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October 29, 2010

I.L.U. Production 4

Set building starts tomorrow...

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Posted by David Lowery at 6:58 PM

Paranormal Activities


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The other day, Ti West told me I needed to watch an Australian horror film called Lake Mungo, directed by Joel Anderson. I had a vague awareness of it - it played at SXSW the same year as St. Nick - but knew nothing as to the plot. Ti told me not to read anything more about it, but simply to watch it as soon as possible, preferably late at night with all the lights off. He claimed it was the first film to genuinely scare him in ages, which was all the instigation I needed. I called it up on Netflix that evening and began to watch it. Within fifteen minutes, I had to turn it off.

I am a tremendous scaredy cat. I love horror films, but in the best cases that love is not equivocal to enjoyment. The slightest provocation or hint of a stinger will have me peeking through my fingers. A recent viewing of Paranormal Activity 2 saw me sinking into my seat, using my knee to block the portion of the screen I thought most likely to offend before finally making a run for the safety of the restroom (not once but twice). Rest assured, I was fully aware just how dumb Paranormal Activity 2 was, but like its predecessor, it did what it was designed to do - and in so much as I will always willing subject myself to fright, I am its ideal audience. I will return home afterwards, go to bed with the lights on, lay awake for hours, afraid to close my eyes, angry that I've once again brought this dreadful torture down upon myself. And then I'll wake up again the next morning, ready for more.

This is particularly true around Halloween, the ideal celebration of which for me involves watching one scary movie after another. The pattern I favor is: kitsch in the afternoon, while working, and more serious stuff in the evening, with mornings reserved for finishing whatever I was too terrified to finish the night before. Such was the case with Lake Mungo, which cast such a fright over me in it's first half hour alone that I haven't had a good night's sleep since.

The film is purportedly a documentary, made up partially of surveillance cameras placed in the hallways of a house thought to be haunted. In several regards, it resembles Paranormal Activity and its sequel, right down to the psychic character whose assistance is sought by the spooked family. But this isn't a 'gotcha' picture, as Roger Ebert rightly categorized the Paranormal Activity films. It takes similar circumstances and the notion of a haunting and underlies them with serious consideration of the psychological and emotional affects of such events. This extends to the formal construct of the film, which does indeed contain a patchwork of found footage and surveillance video, but is made up mostly of interviews and exploratory B-roll. For example, in one scene the mother talks about a dream in which she goes into her dead daughter's bedroom and sees her sitting in a chair; the filmmakers cut from the interview to a beautifully photographed dolly shot set within the house, carrying us down the hall and into that very bedroom, finally coming to a rest in front of the chair the mother is speaking of, which of course is empty. It's the Errol Morris approach to a haunted house documentary.

And by nature of that form and our trust in the filmmakers' integrity, we can assume that nothing literally out of the ordinary can occur. It is the promise - and delivery - of this that traditionally scares us, be it the dead nanny standing on the other side of the lake in Jack Clayton's The Innocents or the bluntly unsubtle poltergeist of Paranormal Activity; the occurrence of something that shouldn't be there, that is perhaps outside our realm of explanation but, more importantly, is beyond our ability to control is the potent mixture from which the best horror films draw. Lake Mungo takes advantage of and ultimately relies on these tropes as well (although it effectively turns them on their head at various points throughout the film), but what is unique about the film is that, through fairly exquisite filmmaking, the tone is so precisely established that something as innocuous as a talking-head interview can be made almost unbearably terrifying.

It's through the little details that this mood is set; my favorite is early in the film when the dad describes how, in the midst of confusion over the disappearance of their teenage daughter, the family's car throws a gear and they're forced to drive home backwards. It's a pragmatic detail, an offhand detail, a minor frustration for the characters; but the re-enacted visual of a car driving backwards down a long country road as the sun sets is just enough to set us askew. A recent NY Times article on highbrow haunted houses describe how one of them demands that visitors remove one shoe before entering - a bit of oddness that messes with your equilibrium in subtle ways before the horrorshow begins. This movie plays the same trick, so that when the father subsequently describes his first run-in with what may be a spirit, and the camera simply holds on his face and hears him out, we're prone to react to the potential of what he's talking about in the same way that we would to an on-camera realization of it; likewise, those roaming interior shots of the house are scary in spite of the fact that they are overtly staged, all because we've been so effectively unnerved. And even when those scares move into the visual realm, they don't jump out at you; they seep in, creep forward and - in one case especially - take their sweet time approaching us.

After watching the first fifteen minutes, I told Ti that the film reminded me of Capturing The Friedmans by way of Paranormal Activity. My assessment was more spot-on than I anticipated, and if the film has any fault, it's that it attempts to have its cake and eat it too; to uncover more grounded horrors beneath the ghost story while still clinging to the phenomenonology of a haunted house. It's not airtight, in other words, but that's a small quibble in what is, indeed, a surprisingly unique horror and deeply unsettling ghost story.

So unsettling, in fact, that come nightfall I'm going to regret having written all of this and posting the image above, which will fester in my imagination into something far more frightening than it actually is. Scary movies are fun, both in the communal sense and as the endurance test that watching them alone can sometimes become, and my pleasure is tempered with admiration for the filmmaking necessary to elicit these reactions from me. It's that technical aspect I cling to when all the lights are out and objectivity fading; I let myself take vicarious pride in the fact that the movie has scared the shit out of me. It's a small comfort.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2010

I.L.U. Production 3

Off to Home Depot for more paint.

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The single we're doing this for premiered last night:

Posted by David Lowery at 6:24 PM

October 27, 2010

I.L.U Production 2


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Posted by David Lowery at 5:46 PM

October 26, 2010

I.L.U Production 1

Character fabrication, using old copies of the Pioneer script for paper-mache...

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Posted by David Lowery at 1:34 PM

October 25, 2010

Running Out

In recent days, I've thought about writing some thoughts inspired by this interview with producer Jeremy Thomas in The Independent; just this morning, I had a notion to jot down a few notes about this profile of various other independent producers in the new issue of Filmmaker. I spent the last week working while listening to every last one of David Fincher's commentary tracks, with the offhand thought that I might pull some shareworthy quotes from them. Films I've worked on are playing at festivals and winning awards, but the heart of the matter is that I just haven't felt much like writing about movies; I'd rather talk about running, or something like that, because when it comes to filmmaking, all I've got of my own at this particular moment is conjecture, and boy does that feel like an albatross sometimes. When I'm making shots in the dark just to keep my name in the game, it's best to buckle down and focus on the work.

Which, these next two weeks, includes production on a new music video, which I'll endeavor to post photos from as it progresses. It should be picture worthy, partially on account of the nudity it may contain but also because it's another wonderful chance for my headfirst-style of hubris to get the better of me...

Posted by David Lowery at 7:04 PM

October 19, 2010

Gorgon

This German Repulsion poster may have inspired a new script.

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Posted by David Lowery at 12:49 PM

October 18, 2010

Hawkin' Cars

This was made last May, and apparently it's been run on IFC a few times these past few months, but I only just now saw it for myself.

I was mortified first by what appeared to be food on my face (closer examination revealed that I'd just done a piss poor job at shaving) and then by the words coming out of my mouth. Did I really stoop to saying magic and wonder? Geez louise. That said, I'm happy to say that I'm in very good company. Below is a similar bit of portraiture for Bill and Turner Ross:

...and for Jessica Oreck...

...and Michael Langan...

...and there are other good folks over at the IFC Icons page (where my profile took note of Pioneer a good four months before I shot it - someone was doing their homework).This whole Icons thing, it seems, was conceived by Scion to obtain some indie credibility. I was hoping I might get a free car out of the deal, but no such luck.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:27 AM | Comments (3)

October 17, 2010

One Week Later...

This very moment one week ago I married Augustine Frizzell. The love of my life. We met ten years ago when I cast her in a short film; laying in my closet at this moment are reels and reels of poorly directed 16mm film that, if nothing else, provide a fine cornerstone to our old fashioned romance.

We walked down the aisle to the Birth soundtrack and Joanna Newsom. Our first dance was to Bonnie Prince Billy's So Everyone.

I was planning on posting photographs, but we haven't gotten them back yet. So for the time being, here's one I took the morning after, just as the chairs and tables were being picked up.

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And that's it for mushy stuff for the time being.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:43 PM

October 10, 2010

There's Going To Be A Wedding

Today's the day.

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Posted by David Lowery at 12:15 AM

October 1, 2010

Love From Fort Worth

Well, here it is October. James came over this evening to marry the initial sound mix to the initial color-correct of his new film Knife, and mentioned that the Fort Worth Weekly, in their annual Best-Of Issue, has named me Best Local Filmmaker. This, in spite of the fact that I haven't actually lived in Fort Worth in nearly ten years - but I'll take it. Just about any part of Texas wants to lay claim to me, I'll let them divvy me up and hoist me high, and I'll thank them kindly for it.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:20 AM