David Lowery on Directing: 'The Creative Process is Exactly the Same, Regardless of Scale'
Whether working with a big budget or no budget, Lowery has discovered the same rules of directing always apply.
Like most independent filmmakers, David Lowery has worn almost every hat on a film set as he worked his way up into the role of writer and director of critically acclaimed feature films as varied as Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Pete's Dragon and A Ghost Story. All those years collaborating with fellow creatives has made Lowery both thoughtful and grounded about his experiences directing films. In this BAFTA Guru video, Lowery shares several insights he has learned over the years directing films of various scales.
Some ideas haunt you forever
Lowery made his very first movie when he was seven years old, using a camcorder that belonged to his friend's dad. The subject matter? A ghost story. Lowery was inspired by Poltergeist, a movie he admits that he had not seen at the time. All these years later, that ghost story wouldn't let him go, and we're all grateful for it.
No one knows how to make the movie better than you do
Before directing his first feature film, Lowery says, "The thing I wish I knew [about directing] was that no one knows how to make the movie better than I do." He explains that he thought that other department heads knew their jobs better than he did. Soon, Lowery discovered that instead of leading the way as director, he was letting those department heads make decisions for him. Once Lowery realized that he had to lead the crew with his vision, he discovered that the process of directing went much more smoothly. Lowery has carried this lesson with him as he has taken on much larger projects with much bigger crews like Pete's Dragon.
The scale of the film doesn't change the creative process
Lowery says he is still amazed to discover after each film that he directs, no matter how big or small, the creative process is always the same. "My very first feature St. Nick cost $12,000 to make, and...making Pete's Dragon was exactly the same as making that film." Lowery acknowledges that a large studio feature like Pete's Dragon comes with considerably more equipment and crew than a no-budget feature, but as a director, his primary relationships on set are with the cinematographer and the actors, and that dynamic never changes. Maybe this is why Lowery moves so easily between large scale and small scale projects as his filmmaking career continues to grow.
We look forward to Lowery's next film, regardless of scale.
To learn more about Lowery's process of directing A Ghost Story, check out our in-depth interview with him about the making of one of the most inventive and moving films of 2017.