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Sundance ’10 | Poyser Brings Sibling Rivalry in “Lovers of Hate”

Sundance '10 | Poyser Brings Sibling Rivalry in "Lovers of Hate"

Writer/Director Bryan Poyser is bringing his second feature, “Lovers of Hate” to Sundance, screening in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. His 2004 film, “Dear Pillow” won him prizes at festivals in Atlanta and Boston and gave him a Someone to Watch nomination at the 2005 Independent Spirit Awards. His latest film is a dark comedy about two brothers in love with the same woman.

In this delicious tale of resentment, deceit, and sibling rivalry, two adult brothers, Rudy and Paul, represent failure and success. Younger brother Paul is a successful author who writes Harry Potter-like fantasy novels for children. The painful part is that Rudy, an aspiring writer, was Paul’s original childhood collaborator on the stories. The one thing they do have in common is their love for Diana. Although Rudy is married to Diana, their divorce is impending–and he currently lives out of his car. Ever the opportunist, Paul makes his move on Diana.

Director Bryan Poyser brilliantly executes an intricate game of cat and mouse in a ski lodge (incidentally, the film culminates in Park City, Utah). A testament to the actors and a tightly constructed script, Lovers of Hate juggles humor and despair and pushes situations and characters to extremes while remaining in complete control. There are no clear winners in this story, but it is one enjoyable, tragicomic ride. [Synopsis provided by Sundance Film Festival]

“Lovers of Hate”
U.S. Dramatic Competition
Director: Bryan Poyser
Screenwriter: Bryan Poyser
Cast: Chris Doubek, Heather Kafka, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Green
Executive Producer: Athina Rachel Tsangari, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Producer: Megan Gilbride
Composer: Kevin Bewersdorf
Cinematographer: David Lowery
Production Designer: Caroline Karlen
Coproducers: Morgan Coy, Adam Donaghey, Chris Ohlson
93 minutes

Poyser makes introductions, the Sundance 2008 that inspired “Lovers of Hate,” cast bonding and the money issue…

I’ve been making films in Austin, Texas since moving there in the early ’90s to go to film school at the University of Texas. In addition to making my own stuff, I’ve helped to support the work of other filmmakers through co-founding the gone-but-not-forgotten Cinematexas Short Film Festival, working at SXSW for a couple years and now serving at the Director of Artist Services at the Austin Film Society where I administer a grant program for Texas filmmakers. Austin has a very unique, supportive and vibrant film community (I don’t call it an “industry” because that suggests people are making money at it) that I’ve been lucky enough to be part of for pretty much my entire adult life.

“Lovers of Hate” director Bryan Poyser. Image courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

I first started thinking of “Lovers of Hate” then I spent a night in the house that ultimately became the major location for the film – this giant 4-story, 6-bedroom house right on a ski slope in Deer Valley [outside Park City, UT]. It’s owned by one of the board members of the Austin Film Society and we use it sometimes as a party venue during Sundance. After one such party at Sundance 2008, I spent a night in the house and realized it was big enough that one really could hide in there for a while without getting found. I also wanted to write a starring role for Chris Doubek, one of the most talented actors in Austin, and the idea of him as a creeping foreign agent in the body of this beautiful house, up to no good, just appealed to me. Over the subsequent Spring & Summer, I wrote the script, and the day after Sundance 2009 ended, we were shooting in the house.

I never had enough time & money & mental capacity to make rehearsals a priority on my previous projects, but I knew I had to do it right this time around. The three leads were strangers to each other, but their characters were supposed to have known each other for decades. For a couple months, we got together for three to four sessions but we spent very little time working on the scenes. We mostly played theater games I’d remembered from acting classes because I was more interested in them just getting familiar and comfortable with each other. It felt a little like procrastinating to just run around, play hide & seek and come up with secret handshakes and other silly stuff like that, but I think the bond they developed really paid off once we were in Park City and had to shoot seven script pages a day.

It was definitely tough to pull off a cross-country, 19-day production for the amount of money and time we had. Fortunately, I had a kick-ass producer, Megan Gilbride, on the project from the get-go. She and I were actually developing another project, a bigger-budgeted one, before I hit on this idea for “Lovers of Hate” and started writing it. As soon as she read it, we put the bigger one aside and just started to line up the elements we would need – the cast, the location, a crew that wouldn’t mind working for peanuts (the promise of staying in the beautiful house in the mountains didn’t hurt – did I mention the hot-tubs?).

Poyser takes a stab at how Sundance audiences might view his film…

Well, there’s the obvious novelty of it being a film shot in the town where Sundance takes place, but we only shot in Park City because of the house. Beyond that, I hope people will agree with me that the lead actors give incredible, brave performances in this film. Like I said, I wrote this movie for Chris Doubek, an amazing actor who I just felt had not yet had a chance to show a wider audience what he can really do. I cast Alex Karpovsky after seeing his incredibly engaging, natural performance in Andrew Bujalski’s “Beeswax.” Heather Kafka was someone I hadn’t known despite the fact that she’d been living and acting in Austin for years.

When our casting director brought her in, I realized I had seen her in something – she played Leatherface’s sister in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake, a performance I definitely remembered because it creeped the hell out of me. Of course, she’s nothing like that in this movie, but her level of absolute commitment to the part and the film is the same.

Talking up influences and what comes next…

A couple weeks before we started shooting, David Lowery, the cinematographer, asked me if there were any movies we should watch to get ideas about how we wanted the movie to look. My brain was so all over the place at that point, I didn’t have an answer for him. I simply hadn’t thought about it because I figured with him on board, the movie was gonna look great. His own feature “St. Nick” is a wonderful example of a truly beautiful film made on a small budget.

[For now], Megan and I are back at work on “14 Stories,” the project we set aside to make “Lovers of Hate.” It’s a paranoid thriller set almost entirely in the confines of an elevator in a luxury high-rise. Again, it’s a film with just a handful of people in one major location where acting is going to be center stage, so it feels like a natural progression from the other stuff I’ve done, but this time it’s got blood. Kind of a lot of blood.

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