrazy

This past summer (I love that I can say that now!) I directed five short films for my friend Alexi's website. This is the first:

I shot and edited it, Toby did sound and supervised post, and Jeff Halbert mixed it. I think this one is my favorite, but it's a close race between this and another one - which you'll be able to see soon, since Alexi will be rolling them out all week at her site. In any case, it was a joy to direct something that looked pretty and was funny. I'm a pretty big fan of punchlines.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:38 AM

September 16, 2009

Stingray Sam is alive!


stingrysam.jpg

It's been eight long years since Cory McAbee's beloved The American Astronaut flickered across the silver screen, enchanting audiences with its gorgeous monochrome imagery, laconic humor and musical numbers about girls with vaginas made of glass. Now, finally, his directorial follow-up is out in the world: fter premiering at Sundance and playing in full at festivals all spring, Stingray Sam has arrived at the destination it was created for: your computer. Episode 1 can be viewed or downloaded at www.stingraysam.com, and the subsequent five will available in short order. A DVD of the entire series is also available.

The series is a cousin once removed from The American Astronaut; sequel isn't quite the right word, but much is the same, including the black and white 35mm cinematograhoy and McAbee himself, once again playing a titular cowboy hero. But there's something new here, and that would be Willa Vy McAbee, Cory's daughter, who plays the young lass upon whose rescue the plot hinges and who, I'd wager, is the source of the unabashed sweetness that seeps into the series, episode by episode, welling up around the bizzaro jokes and musical numbers (and an overall obsession with olives). This is partially because she's such an adorable little ingenue - but also because it's implicitly clear that she has a father who loves her very, very much.

* * *

This series - and the model of distribution it represents - is of particular interest to me at the moment, given the direction my next film go. I'd write more about all that, but I'm in Austin, and I left my computer's power supply in LA, and it's about to fall sound asleep. More soon, I promise!

Posted by David Lowery at 6:55 PM

September 14, 2009

A Brief Academic Excursion


langdonreview.jpg I've been spanning time these past few weeks, never quite managing to find a slipstream in which to write anything. Hence the recent screening of St. Nick at the Langdon Review Weekend has gone unmentioned until now, a few days after the fact. As a wayward academic and one-time English major, I was thrilled to be invited to show the film at this literary conference, and even moreso to be asked to contribute an essay to the institution's annual journal, The Langdon Review.

Of course, as per my usual habit, I rested on the laurels of the invitation itself and put off the actual writing until the day after the piece was due. I wrote most of its 3000 words on a plane to Memphis and fired it off immediately upon landing; and so it was with some relief when, on Friday, I was handed a copy of the beautifully printed journal and found that what I'd written was not completely terrible! I'm revising it a bit for posterity's sake (a future collection of painfully humorless essays?) but, for now, an excerpt:

What else? Though I’ve successfully avoided my circuitous instincts to follow my own Uncle Toby off in pursuit of his hobby horse, I seem to have gone in the opposite direction and skipped over: the entire editing process, one love affair, a bout of depression, trips abroad, workshops and labs and early publicity, lots of running, cold weather and the sheer ebullience of seeing a massive line outside a theater for one’s own premiere, all of which are intrinsic to how this film came to be. But as I consider those details, I’m struck by a strange sense of alienation, of inadequacy. I feel suddenly as if this account has been written not by me, but by a prismatic fraction of myself, whose dim prose can do little to illuminate something which shall remain intransigent and irresolute in this medium. I could write about St. Nick a thousand different ways and still not completely cover what it is, where it came from, what it means, how it happened. I make it sound like it is more than it is, which is not the case. The film is an almost silent, 85 minute tale of a brother and sister on the run, and what I mean to say is: within that is everything I could say about it.

(That Sterne reference is the tip of my name-dropping iceberg - the first paragraph of this beast is a potentially belabored anecdote involving a dogeared copy of My Antonia.)

The screening itself was wonderful. The audience seemed to bring with them none of the preconceived notions I generally project on film festival attendees, and no one asked the one question that everyone always asks. The gathering afterwards, in a little apartment at the top of a narrow staircase, with the heavy skies opening up outdoors and wine flowing just as freely inside, was just so warm and inviting and full of good spirits and conversation that I could have almost - almost - stayed there all night. The whole scene reminded me, in a way, of this quote from (of all places) Roger Ebert's review of the adaptation of Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys:

I thought I would be an English professor. Then I got into this game. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with a sense of loss: I remember myself walking across the snowy campus at dusk, a book bag thrown over my shoulder, on the way to the seminar room to drink coffee and talk about Cather or Faulkner. And I remember the endless weekends, driving around town in somebody's oversized American car, following rumors of parties. And the emotional and romantic confusion that played out at those parties, where everyone was too smart and too loaded and filled with themselves.

That's an ideal I still cherish, and romanticize, and am happy to dip my toes into from time to time.

* * *

The conference was in the charming town of Granbury, about an hour outside of Fort Worth. It was the first time I'd been back in the area since February, and I took the opportunity on the way home to drive by the house we shot St. Nick in. This is what it looks like now...

stnick_house_now.jpg

...complete with happy family.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:37 PM

September 1, 2009

The Runaway Bunny

I was at a soiree in Brooklyn the other night, participating in my favorite party activity of cordoning myself off with the host's bookshelf and reading instead of socializing, when I found a book I hadn't read in years: The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd.

runaway_bunny2.jpg

I'd completely forgotten about it; I don't even remember where I read it. I have vague memories of it being on my grandmother's bookshelf in Wisconsin, but maybe my imagination is just putting it there for the sake of convenience. Most people remember the other classic book by Brown and Hurd, Goodnight Moon, but this one is so much better! It shares the basic simplicity of that more popular work, but adds to it a psychological undercurrent that is exciting, alarming, even frightening. Why is the little bunny so doggedly intent on running away from his mother?

The illustrations, for the most part, are simple brush and ink sketches; but every few pages the story unfurls into fully painted flights of fancy that are simply breathtaking:

runaway_bunny1.jpg

You could write a term paper on the dynamics present in this book; or you could read it as a child, bury it deep in your memory, grow up, synthesize whatever traces it's left behind and make it your own. When I'm asked what inspired St. Nick and I answer that it's drawn from a bedrock that's been ossifying my entire life, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:11 PM