Low & Clear screens at SPACE this Friday and Sunday evenings in collaboration with the Camden International Film Festival as part of their CIFF Selects series (the film was a secret screening at last year’s CIFF). It also recently won the Audience Award at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. It’s a beautifully shot film that examines two friends, John Townes “JT” Van Zandt (son of the legendary musician, Townes Van Zandt) and Alex “Xenie” Hall, former fly fishing pals who have drifted apart and reunite for one last trip to British Columbia chasing wild Steelheads. It’s one of the more beautiful films you’re likely to see and we’re excited to be hosting the film at SPACE. Unfortunately, the film will not be doing many screenings outside of the festival circuit so this is a rare opportunity to see it theatrically. SPACE Screenings Programmer Jon Courtney sent Low & Clear co-director Kahlil Hudson (who will be on hand to answer questions at our screenings) a few questions about the film:
Jon Courtney: To borrow one of the lines from the film, I think the biggest mistake made about Low & Clear is that it’s about fishing. This is clearly a story deeply rooted in fishing culture but is a story about much more than that. What is the story at the heart of the film?
Kahlil Hudson: At it’s heart, Low & Clear is about old friendships. The film follows two long lost friends, JT and Xenie, as they reunite for a winter fishing trip in Canada. Sometimes seeing old friends can be a difficult experience, it brings with it a lot of nostalgia for the past, but it also reminds you of not only of who you were back then, but who you are now. And sometimes that can be difficult to reconcile.
JC: There’s a whole subgenre of fly fishing films (evidenced by the touring Fly Fishing Film Tour which an excerpt of Low & Clear was briefly included in). I imagine having a robust interest group like that must have helped L&C on some levels but have there also been challenges in keeping the film from falling too deeply into a niche and finding audience with the general public?
KH: One of our bigger challenges was deciding what kind of film we were making. We knew we didn’t want to make a typical action-sports video. To me, fly fishing is very beautiful to watch for about 30 seconds, then gets boring very fast. But, after Tyler and I talked over our ideas we decided if we could find a story that used fishing as a metaphor for something larger, we might have a film that could cross over to a broader audience. As we began planning and going out on the first couple shoot days, the fishing immediately became secondary to everything else. We became much more focused on the moments between casts, between fishing. The film is very character driven, both JT and Xenie are very strong, and very different characters and they each sort of represent an extreme both in the fishing world and in life, sort of both sides of the ego. And we wanted viewers to maybe see a little of themselves in JT and Xenie.
JC:This is, I believe, your first feature as director but you are fairly busy as a cinematographer. How did you find time to fit Low & Clear into the rest of your life and what was the basic timeline for making the film?
KH:Juggling our jobs with shooting and editing was the biggest obstacle we had. I travel quite a bit for work and I would sometimes be away for weeks or months at a time. Sometimes I would edit for a week in my basement and really make progress, but often the film would sit for a month. Tyler [Hughen – Low & Clear co-director] works full-time as a marine engineer and goes out on month-long sea trips to the middle of the Pacific Ocean so he had the same difficulty. We began shooting the film in the summer of 2009 and finished in the fall of 2010. We finished editing in January of 2012, so it took us about a year and a half to complete the edit.
JC: John Townes “JT” Van Zandt, one of your two protagonists, is the son of musical legend Townes Van Zandt. In making Low & Clear, I’ve wondered how you decided how much of that to make evident in the film. In some ways, it’s not a factor at all, but upon thinking more about it, his lineage must subconsciously inform some of the differences between JT and Xenie. Did your decision about how much to focus on JT’s background evolve over the making of the film?
KH: We shied away from bringing in the backstory of JT’s father, mostly because it didn’t have any bearing on JT and Xenie’s history together and we thought it would be too lengthy a tangent to justify it’s payoff. For those that know who Townes was, his music and legacy, it adds a little extra food for thought, but JT had only fleeting memories of conversations with his dad about fishing. Xenie on the other hand had much stronger memories of fishing (or not fishing) with his father that clearly shaped his character in a fundamental way.
JC:Low & Clear enjoyed some choice festival screenings (including winning the Emerging Visions Audience Award at SXSW 2012). What’s the next step with the film?
KH: We are screening at the Telluride MountainFilm Festival Memorial Day weekend and have a couple more festivals we’ll be announcing shortly along with several other screenings including DocYard in Boston. We don’t foresee screening at many festivals beyond the middle of the summer because we plan to get the DVD out at that time as well as available via streaming on iTunes. People who would like more information including the DVD release date can sign up for our mailing list at: www.lowandclear.com.