People Issue

Filmmaker David Lowery Works with the Stars, but None Shine Quite Like His Home State

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Stanton Stephens. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

It's no secret that one of the best character actors in film is Texas. Its performance is often minimalist, haunting, elusive. On screen, from the reflective glass of Dallas' skyline to the power-lined gravel roads of Hill Country, Texas is a lightning bug in a jar.

David Lowery is talking about that electricity now, on a sun-stroked June afternoon at the Pearl Cup on Henderson. Lowery -- whose Cannes-selected film Ain't Them Bodies Saints hits theaters in August -- moved to Irving when he was 7, and gleefully points out that his house is just a short drive from the best movie theaters in Dallas.

"The state itself is a wonderful place to make films," he says. "This is the only state that can fly its flag right up there with the U.S. flag. That sort of ego is indicative of what it takes to actually get all the pieces of a movie together. That rebellious attitude engenders itself to the filmmaking process."

There are scenes from Ain't Them Bodies Saints, which centers around two outlaws in the Hill Country, that are shot in Dallas, but you wouldn't know it. There's an enigmatic quality to shooting in Texas, something you sense you know and recognize but can't quite put your finger on: "Texas has a million different looks, and they are all unique to Texas. We wanted the movie to look the way Texas looks."

But Texas isn't just a spiritual painting. It's a film co-op with a big heart. It's easier to get things done here, Lowery says. His first feature, a movie called St. Nick that played SXSW, was boosted by a healthy grant from the Austin Film Society, as well as some help from a friend, Texas Theatre co-pilot Adam Donaghey.

"I don't know where else you would find that support," Lowery says of the way Texas, and especially Austin, backs filmmakers. He intends to keep the fire burning, too. His next film, The Old Man and the Gun, is based on a true story from The New Yorker about a 79-year-old bank robber. Robert Redford's set to star and produce, and it takes place partially in DFW.

"That was exciting, to realize I might be able to shoot some stuff here," Lowery says. "It'd be fun to wake up and drive to set in the morning from my own house."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nick Rallo
Contact: Nick Rallo