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May 4, 2015

Wrapped

I'm writing this on an airplane back to the States, which is just about as sentimental a spot as you might ever find me. This comes after two days in Wellington in which we wandered about, ate at our favorite haunts, watched It Follows at the Paramount Theater and packed and repacked six months worth of stuff.

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What happened after that last shot on Thursday was: the wrap party, which began almost as soon as we called cut. It went down at our unit base in Tapanui, which I think was a school or at least a school-like building. I never went to my high school prom, but I imagine it was something like this, full of purple lights and music and people sneaking off into the dark. I also skipped my high school graduation, and I think this might just as capably fill in for that non-memory: a celebration of something momentous having passed that no one who wasn't part of it will ever appreciate, with all the commensurate hugs and well-wishings and bittersweet partings that always mark such turned corners. The whole town of Tapanui was invited. In the school auditorium a few speeches were made, first by our wonderful producers Barrie Osborne and Jim Whitaker and then by me, as I fumbled my way through a thank you that couldn't come close to expressing how grateful I really was. To paraphrase a quote that’ll never cease to be applicable, I loved every damn minute with this crew.

We screened a gag reel that was unexpectedly hilarious, although it'll never be as funny to anyone else as it was to us. We also showed that scene that I'd mentioned a week or two ago, the one I was excited to show folks, and I think it had the desired effect. There was a slide-show of behind-the-scenes photos (set, bizarrely, to Air's Sexy Boy). I sat through it all three times and then got ready to leave, as the goodbyes were starting to stack up.

We walked down the street to the Yellow Diner, which was serving coffee and deserts to anyone who stopped in. A few folks were already there, including Barrie. Barrie is a great producer, and also a great storyteller; countless were the lunches and van rides in which he held us enthralled with stories from Apocalypse Now or Sorcerer or The Lord Of The Rings; now he's got one more to tell, and I'm honored to be a part of it. We were both heading back to Wellington before returning to the US, but he was stopping off in Sydney for the weekend for a family reunion and we'd miss each other. We hugged and said our farewells. He asked me what building I'd be editing in when I got back to the Disney lot. I told him and he grinned and said "I'll come find you!"

* * *

The next morning we did the best thing I could think of to celebrate wrapping: we went and jumped off the Kawarau Bridge, the birth place of bungee. It was as awesome as I'd hoped. Augustine loved it so much she went twice.

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Then we drove to Invercargill and had Indian food with Brooke and Eric, and the first bit of post partum sadness started to hit. The following morning we flew back to Wellington, and that afternoon Augustine and I went on a three-hour hike up to Mr. Victoria in search of the locations we'd filmed at way back in Week 1. We found them, finally, and as expected it was as if we'd never been there. The only trace of our production I could find were these tiny traces of red pigment on a tree. A plot point, mostly faded away.

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We’re three hours over the ocean now. Inherent Vice is playing on my little screen and we’re rolling through some heavy ups and downs. I’ve been looking forward to this hermetically sealed respite for a long time, except now I don’t feel like resting. I keep looking for little moments to make a big deal out of. Making movies is so weird! Half the time when you’re in the middle of it you think it’s the stupidest thing in the world (and I don’t mean that facetiously - you literally wonder why in the name of all that is holy anyone would want to do this) and then the moment it’s over you get all mushy. You’ve got this team of people working incredibly hard, together, under incredibly close circumstances - and then it all just stops, as it must, and everyone goes their own ways and that’s that. It’s tempting to try and swallow the sentimentality of it all, to look at it as a necessary step in the long process of trying to make something great; it’s just as easy to luxuriate in the same, to hang on tight to the feelings and hope they won’t diminish before you’re through with them. That tact is all your own; the other will one day be inclusive of everyone else, an everyone else that in full-circle fashion will include all those folks who at this moment you’re having a great deal of trouble getting used to not seeing at breakfast every morning. Moving from this step to the next gets a whole lot easier when I think about making this great for them.

* * *

What I said early on remained true: shooting this movie felt just as small and handcrafted as any I’ve ever I’ve ever made. It just went on for a whole lot longer. On indie movies you have to search for financing and on studio movies you have to manage notes from upstairs - both necessary travails which, once set aside, still leaves you sitting in the same pretty okay boat. There was an evening last month, after a particularly grueling week, when I was chatting with Jim about how much it felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants. “I used to think,” I told him, “that on a studio movie you wouldn’t have to worry about being rushed or not having enough time or not being able to get the things you need to make the movie work; but it’s starting to seem like those things have less to do with whether the movie is big or small and more like they're just part of making a movie.”

A momentary pause, and then…

“Yep.”

* * *

I took a six mile run around the bay, boarded my plane and as of this moment I'm back in Texas, surrounded by cats who seem to actually remember me. Post-production starts in full force on the 18th. Time to catch up on some movies.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:55 AM