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June 26, 2010

Getting Away With It

One of my favorite and most oft-read books on directing is Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies and videotape diary, which I bought back in my sophomore year in high school. I breezed through it again recently, and noticed in reading it that the face to which I attached the voice on the page was the contemporary, middle-aged version of Soderbergh - a common attributive phenomenon, I'm sure, but one which prompted a bit of disconnect when I arrived at the entry in which he writes: I turned 25 today. And for what?

For What? It's the only indication of youthful self-perception from a filmmaker who would within that same year win the Palm D'or at Cannes for his first film. It's the sort of rhetorical qualifier one is more regularly inclined to pronounce earlier on, when it feels more requisite and personally unique. I don't know if I've completely outgrown it myself yet, but I'm getting there.

As of today, I've got six months left of my twenties. I cared not a bit about my advancement until a week or two ago, when I read this article in which my age was cited as 30. That number, associated with myself so literally for the first time, seemed like an egregious overestimation. I'm happy to note that the brief surge of personal introspection that followed was mostly free of the whininess that marks Soderbergh's second published journal, Getting Away With It, which I just read for the first time the other day and which, as a result of its attitudinal shift, comes across as far less mature than its precedent a decade earlier. There's nothing like conscientious self pity to turn one's insights tawdry.

That being said, I still related to it, although I'll withhold saying by exactly how much. And that being said, I'll admit that while I may have not have jumped on every opportunity that's come my way over the course of the past decade, it's only because I'm lazy, and my laziness is an innate part of who I am. And I am nothing if not truthful to myself. This trait has not lead me to a Palm D'or of my own, and perhaps it never will; but it has left me on the doorstep of a place I'm very much happy to be at.

I'd still like to run a marathon before I'm 30, though.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:04 AM

June 20, 2010

Audrey in Chicago & other happenings

Yesterday the edit at 102 minutes. Today's it's somewhere in the realm of 97. It's getting there.

On Thursday, I walked out of the editing suite in Park Slope, around the corner to BAM and right onto the stage for the Q&A for Lovers Of Hate, which was screening as part of the BAMCinematek festival. In truth, I hadn't known about the screening until about an hour or two prior, but I did know Bryan and company would be in town for the subsequent Rooftop Films screening, which occurred this evening and which I sat out the Q&A for, mainly because my feet hurt from racing up the six flights of stairs to catch the last half of the movie. Once again, let me state my profound admiration for Mark and Dan and the rest of the Rooftop crew. They know how to show movies.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, my beloved Audrey The Trainwreck began a brief engagement at the Gene Siskel Film Center this evening. It screens again this coming Monday and Wednesday, and if any readers happen to be in Chicago, I would implore them to check it out. The "unjustly underbuzed" stigma Karina Longworth noted at SXSW seems to have persisted, and while I believe all good pictures will eventually get their due, when they're this good I get impatient. So here, once again, is the trailer.

Meanwhile, I've been using my two hour daily train commute to catch up on some reading. I borrowed from my host's shelves a copy of Final Cut, that book about the making of Heaven's Gate, which I've always intended to read. I've also always intended to watch the movie itself. I could get it from Netflix, but I lost the envelope for the last film I received, back in April, and so once again my queue is at a standstill.

I also did some writing last night, ignoring the script I should be writing in favor of the one I want to be writing (which from my perspective actually is the one I should be writing). I wrote one scene, three of four sentences long, with no dialogue, but of the sort which then allowed me to delete the following six pages. So I feel like I actually made a lot of progress.

If this post feels a bit like a diary entry, that's because I've temporarily tired of writing intermittent essays.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:04 AM

June 18, 2010

Print, etc,

Two things on my mind. Well, one's not really on my mind, but it occurred to me the other day when I was going through all of the recently transferred dailies for James' film: is the term "cut & print" a complete anachronism at this point? As a director, I can scarcely imagine being so on the spot as to know that I won't need something later, but, admittedly, I imagine that sort of refined acuity was a skill worth developing. As an editor, however, I can't comprehend not having every take to work with. Of course, not having every take would suit my laziness just fine, and I suppose that if a director were to only provide me exactly what he knew he needed, I wouldn't have a reason to go searching through the heads and tails of busted takes for little sparks of magic. Actually, this all sounds quite nice. Maybe I'll start deleting bad takes on set.

The other, which is more of an overriding concept, is that in reading all of the interviews and press circulating around the release of I Am Love, my admiration for Tilda Swinton has quietly slipped into full blown adoration - not of the blind sort, but rather a productive strain of high regard, the type which hopefully will see me setting down tonight without a care for my usual tertiary worries and focus, simply, on making something good.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:28 PM

June 15, 2010

Editing Fever


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This is one of my favorite frames from Dustin Guy Defa's Bad Fever, a few feature film I've been editing for the past month (readers of the Filmmaker Magazine blog may remember Scott Macaulay's post about it not too long ago). The film stars Kentucker Audley and Eleonore Hendricks (currently on screens in the Safdie's Daddy Longlegs). It's really good, I think: sad, funny and slightly dirty, both in content and in aesthetic (VHS tape plays a significant role in the movie). Watching Dustin's rough assembly earlier this spring, I was thrilled to see something that felt so fresh and unconventional. I was excited to push those buttons even further in my own edit, and tomorrow I'm heading to New York for a week of finishing touches. I'm expecting good things.

Also: now would be a suitable time to offer a belated congratulation to good friend Chris Ohlson, whose experimental road-trip movie Melvin (which I edited last October) was selected for the 2010 IFP Narrative Rough Cut Labs, which just wrapped up in New York last week. The labs were of invaluable assistance in ushering St. Nick out into the world; hopefully, Chris will get just as much leverage out of them.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:31 PM

June 13, 2010

Handwriting

We were driving back from LA last month when Toby got a call from the Toadies, that Texas rock 'n roll band of yore, asking if we could make a short promo video for their new album. We spent a few hours over the next week making something, and in that time I imagined I lived in a world in which bands regularly called us up, offering money and carte blanche to make make videos and other little visual experiments in service of their tunes.

In reality, this never happens, partially because of that vacuum I mentioned a post or two back. People who saw those SXSW trailers often mention that we must have gotten a lot of work out of them. To which we awkwardly look away and shuffle our feet, because if there's any limit to our imagination, it's in the commodification of it.

I do take some satisfaction in that my chicken scratch, which never managed to constrain itself to the boundaries of the calligraphy lessons my parents stridently submitted me to, has now grown into its own and is being used to sell records. Satisfaction, of course, is the only sort of royalty I can count on. I'll take it.

Posted by David Lowery at 8:00 PM

June 12, 2010

Knife shoot 2

Today on set my betrothed and I got to play amalgams of ourselves for James' film. She's playing the main character's sister, who in a flashback gets married. We were told it was supposed to be a white trash wedding, in which case I was seriously overdressed.

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I didn't take that last picture. I wasn't even on the set that day. It's from James' iPhone, but it was so cool looking I had to steal it. I get all the telecined footage on Tuesday and I guess I'll start cutting it roundabout the beginning of July, right before I trek off to South America...

Posted by David Lowery at 11:15 PM

June 10, 2010

A Certain Neediness

I saw Nicole Holofcener's Please Give the other night. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but at the same time I found myself too often stepping down to meet it on its own level. I wondered: how would I respond now to Holofcener's Lovely and Amazing, which I treasured eight summers ago and recall as a vital experience? And: will anyone in the theater be better off having seen this film?

I know the answer is yes. If I go by my old barometer - which states that so long as some facet of any given film sticks with me or provides me some insight or makes me feel something in the head or the heart, it was a worthwhile experience - then I am better off. Indeed, I still hold this tenet to be mostly true, but these days, with so much to choose from, I can't help but think in between those moments that reach me: what am I missing out on? And that query is part of the makeup of a more troublesome question that's been plaguing me lately. Namely, what must a movie do to deserve to be seen?

I spent seven or eight paragraphs trying to answer that one in vaguely Socratic fashion, eventually working my way not towards the uplifting ode to quality I'd expected but a dictum with unnervingly fascist overtones. Oops! I stared at the screen and wondered when I'd turned into such a hater - and then excused myself on account of my general deficit of logic skills and hit delete. These were the frenzied ramblings of someone who, having finally managed to justify to himself his single-minded exertions towards his craft while the whole planet is fraught with misery, now lays awake at night (well, not literally) wondering what good reason he might offer audiences to partake in his flights of fancy?

Which is why, when I come down from these fever pitches, I always return to the comforting confidence of a vacuum, and know to keep my mouth shut.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:21 PM

June 7, 2010

Knife shoot

I'm editing this film later this summer. But since it's being shot on film there's not a whole lot for me to do on set except snap pics and be a stand-in.

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Posted by David Lowery at 1:39 AM

June 5, 2010

The News Of My Passing

Last week, within the space of 24 hours, I received two letters from new readers concerned about my well being after happening upon my bio here at this site. It's something I've scarcely thought about the last three years - If you haven't seen it, it is written in the past tense and includes the following parenthetical after my name: (1980-2007). I was asked about it again in an interview yesterday, so I figured I should provide a note of explanation. It was written in the summer of 2007, during a period of my life in which I seriously questioned whether or not I'd survive the year. At some point during that period, I stripped down my website and gave it an aesthetic overhaul; when I arrived at my short autobiography, I included that parenthetical as both an impetuous extension of my state of mind, and a post-dated safety catch. Just in case. Suffice to say, I'm still here, and have left that memento standing more out of forgetfulness than anything else. I describe it as a joke, when people ask, which at this point it is. Blackly comic, as the worst of times often become in retrospect.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:10 AM

June 2, 2010

Dirty Britches

The short of it: two and a half years ago, Barlow Jacobs and I came up with a Quixotic private eye character named TT Bottoms while we were shooting our Ola Podria video. Last summer, we finally got around to writing a script for TT, a 30-minute comedy pilot entitled Dirty Britches. Our agents were enthusiastic about it and, since we wrote it with certain actors in mind, recommended that we shoot a short promo for the pilot to convey our vision before taking it out to networks. We made plans to do so immediately. Cut to one year later, when we all finally got our horses in order and shot the sucker.

We'd condensed our pilot into a ten page punchline, and this we filmed over two days during which the thermometer topped 97 degrees. Directing can be hard, directing comedy harder, and directing comedy outdoors in the summer in Texas is just about as far from my idea of a cup of tea as you could muster - but it was a remarkable experience all the same, in so much as that I got to work with actors of such a caliber that it forced me to rise to their occasion in a way I'd never had the opportunity to before. Communication, verbally, is not a strong suit of mine, but I managed to punch my way through my awkward repertoire of directorial stammerings and, I think, actually make something out of what they were giving me. There is a certain frisson that occurs when one makes an active choice, with clear and positive results, and it was on the repeated high of this thrill that I made it through the heat and came out on the other side feeling as if I'd gotten a whole lot better at my craft.

Another thing: we shot the first day on the RED, with a DP and a small crew, and the second day with the Canon 7D and a crew consisting of Toby (who produced the whole thing) and myself. I already knew that the two formats would match, at least on our delivery scale, but what I hadn't anticipated was the wave of relief that swept over me on the second day when the number of people between me and the aperture was reduced to zero. I'm often asked why I like working with filmmakers like Joe Swanberg when our styles are so different, and while I usually say something about our friendship and mutual commitment to cinematic standards and such, I realized this weekend that the biggest part of it is that we work best when things are stripped down. I understand that there is a certain standard to which I aspire which can most be most efficiently achieved by a well-utilized crew, but I wonder now if that's worth the comfort I feel when I'm the one behind that camera, running helter skelter and unencumbered by broken sentences. I suppose it depends on the project. In this case, it was nice, after that hectic, sweat-drenched first day (which included both a freak rainstorm and a false start with a bald cap), to get such a sharp and unencumbered contrast the next morning, and to remember how much fun making this sort of thing can be. Can be, and should be.

Meanwhile: my new short film, Pioneer, has been pushed back to early September for a very good reason. That's gonna be a big step forward in its own right.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:46 PM

June 1, 2010

TT Bottoms


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Posted by David Lowery at 12:44 AM | Comments (2)