The Chronicle was able to catch director Josh Locy’s new film “Hunter Gatherer” at its premiere at SXSW. Andre Royo, known for his work in “The Wire” and “Empire,” and George Sample III star in the film. We had the chance to sit down with Royo and Locy for an early morning conversation about the premiere, filmmaking and breaking into the industry as a student.
The Chronicle: How did you feel about the premiere?
Josh Locy: I thought it went really well! The only thing you can really gauge is people laughing. And the first part of our movie is relatively funny. And that gets me going and makes me realize they’re into the film on some level.
Andre Royo: Yeah, I enjoy the awkward silence. The “what’s going on?” It’s just funny. At a certain point, we’re trying to change a certain narrative of what film likes and what storytelling is all about. Let’s get back the simple story telling and strip away the stuff we’re used to seeing and see if people still get the connection emotionally. So, with the silence, I felt like people were trying to process stuff.
TC: Yeah, we definitely felt that way. After the film, we were talking a lot about how it was totally unlike anything we had seen before.
Royo: Yeah that’s good. [laughs]
TC: What made you want to execute that tonal switch?
JL: I mean managing that shift was tough. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do from concept, to have this light tone that turns into something darker, where the emotions take over and the kind of hope and optimism from the beginning of the film are undermined by the realities of what is going on. So, we attacked it from the beginning. And I think the last step was the music.
TC: Oh, yeah. We loved the score.
JL: Yeah, Keegan is amazing.
TC: Was it a choice to make the score more unconventional?
JL: We kind of pictured these two guys, Ashley and Jeremy, in a garage with some instruments. What kind of music would they want to make? And we just kept it kind of naïve and a little bit real, whatever the fuck that means.
TC: Andre, was this a give and take process between you two as far as the creative aspect goes?
AR: I think it was a give and take process as far as trusting. We knew his sensibility was coming at it a different angle. At the beginning, we said that we both loved movies, and we both are interested in what we bring to the table. We both came up with a lot of questions. Let’s just trust each other that we will go out there, we’ll figure it out, and if it goes too far either way, we will question each other. And if we come up with answer, great. If not, we’ll question each other some more.
TC: We noticed that you directed and wrote the film. What was the creative process like for that? Can you talk about that in terms of how it relates to students?
JL: I mean I hate to reference Nietzsche right now, but I must! He said, “Life is a long obedience in the same direction.” For me, I moved to L.A. 12 years ago. If they told me that it’d take me twelve years to make a film, I’d say, “Fuck you. I’m not doing that shit.” I had a lot to learn as a human before I could make a film. But it’s about persistence and believing that your voice is worthy of being heard. No matter what it is.
TC: Beginning to end, how long did this film take to make?
JL: I started writing it seven years ago.
AR: *laughs* He says “wow”! That’s the hardest part. The editing is hard. [To Locy] Did you find editing hard?
JL: I think I love [editing] because you can filter through what you want the film to be. And you haven’t spent any money. It’s like, let’s push ourselves to find what this movie is.
AR: And how did you feel about the directing? I guess I’ll just come sit over here. [moves closer to Aditya and Sid]
JL: Well it’s like sections. You meet these people. You meet the casting directors and they want to hear about your film. And you gotta get them on board. Then you meet the actors. Everyone is bringing something to the table, which as a director you use to make the film better. But sometimes you gotta guide that process and know when to trust those people and know when to say “no this is what it is.” But not put your foot down because you gotta be inclusive.
TC: How much did you and the other cast members how much was their creative input important to how the story changed?
AR: I guess the genius part of this kind of artistry is how it takes a team to do it. The best thing for everyone involved is knowing when to say “this is my vision” or when to say “that was better.” You gotta get rid of that ego. You have to be more inclusive in this part of artistry.
JL: It’s so interesting because the film is so separate from me. I don’t have an ego or ownership of it in that sense. It is the film, and it exists, and I can say it’s beautiful because I can’t say I own it. I can’t say I even made it, really.
TC: What drew you to the subject of this film?
JL: I had the world of the film and the setting and kind of the basic blueprint of what it was before I understood what the film was. So within that framework I brought what I was going through to that. So it is personal in a lot of ways. So the characters don’t look like me. They don’t talk like me. But I’m in the desires, the human desires, that they want, that they have, and the way they get them and their optimism. I have that.
The important thing about that is that those emotional things and the personal connection you have to the story is what the audience is going to connect it to. If I don’t have that personal connection to the things that are going on and that emotional tie, they’re not going to feel it either.
AR: Yeah I agree. They always say to first time writers, “Write what you know.” I guess we’re starting to get more expressive and saying “I might not know about pimps or drug deals, but I know emotionally I want to [have friends]. I know…that we love being connected to a girlfriend or getting a job. That’s universal.
So, a casting director put us together. Said “I think we got this script you might like. We want you to read it and then meet the writer.” And I read the script and thought “Wow, this is kind of poetic! It’s simple. I love it. I want to meet the writer.”
I kid you not I was sitting at the coffee shop waiting for the writer to come, and I see this, you know, [gestures at Locy], Paul Bunyan-looking m***********, and I was like “Yo why don’t this big white dude get out the way so I can see. Where is this guy at?”
And [Locy] sits down…it just made me feel like this is the artistry. This is where art connects people that I would never, ever, ever have a conversation with.
JL: The thing you said about “writing what you know.” That’s a maxim that is true, of course. But people take it the wrong way. No one wants to watch a movie about a 35-year old dude on Tinder at night trying to get someone to come over.
AR: No, they don’t! They don’t.
JL: So, when they say write about what you know, I think it’s write about what you know about humanity and the emotional connection.
TC: From a student perspective, we have a very limited amount of equipment and budget. What would you tell students who want to get more into art and art/experimental film? And, Andre, how was working on this different than working on a big project like The Wire or Empire?
AR: That first question…you just gotta throw yourself in. Whatever draws you, you want to tell a story. And sometimes it’s the big budget, and sometimes it’s the small budget. It’s just about what’s on the page. Independent films is like the heart of our industry. I love this idea of the hands on, guerilla filmmaking. I mean, I grew up in the Bronx, and that’s how we did it - stealing shots on the subway. It’s just about storytelling.
JL: I think for me, step one is curiosity. It’s about engaging other artists and other works and finding your personal connection to it. The only ego about it is a drive to really find your own voice and to be curious about other people’s voice and to dig - to just keep digging.
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