The Making of Shane Carruth's Upstream Color
Shane Carruth hasn’t made a movie since his debut, 2004’s critically acclaimed time-bending Primer, but it wasn't for lack of trying: According to producer Casey Gooden, the filmmaker devoted a lot of time to getting another movie made, called A Topiary, after Primer. But when that didn’t pan out, Carruth began working on his next project, Upstream Color, which premiered at Sundance and played SXSW last night. “He was taking a lot of meetings for A Topiary, and that wasn’t moving along as fast as he had hoped,” Gooden said at a Q&A after last night’s screening. “He was frustrated working on that, and kind of just moved on, and started writing this. He really doesn’t show anything until he’s done. [But when] he showed it to me, I was like, ‘Let’s go make this.’ So that’s what we did.”
Upstream Color, which Carruth also directed and stars in, is a beautiful puzzle of a film. Worms, orchids, nematodes, and pigs are involved. But according to Gooden—who worked with Carruth on Primer—there is an internal logic to the film. “I read the script, so it was written plainly enough for me to understand it,” he said. And the final product is pretty similar to the script Carruth wrote. “The story was all there,” Gooden said. “There were some little bits and pieces that—it was a bit like, we learned along the way. There were some elements that we found and we used. But the story and everything was there.”
As if writing, directing, and starring in Upstream Color wasn’t enough, Carruth also composed the film’s score. “Shane composes music as he’s writing, so that [happened] early on,” Gooden said. “He had a lot of music put together, and some of it didn’t make it into [the film], but it was always a key element.” Carruth split editing duties with David Lowery, too. “We were midway through production, and we had started editing some, [but] Shane wanted to get more done,” Gooden said. “So David actually came in and Shane will say this—David Lowry saved his life. So David came in, and really worked with Shane. Shane edited some, David edited some, and they just hit it off. And David’s eye for things just really worked—it’s rare to find someone that creative to get on the same wavelength as Shane.”
Upstream Color opens in theaters April 5. To find out where you can see the film, click here.