David Lowery on The One Thing He Needed to Learn and Wish He’d Known Sooner to Better Direct
David Lowery on The One Thing He Needed to Learn and
Wish He’d Known Sooner to Better Direct
David Lowery is one of the American filmmakers standing out from their new generation’s crowd. After making a jump from a $12,000 first feature to Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, he decided to do a children fantasy big budget pic. And when that was done, realizing he had 2 months off before touring, promoting and starting a new feature, he went on writing a $100k feature he would self-finance and shoot with his friends over two weeks.
That micro-budget became A Ghost Story.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his friends are Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, or that his resume is solid enough that he had A24 to distribute the film probably without much of a problem.
But it doesn’t matter really. How many filmmakers who are friends with Mara and Affleck & Co and have the means to finance a $100k feature are doing it, and doing it well enough so they get screened at Festivals and released internationally in less than a year?
You could argue Swanberg or the Duplass Brothers, but what makes Lowery unique at present time is that his lo-fi profile doesn’t prevent him from delivering strong visual pieces, with a poetic cinematography, where silence is a negative space that fills up the story.
David Lowery choices might remind you of Steven Soderbergh’s decision to shoot low-budget Bubble after Ocean’s 12.
Despite his preference for silence and his mortification post-promoting-interviews, Lowery does his best and do delivers great wisdom for filmmakers following his trail and looking up to him. (Somebody lets him know that).
In a short (or cut) interview he gave at BAFTA, Lowery mentioned two points I felt worth archiving and sharing:
What David Lowery Wished He Had Known Before Working on His First Big Feature Film
“The thing that I wish I knew was that no one knows how to make the movie better than I do. Going into your first bigger film, you’re working with a crew that’s made a lot of movies before, and technicians who know how to adjust the lights more than you do, and camera assistants who know how to put a filter on a camera… Everybody knows their job very well but no one knows the movie.
And that’s easy to forget the first time out, that you’re the one who knows the movie. And everyone is counting on you to know that. So even though they may offer suggestions or ideas or assume that the camera is going to be on that corner and they’ll put it there in anticipation of you saying that’s where it needs to be, they’re not directing the movie, you’re directing the movie.
That’s something that surprisingly took me a little while to realize. On my first film, I remember the moment I realized it, I was like ‘Wait a second, I don’t think that’s the right decision, why am I letting someone else make that decision, that’s my decision.” And once I started making the decisions myself and ceased to assume that everyone knew what needed to be done, things started to get a lot better. So that’s what I wish I knew.”
How Changing Scales in Movies Change the Creative Process (or Not)
“The process is always the same, and that’s what I’ve been marveling at on every movie I make. I just wrapped another one two weeks ago and it proved to be true yet again. Regardless of the size of the production, the actual creative process on a day-to-day basis is exactly the same, regardless of scale.
My very first feature St-Nick cost $12,000 to make, and making Pete’s Dragon was exactly the same than making that film. Except that there are all these other things like cranes, and 200 people and a crew, but at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you’ve got yourself, you’ve got the actors, you’ve got a camera and a cinematographer, and that core relationship with those individuals never changes. It’s always the same.
That’s why you try to work with the same people over and over again because you start to build that common language and it makes everything feel even more the same when you have the same family making the films with you.
But it’s remarkable you know, on “A Ghost Story” the whole budget cost probably less than one day of shooting on “Ain’t the Bodies Saints” and who even knows on “Pete’s Dragon” how much each day cost. But on a technical level and on a creative level it’s still exactly the same.”