David Lowery had directed a feature before, but never like this.
“You show up on day one and there’s 50 trucks and a crew you’ve never met,” the young helmer says of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” a Southern Gothic-tinged drama set to bow in competition at Sundance. “It was strange at first. I’m used to making films for $15,000 or less.”
He’s not kidding. Lowery’s last movie, 2009 indie “St. Nick,” was a nearly dialogue-free story of two young siblings who run away from home and try to survive on their own. It cost $12,000.
The self-taught filmmaker (“I was always stubbornly independent; I never went to film school”) started out learning the ropes with P.A. gigs and assistant director stints, gravitating toward editing and amassing a string of credits as a splicer.
“There’s an alchemy to it,” he says of editing. “You’re taking things that already exist and smashing them together to make something new. For me, that’s where the magic in film comes from.”
“St. Nick” preem-ed at South by Southwest, and that film plus the Sundance 2011 showcase of his follow-up short “Pioneer” — about a father telling his son an epic bedtime story — paved the way for “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” “Pioneer” producers Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston took the brewing “Bodies” to the Sundance producers lab, and Lowery subsequently worked on the script as part of Sundance’s screenwriters lab, later casting Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster to star.
Lowery had originally wanted to pen an action pic, and traces remain in the final product. But eventually he pared the tale back to the archetypal bones that would let him explore the facets of filmmaking that have always attracted him.
“What interests me is the characters,” he says. “I want to watch them in all the little moments between the big moments.”
Inspired by: Paul Thomas Anderson (“He’s matured so much from film to film, and it pushed me to mature, too”), Robert Altman (especially “McCabe & Mrs. Miller”), David Fincher (“because he makes movies I could never make”).
Reps: Agents: Craig Kestel and David Karp (WME); Lawyer: Victoria Cook (Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz)