If you’re a regular reader of CultureMap, you need no introduction to Lauren Modery. If not, quickly introduce yourself to her via Hipstercrite, a blog through which she entertains readers and details how she fell madly in love with our fair city.
Her followers, and SXSW attendees, are fully aware of her biggest project to date: a feature length film by the name of Loves Her Gun, which she co-wrote alongside the film’s director Geoff Marslett. The film stars Trieste Kelly Dunn as a victimized woman who attempts to take control of her new life in Texas through immersion in the local gun culture, walking the fine line between practical self-protection and paranoid self-withdrawal. The film has already made Indiewire's list of 10 films to see at SXSW this year.
It’s a dark subject matter that serves as a sharp detour from Modery’s lighter, more humorous blog posts about “The 5 Hottest U.S. Presidents.”
“At the time, I had been grappling with self anxiety issues and with my safety,” recalls Modery, who points out that even though the lead character in the film is the victim of an attack, she herself was not in real life. “However, there [was] a string of small events that just kind of shook my feeling of being safe and confidence and my safety.”
Expanding on those real feelings, Modery and Marslett churned out a finely tuned screenplay measuring out at around 45 pages. The length, which barely equals half of a traditional feature screenplay, is a conscious choice by the filmmakers to allow the acting talent to fully improvise their lines during production.
It’s a bold artistic move that brings up its share of challenges during production. “Geoff, being the filmmaker, was very cognizant to make sure that obviously the actors were improvising in the right direction to where we needed them to go with the script. Some of the darker elements of the story were also contributions from the actors in their improvising.”
While cutting specific dialogue out of a script can lessen the burden for the writer, it poses challenges during the course of production; a filmmaker must have a scene meticulously planned out in order to get the best takes and properly develop the story.
But those challenges only make the end result that much sweeter. “It is challenging and rewarding in so many ways. It definitely was a new experience for a lot of people involved, both on the production side and on the acting side.”
Modery is more than ecstatic that her first feature film will premiere in the city that she still loves (and continues to write love letters to).
“Even after five years, it doesn’t cease to amaze me the level of talent and generosity [in Austin]. People have been so kind to me with my writing through the years here. I try to give that back in return, because it’s kind of infectious. It’s really just a great city for people trying to lift each other up. It still inspires me.”
Loves Her Gun premiered at SXSW Film Festival on March 9. Additional screenings follow throughout the week.