Film Class Goes Behind the Screens

Upper School Film Studies and Journalism teacher Glenys Quick’s film classes have the privilege of talking to successful filmmaker David Lowery

The up-and-coming independent filmmaker David Lowery, who is currently directing “Our Man” starring Robert Redford and the sci-fi thriller “To Be Two” starring Casey Affleck, is coming to Hockaday on Friday afternoon to speak with the film students and to guide them on how to improve their filmmaking.

Lowery will also discuss his journey as a filmmaker and how movies contribute to students’ everyday lives.

Film class teacher Glenys Quick got in touch with Lowery because one of her husband’s relatives, Philip Cowan, is the Executive Director of Grand Cinema, a non-profit art-house theater located in Tacoma, Wash. The theater honored Lowery as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Films” in 2011 and has shown many of Lowery’s films, including “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (2013) and “Pioneer” (2011).

The independent filmmaker never enrolled in a film class in high school, and he majored in English while at the University of Texas at Dallas, not Film Studies. However, while he was not studying or attending classes, he watched and filmed movies.

From a very young age, Lowery knew he wanted to become a filmmaker.

“I knew that I would be a student of cinema, whether I was in the classroom or not,” he said.

Although Lowery believes his greatest accomplishment is “the fact that I’ve finally managed to make a living doing what I love.”

He writes the script for his films in different sittings and rarely finishes a script in less than a couple of months. He strives to write the scripts for his different films all at once but claims that he does not have enough focus.

Yet his most recent script for a movie, which he hopes to release at the end of 2014, took a mere three weeks to complete, a sweeping record for him.

He advised that even during writer’s block, one should keep trying. “It’s not going to get done until you push through those frustrating moments,” he said.

But Lowery noted that working with actors is in fact the hardest part of filmmaking.

“It’s difficult for me to vocalize my ideas, and when you’re directing actors, you often need to be able to provide very clear and concise direction in between takes on the spur of a moment,” he said.

Rather than giving up, he finds a solution to the problem by hiring actors who can cooperate easily with him and understand his visions.

The audience for Lowery’s films has broadened to a wider audience over time to “everyone from students to grandparents,” even though they are “art-house film[s],” as he put it.

“I’ve always made movies for people who love movies, but the degree to which that love balances between art and entertainment has been changing,” he said.

Lowery strives “to make films that people remember—I want to make movies that get stuck in your throat, so to speak, that don’t go down easy.”

Sophomore film student Sadie Lidji looks forward to Lowery’s visit. She is excited for the business and distribution aspects of the filmmaking industry because even though they are “less glamorous,” she said, they are essential to filmmaking.

Lowery said this less glamorous side of exposing a film to the world is something that people do not often think about. This involves a lot of traveling and attending of screenings, which he described as both “an incredible luxury” and something “incredibly exhausting.”

Quick said she is eager for his visit because of his experience in various parts of filmmaking such as writing, editing, cinematography and directing.

The students also value the experience that Lowery as a filmmaker will bring. “[Filmmakers] have perspective and experience, regarding both creativity and business. They know what works and what doesn’t,” Lidji said.

“A great film will give us insight into ourselves and those around us,” Lowery said, “ and we’ll come out the other end with the memory of an experience that will give valuable context to something that’s happening, has happened or will happen.”

– Charlsea Lamb