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
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
R.S: Is this your career path?
Lou Howe: Yes. I made this film as my senior thesis. Now that
I'm working on a few different script ideas, and hope to make
short film over the summer.
Tony Roberts (right)
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
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
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
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
R.S: What directors and writers inspire you? Who are your role
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
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.