Never Still

Three years after his directorial debut, Beside Still Waters, made its premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival, filmmaker and actor Chris Lowell takes a look back at his festival experience. Best known for his roles on TV shows Veronica Mars and Enlisted, Lowell stars along with Nick Nolte in the new EPIX series Graves, premiering in October.

Your entire cast was in attendance to screen your film. How did that come together? When we were in discussions with the people at the festival and they found out that a lot of the cast wanted to come up from L.A., they ended up giving us a premiere screening. They threw a party for us, and they made it feel like a world premiere, which is what it was for us.

What was it like premiering your film in Marin? It’s one of the most beautiful places to go and see films. I think it’s helpful that it’s outside of the insanity that you find in New York or Los Angeles or Park City or Telluride or Toronto, where there’s so much pressure and there’s such a bumrush to see the biggest films you can with the biggest stars. The idea of seeing cinema for the sake of cinema kind of gets lost. At the Mill Valley Film Festival, they do a really great job of finding the balance between having the prestige of great filmmakers and creating a relaxing enough atmosphere to encourage you to see something you might not have an opportunity to see elsewhere.

What was it like having all that attention on you, your friends and your film? It’s fun to do press when you’re proud of the work, and it’s a nightmare to do press when you’re not. As an actor, you can only have so much passion for a project. To be standing at the finish line knowing that you’ve written the film, financed it, casted it, edited it and found a home for it brings a profound sense of relief and validation.

What are your thoughts on the movie three years after you unveiled it? My writing partner Mohit Narang and I haven’t watched the movie in over a year and a half now. He’s coming to visit me in two weeks and we’re going to watch it when he gets here. We’re beginning our next film in the fall, so we thought revisiting it would be a nice way to jump-start things. The movie was my whole life for two years, so it’s going to be a really different experience to watch it when I’ve taken a significant amount of time away from it.

Does being in a place like Marin inspire you as an artist? For me, what was really inspirational about that place is that you can feel the energy of past, great cinematic geniuses who walked that path. It’s the home of George Lucas and Walter Murch. Marin is out in nature and off the beaten path, and you don’t feel like you’re engulfed by the hype flames of Los Angeles. You can breathe a little bit deeper there, and I think that allows for really important moments of reflection on your artwork.

Talk about your new project, Graves. It’s a really exciting approach to a political satire. What the creators of the show are trying to do is take a political satire outside the ivory walls of the capital and put it in a totally different community. That’s what gives the show its personality, which is so strange. You’ve got this spectacular cast of very dedicated actors who all have this wild signature on each of their characters. At the helm, you have Nick Nolte, who is so unbelievably talented and unpredictable and crazy and everything you could possibly want.

Bernard Boo

Bernard Boo is an AAPI arts and entertainment critic, Bay Area native and proud member of the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle. Find more of his work at PopMatters, Den of Geek and Rotten Tomatoes, and listen to him on the Your Asian Best Friends podcast.