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Shane Carruth Discusses Visuals, Techniques, and 'Walden' in 'Upstream Color' Q&A

04.16.13 @ 10:45AM Tags : , , , ,

Back in January, we couldn’t catch up with Shane Carruth for our Sundance 2013 interviews (we tried!) to learn about his sophomore effort, Upstream Color. Now that Carruth has launched his self-distribution of Upstream Color in theatres with digital streaming and downloads coming on May 7, 2013, the writer-producer-director-actor-editor-cinematographer-camera operator-composer opened up a little bit about his film in a Q&A with Film Society of Lincoln Center as part of its New Directors/New Films series.

To set the stage, here’s the trailer for Upstream Color, currently rolling out its platform release in U.S. theatres:

In this first clip from the New Directors/New Films’ Q&A, Carruth describes how his storytelling for this film led him to use shallow depth of field.

In the next clip, Carruth discusses his desire (and struggle) to prepare so thoroughly with his collaborators that he and his filmmaking team can find ways to improvise within the thematic structure of the film.

In this final clip, Carruth reveals the unintentional connections that his script initially had with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and how he and his creative team then incorporated Walden into the fabric of the film.

If you have 30 minutes and you’re looking for the complete Q&A with Shane Carruth about Upstream Color, check it out below.

Check out the official website for Upstream Color to see if and when it may be playing in your area, or check it out on May 7 when it becomes available for digital streaming and download via Amazon, iTunes or directly from the Upstream Color website (powered by VHX).

Do you find Carruth’s Q&A helpful when trying to understand his new film’s narrative, or do you prefer to tackle and debate the meaning of a film like Upstream Color without the specific guidance of the writer/director? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments.

Link: Film Society of Lincoln Center – YouTube Channel


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 40 COMMENTS

  • I’m about to jump ship from the GH2 to the BMCC, but I’m still going to watch this with interest.
    That little powerhouse served me well!

  • Skinny Pete on 04.16.13 @ 12:24PM

    The only reason people pay attention to him is because he makes feature films with consumer-level cameras, it’s a novelty that the gear-focused film blogs eat up, he’s the mascot and poster-child for the reduser/NFS crowd, the ones that spend all their time obsessing over gear and don’t really make any original films. But what about his actual films? Primer’s low budget-ness and rough aesthetic made it really hard for one to follow the complicated story; and upstream color, from what ive seen of it online and such, just seems like your run of the mill dramatic indie feature that may or may not get distributed. Oh, and the banding is super harsh in some shots. Guess you should have used something better than a gh2, mr. carruth

    • Hi Skinny, you forgot to add the link to your feature film.

    • First of all, Carruth’s movies are not for everyone and typically don’t get a middle of the road response. Second, Primer is an excellent film despite its rough execution. I think the less than perfect visuals actually fit the story and thematic content of the film (accidentally, but whatever) . Third, you really shouldn’t be judging Upstream Color on the trailers. They don’t give any indication of what the experience of seeing the film is like and on a theater sized screen with good audio there isn’t a film in recent memory that can compare.

      • This.

        People like to sling mud around, the reason why people champion him is not because he uses “low budget gear” but because he is an inspiration to admire. He alone is Director/Producer/Writer/Actor and it helps him keep his integrity as a film maker to keep his vision of the film intact without having to filter himself through executives. Say what you will, but he is the exactly what he is: an indie film maker. There could be alot of reasons why he went with the GH2 over say a Red, but like what he does, he uses the camera he can afford with the most bang for buck for what the budget demanded, it is a tool after all.

        You may not like his films, but you have to give him credit for getting his work out there using very low budget means, if not then you’re really just being naive and ignorant.

    • Agreed Skinny. I think you’ll find this review spot on:

    • Wait… Primer was filmed on 16mm. Off the top of my head I can name several filmmakers who shot their first feature on 16mm or Super 16mm: John Sayles, John Cassavetes, Spike Lee, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant, etc.
      So your argument is flawed. Carruth may not be to everyone’s taste but to knock him based on technical specs is like criticizing a vegetarian meal for lacking venison. The film either engages you or it doesn’t.

      (And I didn’t realize the RED camera was prosumer — Quick! somebody tell that to Jeff Cronenweth.)

      Upstream Color was filmed with the camera that fit the aesthetic and budget. I looked closely for any banding on my second viewing. It was pristine. Filmed with a GH 2?! I didn’t notice on first viewing and it didn’t change my opinion on the second. The film is pure image and sound and emotion.

    • The guy wanted to make a film, so he taught himself how to do it. I applaud him for that. Primer was a brilliant example of original moviemaking, regardless of what he used to shoot it. That’s the reason why I pay attention to him, no matter what your quick judgement of him and his work may be.

    • I’ve now caught this trailer before a couple of movies over the past month and everybody that’s seen it with me has been incredibly intrigued in seeing this film. None of them know anything about cameras or the production end of things, instead they genuinely enjoyed the trailer and wanted to see the movie.

      I get your critique, but I think it makes too many generalizations. It’s always neat for people like us to see what our peers are doing with limited resources, and yes we can nitpick the flaws of any camera used, but I really don’t think this film is going to be perceived by the general public as the GH2 movie. I’ve also yet to have a friend that didn’t work in production complain about banding in a movie. I think the trailer looks awesome and I can’t wait to see this movie.

    • Dana Yurcisin on 04.16.13 @ 2:51PM

      Skinny Pete,

      You should probably wait until you see a film before you start making assumptions. If you think the trailers and such paint it as a “run-of-the-mill dramatic feature”, then you should definitely see it as you’ll be even more surprised than most people. I’ve seen some strange films in my day, but this is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. You may hate it, you may like it, but one thing you absolutely can’t say is that Carruth isn’t original. I think that’s why he has so many fans, not just because of the camera he decides to use (which, by the way, looked absolutely stunning on the big screen. I don’t think I noticed a speck of noise in the entire film, let alone any other digital artifacts).

    • I think you’re part of the problem of the online filmmaking community. It’s not about having the greatest gear. It’s about the work you make.

    • It’s interesting. He actually tried to hide all the gear he used… he didn’t even want people to know what it was shot on or the budget. I asked Shane at Sundance, but he wouldn’t go into it, not even a little bit. The reason for this, can be summed up by your close-minded comment: “The only reason people pay attention to him is because he makes feature films with consumer-level cameras”.

      He could care LESS guy, about what it was shot on, or who knows about it… it’s this site and other blogs which “found out” and then disseminated the knowledge around the net. He advocates more than any other indie director I know to judge the film based its merits as a film, not a “$7000″ production shot on so and so camera… and look what came out of such a tiny budget!

      Seriously… get over yourself.

    • Ha Ha Ha Ha. That was a good laugh. I very much enjoyed Primer’s complicated story. That led me to watch it 3 or 4 times, unlike 95% of what Hollywood is delivering. Don’t knock Mr. Caruth just because he isn’t following the plot points of a Pixar movie. And as far as shooting on the Gh2 – How many mentions about the Gh2 were in this article? Maybe I missed them?

    • Super 16mm consumer level… never was never will be…..

    • I got to see this film at the Angelika theater in Dallas, so i’m lucky to be near to one of the few theaters that its appearing in. But when it comes to using consumer cameras instead of cinema cameras, its all relevant to what your shooting. And in no way is Upstream a novelty because it was shot on a gh2. You could say the sa,e about the movie “Like Crazy” which had an actual film budget and chose to shoot on a 7d with just a couple lenses. because thats what they wanted it to look like. People don’t see films for beautiful look, they watch it for the stories.

  • I want to see this movie.

  • If only Walden was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson and not Henry David Thoreau…!

    • Christopher Boone on 04.16.13 @ 1:39PM

      Good catch! My mind was obviously elsewhere this AM. I wish I could say I was checking to see who was reading the post carefully, but I was just being an idiot.

  • Christopher on 04.16.13 @ 2:00PM

    Please stop giving this guy press. He squandered any bit of caring I had for him long ago. You guys that want to jump on Skinny Pete for his opinion need to stop generalizing. It’s not a hater just dissing on some pretentious indie filmmaker. Every bit is true. “Gay cowboys eating pudding.” Perhaps he should look into making the sequel to “Gummo”. Right up his alley.

    • What’s wrong with Gummo?

    • I’m thinking that you are actually Skinny Pete… only a moron would stick up for anybody with a comment that ridiculous. There was zero substantive value in what he had to say. No helpful criticisms… nothing enlightening or interesting… just mud.

    • Maybe you should read his comment again, there is alot of hate and unsubstantial criticism. Judging a movie by the trailer alone, putting down the quality of the film because of what it was shot with instead of the most important thing, the narrative, which he hasnt seen yet…

    • Jerome (also..but not the other jerome) on 04.16.13 @ 8:26PM

      What did Shane Carruth do to you Christopher? How has he so personally attacked you to “squander your caring you had for him”? He made a film in the wastelands that are the Dallas Tx suburbs and has somehow made a career for himself. That is pretty impressive. Primer was a well written script and executed competently. He nearly shot a 1:1 ratio for that movie. Nothing was shot except what was needed to tell the story. How is making a movie that people enjoy pretentious? Upstream Color was a crazy Techno-punk Terrence Malick mind boggler that was as thought provoking as it was pretty to look at. It was awesome to watch and even more fun to talk about with my friends afterward. How pretentious is that? What is pretentious about him? He doesn’t seem to have anything to say that is anymore or less pretentious than Soderbergh or any other director doing a Q and A. You sound like an entitled little jealous baby.

    • Skinny Pete on 04.17.13 @ 3:09AM

      Dont you dare talk shit about Gummo

    • Skinny Pete didn’t see the movie, so all he is doing is talking shit. Also having such an attitude towards reality could be described as beind stupid.

      How about you Christopher? Did YOU see the movie?

  • Btw Upstream color broke $100,000 in boxoffice according to boxofficemojo

  • Happy trolling Skinny.

  • I find it hard to believe that someone would have the audacity to criticize a film they haven’t even seen! I’m sorry, but that fact renders most of Skinny’s commentary null and void.

    Skinny makes one fairly relevant point that creators often celebrate (or alternately, denigrate) a work based on the gear employed. It happens in the music recording field, too. In my mind it’s entirely legitimate to have that discussion, but it steers toward error when it’s assumed that gear “quality” necessarily affects artistry, or even technical quality, for that matter. Do we celebrate or ridicule someone like Maya Deren because she used a used spring-wound 16mm Bolex?