December 22, 2011
When a delay isn't a delay
They say you won't get an agent in Hollywood until you don't need one, which when you're first starting off is a truism that is difficult to accept. By that same token, I sent one of my first scripts off to the Sundance Writing Labs back in 1999 and when I got the phone call that I'd made it past the first round and they wanted to read my entire script, I told a friend that if I didn't get into the program, I'd just make the movie myself. Implicit in that declaration was a disordered set of priorities, but also an assumption (correct) that when setting out upon a life of filmmaking, you need any leg up you can get.
Now, 12 years later, as this next movie I'm making rolls towards an uncertain but inevitable start date, the script has been invited to the same Screenwriting Labs this coming January. It's an honor and a bi thrill, and implicit in all that is the comfort of knowing that this film is already moving forward, and that the legs up it took to get it there were our own. I don't need the stamp of validation that I thought I did back then (although I'm very happy to have it). What I need is to weather some more creative feedback, now, before we shoot, from every angle, just so that I can walk onto set confident that the material is where I need it to be.
When I'll actually walk onto that set, I cannot at this point say. Six months ago, I'd hoped that we'd be shooting the movie right now. Three months ago, I had my heart set on February. Last week, after meeting with our line producer and going over our budget, we decided to push it. I look forward to sharing the reasons why, and also the wonderful people with whom I'm making these decisions. What's happened is that a particular avenue has opened up, and we've decided it would be a shame not to explore it, even if it takes us right back to where we started a six months ago, which itself was fine place to arrive at the first time.
It's funny to think back to that phone call twelve years ago, which actually wasn't from Sundance at all, nor was it even a phone call. It was a message from my mom, recorded to the voicemail on my pager, telling me that Sundance had called. I was at work in the projection booth, probably tending to The Phantom Menace or something. When I got home, I saw that my mom had jotted down the pertinent info on a piece of paper and tacked it the board above the home phone. Some months later, when I was ultimately turned down, the rejection came by post, on heavy stationary, and was signed by hand. I still have that letter; it's most recently served as a bookmark in my copy of Down And Dirty Pictures, where it still resides.
I stayed true to my word, and did make that movie. You'll never see it.
Posted by David Lowery at December 22, 2011 12:52 PM