Early Hauntings

January 31, 2017

I was tracing the history of bedsheet ghosts in movies and media during an interview the other day, but I think my lifelong love of all things ghostly surely began with the Gus Was A Friendly Ghost books by Jane Thayer.

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This picture above and the one below are both shockingly representative of a scene in A Ghost Story!

I also love that the title contains the word Was, putting the series definitively in the past tense: Gus Was A Friendly Ghost. That sort of contextual titling is like catnip to me! I need to go to my parents' house and find these. Maybe the one where Gus finds a baby ghost in a crib would be good fodder for a sequel.

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Posted by David Lowery at 4:00 PM

Sundance Day 7

January 26, 2017

Now I'm heading home. Over the past seven days, the world got a whole lot worse, but up in this snowy mountain hamlet a little bit of optimism burned bright. I haven't figured out quite how to use it yet, but at least we've still got it.

A Ghost Story entered that world in the best way possible. I'm overwhelmed by the response. I think we all are. I'm still not reading reviews, still not logging into twitter, but the word of mouth has crept my way and I can't quite believe it. This photo, taken by the wonderful Shawn Bannon as we walked home from the premiere, sums up the experience.

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Thank you to everyone who went to see it, who wrote about it, who talked about it in line and on shuttles. And thanks to A24 for supporting us and also for making sure the party later that night was full of pie. Now it's time to lock this curious spirit up, to be released again at a later date...

I also saw a lot of amazing short films. That was an amazing experience in its own right. My fellow jurors, Patton Oswalt and Shirley Kurata, spent many hours in the dark together, many car rides to and from theaters marveling at the work we were seeing. Picking the winners basically came down to a lot of well-argued coin flips - these movies were all so good! You can see the winners we chose here, along with Patton's amazing intro:

I also squeezed in seven feature films: I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore (timely title!), Person To Person, The Yellow Birds, Beach Rats, Where Is Kyra, Get Out and The Novitiate. I could have sat through a dozen more, but alas, it's time to get out of this bubble and get back to Texas and make The Old Man & The Gun - a movie whose title basically represents everything that's wrong with America. Hopefully I can figure out a way to justify it.

Posted by David Lowery at 9:06 PM

Sundance Day 1

January 18, 2017

Was it really nine years ago that I made my first trip here? That is insane to me. I am currently cozy in bed in my room at Sundance, resting up before the mad rush of the next six days. In addition to representing A Ghost Story, I am also on the Short Film Jury, my duties to which kick off one hour from now with the first of six blocks of films. I always try to see short films at festivals, and I'm very excited that for once I'll be able to see all of them.

A Ghost Story premieres on Sunday. About it's release into the world, I am curious. Slightly nervous. But confident. I'm read for whatever reactions come our way.

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We'll see how it all shakes out in a few days. Until then, I'm going to go watch a bunch of shorts, as many features as I can squeeze in, and try not to think too much about the fact that our next movie starts shooting in just seven weeks in Ohio...

Posted by David Lowery at 1:52 PM

The Best of 2016

December 31, 2016

After a few years off, I decided to make a top ten list this year.

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You can read it in its entirety over at Indiewire.

I saw 235 movies this year, which is 31 more than last year. Over half of them theatrically. I'm gonna try to maintain this upwards trajectory!

Posted by David Lowery at 11:12 PM

A Ghost Movie and a Marathon

December 12, 2016

Last spring, I had an idea for a little movie about a ghost haunting a house for 200 years. I wrote it down, and it came out to about ten pages long. A week later those ten pages had become thirty, and I called Toby and James and suggested that there might be an opportunity to shoot them over the summer. There was a window of about a month and a half between the time we finished Pete's Dragon and the run up to its release, and surely, I thought, that would be enough time to make a small, self-financed St. Nick-scale movie.

And so we did just that (although it turned out a littler bigger than St. Nick). I finished post-production on Pete's Dragon on June 10th, and at sunrise on June 12th I was back in Texas with a small but intrepid crew of friends, shooting the first scene of what was until recently simply called The Ghost Movie. The image of our lead character below is from this first day of shooting.

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We carried on from there, shooting into July and then regrouping again in late August to pick up a few necessary pieces. I must admit, it was a terrifying, gut wrenching experience. I took to gnawing on my finger in front of the monitor, agonizing on a shot-by-shot and second-by-second basis over whether this experiment was going to work out and become something more than an experiment. The questions one normally works out during prep were being discovered and solved as we were filming them. At times the whole endeavor felt flat-out ridiculous, the dumbest idea imaginable, and I was just waiting for someone to pull the plug and tell me it was terrible. There were plenty of times when that would have been a relief! But it never happened. And by and by the bad, awkward stuff started to turn good, more quickly and in greater quantities. We started to figure out what the movie was, and how to make it, and by the time we finally wrapped (technically just over a week ago, since we did a few pickups on December 9th), we knew what we were doing.

And the movie does work. The almost-finished product is strange and challenging and leaves me with a feeling I can't quite describe. I made it, and it still surprises me every time I watch it. I saw a blog recently query whether it would be more art-house friendly than ATBS was, and I don't know how to answer that question. I think it's a better film than ATBS, but it's also smaller, stranger and probably a great deal more alienating. There will be plenty of people who call it pretentious, plenty more who walk out at a very specific point about twenty minutes in, and others who will shrug it off, for whom it will be neither here nor there. But some people will love it, and I'm excited for them to discover it. Our joke pitch for the project was Beetlejuice as remade by Apichatpong Werathesakul. It didn't turn out like that, but still, that's sorta the spirit in which me made the film, and if that appeals to you, you might be in our target audience.

It's called A Ghost Story but in my head I still just call it The Ghost Movie. It premieres next month at Sundance, a stamp of validation for which I am immensely grateful. Great thanks to Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Andrew Droz Palermo, Annell Brodeur, David Pink, Jade Healy, Tom Walker, Daniel Hart, Bret Curry, Casey, Rooney, Will and the rest of our amazing crew and cast for realizing this crazy idea with me. I couldn't have done this alone, and I thank everyone for helping me maintain confidence when the going got crazy.

* * *

Equally prominent on the personal achievement front, Toby and I ran the Dallas Marathon yesterday. It was the second time for both of us, having first run it in 2011. It was awesome. Horrifically painful towards the end, but awesome all the same. The weather was perfect, and we both shaved considerable time off our first go-rounds, which given that we're both five years older makes us feel a whole lot better about the passage of time and whatnot (I finished in 4:01:57, which is about 12 minutes faster than my first one).

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Look at those crazy eyes as I crossed the finish line! My body is still deep in the process of ceasing to hurt, but already the rose-colored glasses have come on and I'm thinking about waiting a whole lot less than five years to run one again. It's a microcosm of life, wrapped up in one four hour bundle of joy and ardor and blistered toenails.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:01 PM

Toby Tours Tapanui

November 28, 2016

And now here we are at the tail end of November. This time last year I'd just returned from New Zealand, where we went to get a few pickups (and to shoot the ending, once we were confident we could safely cut Pete's hair), and now here we are a day away from Pete's Dragon hitting home video. It'll be on DVD, Blu-Ray and iTunes at midnight tonight, thus bringing to an official close a truly wonderful adventure in moviemaking.

One of the features on the Blu-Ray was pulled from this very page. The producers of the extra features asked me if I'd be willing to narrate some of my blog entries for a short behind-the-scenes feature. I agreed, and the end result is sort of like a family-friendly version of Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse. I hate the sound of my own voice so much that I had to watch it without sound (I sound about as thrilled to be reading my own journal as Eleanor Coppola did), but hopefully it's a nice personal spin on the traditional behind-the-scenes doc. There's also a lovely little feature about Elliot that makes it explicitly clear that he is vegetarian. Which is important to me.

One thing that isn't on the DVD is the following little video, which I am very fond of. While we were location scouting, I'd sometimes shoot mock-ups of scenes just to get a handle on them. This one was notable because it wound up being recreated almost shot-for-shot in the finished film.

The song featured here is the original demo of Nobody Knows by Andrew Tinker and Toby Halbrooks, which was performed in the film by The Lumineers.

* * *

Life these days has returned to a strangely comforting simulacrum of where I was in 2011. The quotidian details of my day-to-days are almost exactly the same as they were when I made this short film. I'm back in Dallas. Autumn is in full swing. I spend my days writing a lot, with a bit of editing mixed in. I'm still drinking a lot of coffee, still procrastinating online (although it's been almost six months since I signed into Twitter and I still have no plans to return). And I'm training for a marathon again. The big day is less than two weeks away. I'm just about ready. Just about the only difference between now and five years ago is that the world feels like it's going down in regressive flames, which is another reason why I'm running now more than ever. Have to maintain that equilibrium.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:53 PM