Adam Bowers injects some humor into the brand new NEXT section at this year’s Sundance with “New Low,” a film, which, as he confesses in this interview, is unfortunately, more than a little autobiographical.
“The worst thing about Wendell isn’t his slightly balding head, skinny frame, or thin lips; it’s that he’s a bit of an idiot. He just started dating Vicky, an angry drunk, who conveniently shares his lack of ambition and cleanliness. But he might prefer a relationship with Joanna because she’s a selfless social worker who doesn’t have lip acne. Eventually, Wendell is going to have to decide who he really belongs with: the best girl he’s ever known—or the worst. Twenty-five-year-old Adam Bowers writes, directs, and stars in this deadpan comedic love triangle for questionable romantics, which was shot on borrowed equipment by whichever one of his friends was available that day.” [Synopsis courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival]
Director: Adam Bowers
Screenwriter: Adam Bowers
Cast: Adam Bowers, Jayme Ratzer, Toby Turner, Valerie Jones
Producer: Adam Bowers
Cinematographer: Ryan Moulton
Editor: Adam Bowers
Sound: Alan McAdam
Adam Bowers on his background and Sundance project, “New Low”…
“New Low” is my first feature after just making a couple short films in college. Before that I was mainly just interested in writing funny little stories. I think what lured me to become a filmmaker was the writing aspect: I had to get these scenes and lines out of my head somehow. Also, a lot of what I write has some autobiographical elements to it, so now when I do stupid things in real life, I can convince myself that it’s not as bad because I might be able to put it in a movie.
The story, about a guy choosing between a really selfless girl and a terrible one, is one of those autobiographical ones. I met this girl at a protest rally for farm workers’ rights, and she was insanely kind and giving. And I wanted to like her, because it would somehow make me a good person, too. But, all the reasons she was great were the same reasons we had nothing in common. Meanwhile, I seemed to always click with these girls who were just terrible human beings.
The film’s based on a short I made in college, but I felt like I had to cram the story into the short’s running time. Also, I was moving to Los Angeles, and I knew I would have a much harder time making a movie there instead of Florida. So, I stayed a little longer and shot it.
We barely had any money, so we borrowed every piece of equipment over a hundred dollars. Also, everyone was young and no one was a professional by any means. We were all just friends making a movie together. So, my approach was basically figuring out any way to be able to get the best footage possible without using money as the solution. I’d like to say I used my “smarts,” but that can’t be the case.
We had a lighting kit the first week of the shoot because an old professor lied about needing equipment from the school so we could use it. But, he got in trouble and we had to give it back, so we had to scramble and figure out how else to light our shots. I looked up Aaron Katz (the director of “Quiet City”) on Myspace and asked him how he lit his film, and he gave me great advice and introduced me to the wonder of china balls (which apparently isn’t the huge secret I thought it was at the time). Also, the crew and I really learned as we went, so we made some mistakes that I would kill to be able to go back and correct. And, because no one was working for any money, we had to shoot around their work and school schedules.
On taking “New Low” to Sundance…
I’m hoping that people will be really excited about the NEXT program and be eager to check out the no-budget, super independent films in it. Also, there aren’t a ton of comedies at Sundance this year, so at least if people are in the mood for one, they won’t have much choice except to see mine. I like winning by default anyway.
Bowers on his inspirations and what he has in the works…
“Manhattan” by Woody Allen was definitely the film that I couldn’t get out of my brain at the time. I love how it’s basically this serious romantic drama that dealt with heavy moral issues, except it has this cartoon character thrown in it. When I see that amazing black and white photography, and then see Woody enter it, that’s really what it feels like, some big cartoon character entering this elegant romance film. It’s awesome. And, not a movie, but I watch a little too much Seinfeld” and “Curb,” which also had an impact, for sure. The writing on “Seinfeld,” and how circular it is, is always something that I find really interesting.
Because I was also the editor on the movie, it’s been awhile since I’ve had time to write something longer than a few pages, so as soon as I get some time, I’m going to start work on what will hopefully be my second feature, tenatively titled “New Low and a Little Lady.”
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic & Documentary Competitions as well as the NEXT section to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]