Making any movie is a feat, and having limited resources makes an undertaking all the more daunting. And yet there are those relative few who thrive, and writer/director Bryan Poyser's U.S. Dramatic Competition film, "Lovers of Hate" pretty much nails it with clever writing, solid performances by a trio of actors, some luck and a little help from his friends. The film made a very good early impression with LA Weekly's new film editor, Karina Longworth who called it, "the most exciting American indie I've seen in a while."
[indieWIRE spoke with "Lovers of Hate" director Bryan Poyser during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival following the film's world premiere. "Lovers of Hate" plays for one week at Brooklyn's reRun Gastropub theater starting today.]
Poyser made his filmmaking debut with a 50-minute thriller he shot in high school. "I made this really shitty vampire movie I shot on VHS in high school," he told indieWIRE. "I became so obsessed with it, and that's all I did my last three months of high school. I will never show it, but [because of it] I had finally found the thing that fulfilled me creatively. I had done acting, writing novels, but making that stupid movie was all I cared about." Poyser later attended film school at the University of Texas.
Poyser may not have made it here at Sundance was it not for his tight knit circle of fellow Austin, TX filmmaker friends. When not working on a project - in addition to "Lovers" he directed "Dear Pillow" in 2004 and wrote and direct several shorts in between - he works at the Austin Film Society, founded by fellow Austinite, Richard Linklater. He went to film school with Jay Duplass, whose film "Cyrus" (co-directed with brother Mark Duplass) is also at Sundance this year, and his neighbor is filmmaker Andrew Bujalski.
"He is my tenant in a duplex," said Poyser. "It's where he cut 'Beeswax.' That's also how [I had the idea] of casting Alex."
Alex Karpovsky is another of the web of Austin filmmakers who show up in facets of their various friends' projects. He directed "Woodpecker" in 2008, and appeared in a number of films as an actor including Bujalski's "Beeswax" as well as Linas Phillips' "Bass Ackwards," playing in the NEXT section at this year's fest.
Karpovsky's Paul forms one component of a love triangle gone majorly awry in "Lovers of Hate." In this dark comedy, he plays Paul, the younger, more successful brother to Rudy, played by Chris Doubek, whose marriage to Diana, played by Heather Kafka, is falling apart. Alex decides to take up a friend's offer to stay at his unused gigantic home located in the mountains above Park City, UT. Diana meets Paul there for a weekend tryst, but Rudy sneaks into the home unbeknownst to his brother and soon to be ex-wife. A series of mishaps in the large house adjacent a ski slope disrupts the idyllic setting: An unexplained noise here, an unexplained computer malfunction there, a deposit in the toilet without benefit of flushing and items suddenly gone missing. Rudy, who is jealous of his brother's success, is trying to break them apart.
"This is the first movie where I felt like I got it right," Poyser told indieWIRE this week in Park City. I'm generally a happy person, but I'm attracted to dark stuff. [However] I always want to do it in a way that's entertaining. I like going for uncomfortable squirmy laughter. "
Poyser came up with "Lovers" after staying one night at an Austin Film Society board member's home near Park City - the very one that appeared in the film. "I spent the night there and one day alone and thought, 'there are so many fucking rooms in this house. If I wanted to, I could hide and nobody would find me.'" After some convincing, Poyser convinced the owners of the home to let him use the house (he also cast their son, Zach Green in a small role). The day after Sundance of last year, they began shooting at the home. Money, however threatened to end the project because Poyser needed to shoot in Austin.
"I wrote a letter to Jay and Mark [Duplass] and asked them to spare some money," he said. "And they said they could hook me up. The first screening was at Jay's house in LA. I was so nervous, but the response was great. Jay and Mark have helped advise me through the process."
Next up for Bryan Poyser is a script he's been working on that he describes as more genre/thriller, "but still centered on strong performances." The money issue is lurking again with the project that is still to get underway and he said more resources would be needed then for "Lovers."
"We're hoping success at Sundance will get people to read the film and take us seriously..."