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Interview with Lou Howe
By Ron Steinman
 

We first met Lou Howe in March in a story in The Digital Filmmaker by Carmen Borgia about working with the young director/writer on the sound for his first short feature film, “Well Fed and Comfortable.” I decided to interview Lou Howe about his film and how he went about doing it. The film runs 25 minutes. The movie stars veteran film and stage actor Tony Roberts who stared in, among many films, “Serpico” and “Annie Hall." In it also is Tina Sloan an actress who has been on “Guiding Light” for years and recently appeared in several Woody Allen movies. The rest of the cast is almost all professional actors. The film is in color except for a brief black and white opening sequence.

R.S: How long have you wanted to make a film?

Lou Howe: I discovered filmmaking sort of by accident during my freshman year in college. I thought I would major in English when I started at Harvard, but was almost immediately bored by the required introductory classes. At the start of my second semester, I applied on a whim to take an introductory documentary video class and somehow got in, which is rare as a freshman. I loved it, and was immediately hooked.


R.S: Is this your career path?


Lou Howe: Yes. I made this film as my senior thesis. Now that I've graduated,
I'm working on a few different script ideas, and hope to make another
short film over the summer.
 

R.S: Where did the story come from? What was your inspiration?

Lou Howe: The film is about a depressed college kid coming home to his
dysfunctional family on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where I grew
up. I'm not going to deny that it's at least somewhat autobiographical. Growing up in that world, I was surrounded by an endless supply of good material, a lot of which I had been meaning to put in a story of some kind for years. The script accidentally became this combination of me making fun of the people I grew up with, along with some sort of attempt to express some emotional issues I had dealt with in college that I hoped people could relate to.


R.S: How long did it take you to write the script?

Lou Howe: A lot of the scenarios and humor in the film had been in my
head or in random notebooks for years, so the actual script didn't take me that long to write. Procrastination was, as always, my main obstacle. I ended up writing the first draft, around 45 pages long, in one night, not so coincidentally the night before the first round of senior year grades were due. I then refined and edited the script for a couple of weeks.


R.S: What equipment did you use to shoot? Did you shoot the film or did someone else?

Lou Howe: We shot on 16mm using an Aaton XTR. Mikey Palmer, who graduated from Harvard a few years ahead of me, shot the movie. He had been working on professional sets for a few years, so he was unbelievably helpful in every aspect of the production.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 




R.S: How long did it take you to shoot. How many locations were there?


Lou Howe: We shot while school was in session, and most of the film takes place in New York, so we had to shoot on the weekends. It was about two months of driving up and down I-95 every weekend. There were about ten locations.


R.S: How was it working with some well-known actors?

Lou Howe: It was a lot of fun because most of the actors were friends of mine before the movie. While directing a film for the first time was obviously very stressful, dealing with actors seemed to come pretty naturally to me, and it certainly made it a lot easier to have so many familiar faces around.


R.S: How did you edit the film?

Lou Howe: The main worry throughout the entire making of the film was the tone of the finished product. The script had some real issues tonally, in that it had a good deal of pretty broad humor, which didn't really connect with the serious intent of the emotional content of the story. So it was a struggle to maintain the emotional quality of the script while keeping the movie funny.

Also, on a more technical level, when it came time to do my online conform, I was informed that I had originally synchronized my footage incorrectly (a whole mess about nested clips in Final Cut that I would prefer not to relive.) Because of that, I had to re-sync all of my raw footage and then recut it into the final edit of the movie. A real pain in the ass.


R.S: Did you edit the film yourself and if so, what did you use?

Lou Howe: I edited the film in Final Cut Pro on my Mac G4 laptop.


R.S: What directors and writers inspire you? Who are your role models?

Lou Howe: Woody Allen and Whit Stillman have both consistently focused on the world I was trying to depict in "Well Fed and Comfortable", so they both influenced me heavily in making this film. Overall, I'd have to include Robert Altman, Preston Sturges, Paul Thomas Anderson, and the Coen Brothers as some of my favorite filmmakers. As for role models, Irespect anyone who makes a living making films. And my mother.


R.S: Now that the film is finished what next?

Lou Howe: I've submitted the film to a bunch of festivals, which I'm just starting to hear back from. It looks like "Well Fed and Comfortable" will have its world premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival coming up next month.


R.S: Do you have any plans for another film?


Lou Howe: I'm working on a few different script ideas, with the hopes
of making another short this summer.

........................................................................................................................
At NBC News for 35 years, Ron Steinman was bureau chief in Saigon, Hong Kong and London, was a senior producer on Today and wrote and produced for Sunday Today. At ABC News Productions, he produced and wrote documentaries for A&E, TLC, Discovery, Lifetime and the History Channel. He has a Peabody, a National Headliner award, a National Press Club award, a International Documentary Festival Gold Camera Award, two American Women in Radio & Television awards and has been nominated for five Emmy's. He is a partner in Douglas/Steinman Productions, whose latest documentary, "Luboml: My Heart Remembers," aired on PBS' WLIW/21 and the History Channel in Israel, April 29, 2003. He is the author of, "The Soldiers 'Story", "Women in Vietnam," and most recently, "Inside Television's First War: A Saigon  Journal," University of Missouri Press, 2002.

 

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