David Lowery
Please explain what just happened.

The AC just stopped working in my house. Dire circumstances in Texas in July.


What is your earliest memory?

Playing with some toy trucks in a sandbox outside a red brick building. I think I was two. This memory might have been significantly bolstered by photographs of the same event. If so, then my other first memory is my grandmother’s face.


If you weren’t a writer/director, what other profession would you choose?

A carpenter, which is what my dad was before he moved into academia. He helped me build a shelf once and it was a momentously satisfying endeavor.


Describe a typical work day.

I actually made a short film about this!



Is there a time you wish you’d lied?

Not that I can think of. I’ve always prized honesty. That being said, I am a self-confessed fibber and – how shall I put it –  an opportunistic elaborator of the truth.


What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

You do have enough time to finish college. And those girls probably did want to go out with you. If you’d only asked.




If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?

Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn, from which the song “I Know” is the only one I’d need.


What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?

These days, I am trying to pretend that I don’t visit any websites at all. If anyone were to witness the chronic clicking spells into which I fall, they’d be as disappointed as I am to see that the contents of my browsing contain almost nothing of any value whatsoever. The new film website The Dissolve looks appealing, however.


From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

Knowing that other people I admire are working on new things is a surefire way to get me fired up about my own stuff.




Name three books that have impacted your life.

It’s really tempting with a question like this to cite something like Moby Dick alongside the Terminator 2 novelization, but I’ll go with The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy, Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf, and the graphic novel The Crow, by J. O’Barr, all of which had profoundly measurable effects on my life in the periods in which I read them. Interestingly, in the past five years, I’ve been reading a lot more, but the seismic activity amongst my literary pursuits has been lesser – perhaps because I’ve become the person I’ll be for the rest of my life?


If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?

This is a tricky question, one which requires that any potential answer be freed of all current relevance. I need something inconsequential. My best answer, ironically, might be my memory of the night of September 10th, 2001. It was really spectacular; a late summer evening, full of youthful abandonment and early flirtations that were too fleeting to catalog here. It was, in short, a night full of guileless promise, and it ended with me watching Rushmore on VHS and taking a rare moment to think about how literally happy I was with everything. In the days and weeks to come, I would think about how ridiculously cliched it was that such an instance fell on that particular date, and how if I told anyone about it they’d assume the significance of the moment only came in hindsight – but it didn’t.


How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

Kevin Bacon was in Sleepers with Brad Pitt who was in Assassination Of Jesse James with Casey Affleck who is in my movie. Is that two degrees? This is awesome.



What makes you feel most guilty?

Letting people down. Strangers moreso than close friends and loved ones, regrettably.


How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?

In Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, I lifted some lyrics from one of my favorite songs and put them right into the dialogue. I also took the way that same song made me feel and tried to thread that specific feeling through the entire movie. In general, I try to lean more towards the latter, subcutaneous type of incorporation than the former.


Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

After making my first feature, St. Nick, I wanted to make an action movie. That evolved (or devolved?) into something that was more of a meditation on the aftermath of action. I also loved the archetypes of American outlaw mythology and wanted to make something in that wheelhouse, although I couldn’t have stated such inspiration so succinctly at the time.


Ain't Them Bodies Saints poster  

What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

Trust me (see also: worst advice).


List your favorite in the following categories:  Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor.

When it comes to laughing I love Louis C.K., of whose show the second season trumps nearly any movie I’ve seen lately. My favorite musician would be Joanna Newsom, my favorite living author is probably Cormac McCarthy, and with actors I don’t want to play favorites amongst those I hope to work with so I’ll go with someone I can’t and say Warren Oates.


If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?

An education system.



What do you want to know?

Far more than I’m actively trying to learn. Another language would be a great place to start.


What would you like your last words to be?

I don’t plan things like that in advance. Whatever they are, I hope they only gain their significance after my passing, rather than in its imminence.


Please explain what will happen.

I’m going to go for a long run before the sun goes down the rest of the way.


DAVID LOWERY is a filmmaker from Texas. His films St. Nick (2009), also his feature film debut, and short-film Pioneer (2011) have screened at festivals around the world, including Sundance and SXSW. He is an alumni of the Berlinale Talent Campus and the Sundance Screenwriting Labs, and in 2011 was named one of the 25 New Faces Of Indie Film in 2011. Variety also recently named the Wisconsin-born filmmaker one of their “10 Directors to Watch” for 2013. His second feature, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, premiered at Sundance, along with Pit Stop, which he co-wrote, and Upstream Color, which he edited.

In Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), an impassioned young outlaw couple on an extended crime spree, are finally apprehended by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills. Although Ruth wounds a local officer, Bob takes the blame. But four years later, Bob escapes from prison and sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration.

Set against the backdrop of 1970’s Texas Hill Country, director David Lowery paints a poetic picture, evoking the mythology of westerns and saturating the dramatic space with an aching sense of loss. Featuring powerful performances by Affleck, Mara, Ben Foster, and Keith Carradine, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a story of love, motherhood and searching for peace while faced with an unrelenting past.

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TNB's ARTS & CULTURE section features essays, reviews, and interviews in the world of film, television, visual, comedy, and theater arts. Cynthia Hawkins serves as our Arts & Culture Editor.

One response to “21 Questions with David Lowery”

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