Modern Love, Get Low, Aaron Schneider and the fragility of film-making at EIFF 2010

This article is from 2010

Get Low

Edinburgh International Film Festival Blog

Friday 25 June

Friday was my last day at the Festival, and I decided to use it to take a walk off the beaten EIFF track and check out Modern Love, a short film made by a bunch of teenagers from Fife in conjunction with a company called Media Education. It wasn’t an official Festival screening, but the enterprising youngsters had been doing a bit of guerrilla marketing around the various EIFF venues this week, so I thought the least I could do to go was go and see the results of their hard labour. The short film itself was good, with incredibly impressive production values considering it was all done by young people, but even better was the short documentary that the group of 6 or 7 teenagers had made about their efforts to promote the film around EIFF. They had just finished filming the evening before the screening, and one of Media Education’s devoted assistants had been up til 3am attempting to get the footage into some kind of meaningful order. The result was very entertaining, and particularly impressive for the way in which the kids had come up with really funny ways to recreate what they actually did, so the documentary was as much a piece of creative filmmaking as the actual short film they were promoting. I think it should be available to watch at some point on Media Education’s website (, and I urge you to go and see it for yourself.

I was really glad to get the chance to see this educational use of film and filmmaking going on around the Festival, as it always excites me to see local organisations putting money and time into engaging young people through film. From speaking to the various organisers and some of the kids involved, it’s clear that this kind of initiative really works, allowing young people to see that it’s not as hard as they might think to get started in filmmaking, and that they each have something valuable to offer to a creative team process.

The existence of these kinds of initiatives is usually determined by whether anyone’s willing to put cash behind them, and that’s the one thing that doesn’t change no matter what heights you scale in the film industry. This was a fact brought home to me as I sat down to interview Aaron Schneider, whose debut feature Get Low stars two huge name actors, Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, and is playing at the Festival. But Schneider, who won an Oscar for his short film Two Soldiers in 2004, explained that even Duvall is not a sure guarantee of funding these days: ‘The tricky part is finding someone who wants to invest, because he’s an older actor, and one of the greatest actors who ever lived, but the movie business is primarily economic, right? And if not enough people will pay to see one of the greatest actors who ever lived then you’re going to have a hard time getting money, which we did. But one of the things that kept us afloat was thinking “wow, if we can get this off the ground, it’s Duvall and this script, man!”’

Get Low is story of an old man trying to come to some kind of peace about the mistakes of his past, and while it won’t win any prizes for originality, it has two great performances from Duvall and Murray. I was curious what it was like for Schneider, working with these two screen legends on his first film: ‘They’re both very different, and they come to it in very different ways. Robert Duvall is prepped, ready to come on set and give it to you in take one and two. And he’s not really much interested in anything past take two, where he feels as though he’s given you everything he’s got to give. He’s pretty much deciding for himself what’s going on! You’re job as a director with Duvall is to support his process, and create a world to help him be as good as he can be. Bill, on the other hand, would love to keep the camera rolling and just shoot a bunch of shit over and over again, and basically play, screw around, have fun. He says himself “I always do my best work when I’m having the most fun”, so even inside a take he’s screwing around, trying to loosen himself and everybody else up, so that he can be spontaneous and unselfconscious. Every now and then the two didn’t mix, Bobby was like “I’m done”, and Bill’s saying “I’m just getting started!” But thankfully they both have a lot of respect for each other’s work, and we got it done.’

And I’ve got it done too, as this amounts to the end of my time blogging here at EIFF. I’ve seen a mixed bag of movies, but the ones that I’d really recommend are Monsters, Restrepo, The Secrets in Their Eyes, Winter’s Bone and Toy Story 3, most of which I think are playing in Best of the Fest on Sunday. Stay tuned for Niki’s verdict on the closing night gala and all the shenanigans that go with it. As for me, I’ll be elsewhere, very likely watching more movies.

Get Low

  • 3 stars
  • 2009
  • USA
  • 1h 41min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Aaron Schneider
  • Cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Bill Cobbs

A cobwebby comic spin on a 1930s American folk tale. A small town is surprised when curmudgeonly recluse Felix (Duvall) arranges to hold his own funeral before his death to see who turns up. Terrific performances from Duvall and Spacek as his only friend Mattie, but a hokey piece of storytelling.