By Elliot Norton
When asked why he did so many takes, Stanley Kubrick once said that he was waiting for "the magic" - a feeling that can arrive on a movie set when the actors are focused; the crew is invested; and the scene is exceeding expectations. It's almost like group meditation: a large collection of people, all momentarily unifying for one specific purpose.
Kubrick's "magic" is particularly exciting for a director. So much of film-making is executing intentions, figuring a way to put what's in your mind on the screen. On a good day you're usually operating between 50 and 70 percent, which is by no means a bad percentage. The pursuit of perfection will always be the reason to do something in the first place. But, on the best days the perfection you've been searching for seems unexpectedly within your grasp. You end up thinking, "This is better than what I intended!"
So far, it has happened on LowerGentry sets three times. Twice was while shooting our web series, Canyon County. The first time, however, was the one that sincerely gobsmacked me - when I suddenly understood what Kubrick was talking about. It was while we were shooting the second confrontation scene in We Speak. Both of the film's main actors - David Cowan and Zoë Kelly - were nothing but fantastic the entire shoot, but during that particular evening, they each found another plateau. Through techniques that I don't quite understand, they managed to fully embody their characters' perspective. David was truly angry (not pretending to be Cormac being angry), and Zoë cried (something she never even discussed during rehearsals). Shot after shot, take after take - of a 15 page scene no less - I remained in awe of what these two actors were doing.
After we wrapped, I asked Zoë why she decided to cry during the scene. "It was perfect," I said. "You didn't overdo it. It looked like you were holding back tears to keep your composure." She looked at me perplexed. "I was crying?" she asked.
Looking back on We Speak, we're most proud of the direction we chose to take. Comparing Brown Truck to this, there couldn't be two projects that are more dissimilar. Sure, they share a 1990s, indie-film aesthetic, but where Brown Truck strove for philosophy at the cost of characters, We Speak placed characters above all else. One was Hard to be a God, while the other was Linklater. I don't say which is better, but executing both in the space of two years gave us the confidence to begin writing and filming other ideas. We realized that the LowerGentry crew was never going to be shackled to any particular genre. Action. Sci-Fi. Drama. Comedy. It didn't really matter. What became important - what is still the most important - is finding moments when the actors and crew can come together and create something that is unexpected, something that is better than our intentions. With We Speak, we started a lifelong search for "the magic."