David Lowery is a pretty great interview. Between his detailed answers and enthusiasm for film, “I loved The Beguiled“, “I’m excited to see smaller movies at theatre, but also Spiderman: Homecoming, and this weekend Dunkirk and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets“, he shares a deep affinity for film and filmmakers (and of journalists). His film A Ghost Story is a real mind-bender though quite insightful. He was excited that great films are being released year-round beyond just the “Award Season”. Here is a snippet of our conversation as a part of a small roundtable with local journalists in downtown Toronto.
Brief Take: Why was it so important to work again with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck?
David Lowery: One of the main reasons I wanted to have them on screen together again is that they are so good together. They have a really strong chemistry. They really like each other. They have a sense of a history to them, even though they’ve never been in a relationship together, but they feel like they have, when they’re around each other. And that’s something that you get as a director, you just want to utilize, you want to use it. I’ve noticed that the first time they worked together, that we shot a lot more footage, because they are so good together. When it came time to make this movie, and to cast these roles, we wanted a pair of actors that felt like an on-screen couple and I also wanted two actors that would be trusting me, because I knew I would be asking a lot of them in this film. It helps that we’re just friends. Because I could reach out to them as friends and say, “hey, we’re making this weird movie in Texas this summer”, and they want to be a part of it. They were able to respond as friends. They were able to come and hang out for the summer and make a cool movie. It was nice to have the pressures of the industry off our shoulders and just make something cool together.
BT: What is the significance of the Prognosticator scene with Will Oldham?
DL: That scene came about while I was writing the movie because I just felt like it was time to have some dialogue. *laughing* It just felt like the right time for someone to talk about something. And the right thing to talk about seemed to be this existential dilemma that I myself was having at that point in my life. I was very aware of own mortality and my own seeming meaninglessness in the face of existence and in the fact that existence seemed to not have a rosy future. I felt like the world was going to end sooner than anyone would like and I was just feeling very depressed and fatalistic. And I didn’t like that. I wanted to find a way to find hope in all of the ills of the world. So that monologue is representative of my own pursuit of a way to find peace and solace, and once I had written it, it just felt natural to offer it to Will because we had made one film before in which he had delivered an epic monologue. I knew he could do it. I think that every singer-songwriter is a storyteller and for an actor to be able to hold the screen for eight minutes, with no one else speaking, they have to be a good storyteller. So we asked Will, thankfully he said yes, this is the third time we have collaborated, and I am looking forward to continuing that collaboration in the future in one way or the other. He’s one of my favourite musicians and it’s a real honour to get to have him be a part of this film and to have that the third film that we worked on together. I’m lucky that he trusted me and keep doing movies with me.
He read the monologue word for word, every syllable, every pause was what was written. He really respects what is on the page in a way that is meaningful to me. Normally I’m fine with an actor changing it to fit their personal cadence, or how they want to perform the scene, but it was also really great to see what I had written could be respected and could be translated in such a literal fashion, and still work, that was a real gift to me as a director.
BT: Why was it so important to work with A24?
DL: We were just starting to talk to them at the latter stages of the Moonlight Oscars campaign, I guess actually the early stages of it. We first told them about the movie in November. So they were aware of it. Because we were big fans of it, we wanted them to be aware of it because we felt like this was a movie they could handle. They would know how to market it and how to get it out there. We kept the conversation going, and at a certain point we showed it to them and they were into it, and that was that. We didn’t show it to anybody else and we were just happy to go with them, because we knew it would be right home for the film. They put out some of my favourite movies. They really know how to handle a specific type of movie and to do justice that a certain type of film. So to be amongst those titles is a great honour.
BT: What is the significance of the smaller ‘a’ in the title A Ghost Story?
DL: The titles were all drawn by me *laughing* very late in the game. Then I just took them to Photoshop and make them look nice. So at the beginning, I wanted the “Ghost Story” part to be bigger and the “A” to be smaller. Each time, the kerning is a little bit different on each letter. At the end, it was just exactly as I had written it and literally a scan of a piece of paper on which I wrote it.
A Ghost Story opens in Toronto and Vancouver this Friday and August 4th in Montreal.