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'Upstream Color' Director Shane Carruth Reveals Details On Next Project 'The Modern Ocean,' His Work On 'Looper' & More

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist April 1, 2013 at 4:02PM

Psychotropic, romantic and beautiful like a scary dream, Shane Carruth’s long-awaited follow-up to "Primer," the self-distributed "Upstream Color" comes to theaters this Friday. Though it will undoubtedly divide, it has already, in its way, conquered many who've seen it: our reviewer in Sundance was little short of enraptured by the film, and this writer wholeheartedly agrees after seeing it at the Berlin International Film Festival. There are very few films that have the power to stay with you, buzzing and humming below the surface of your consciousness, for days after you see them, but the strains of "Upstream Color" remain with us still.
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Upstream Color
And will the reception of "Upstream Color" directly affect "The Modern Ocean" in terms of timing and budget? I mean, if you make, like a billion dollars off it? 
Heh, yeah, well if we make a billion, that’ll definitely factor into it. If we’re successful on some level that will play into it -- it won’t be a huge budget but it needs to be healthy. And I want to shoot in summer. I mean, that’s my plan. I sort of have now a track record of being really naïve and pointing at something and saying "That’s gonna happen!" and trying to force it, but we’ll see how that works. 


Looper Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Of course, you did have some involvement with Rian Johnson’s "Looper" last year. How did that come about?
 

Rian became a friend in the last few years and he sent me the script when it was finished and we had many conversations about it. He had seen some of the effects tests I had put together for "A Topiary" and he had a very specific idea in "Looper" that had to do with what it would look like in people’s minds when their memories were being written or rewritten or erased. 

So when Bruce Willis’ wife would go away he would be struggling with her being enveloped by this… in the script it was a "fog." And so we were talking about that, I mean it says "fog" but clearly it can’t be fog because I mean, whatever. So we had lots of conversations about what it would be, and I put together this concept that sort of mirrored back to the salt-and-pepper-on-the-table conversation, in that people would be enveloped by this large green gravel that would seemingly fall over them sideways or from different angles and it would envelop an entire room or go around the contours of a person. 

We really fell into this idea and it was going to be the solution and it just turned out that the way "Looper" was done, their effects were done overseas and there’s a certain way it needed to go for their financing to work. And the only way I knew how to do it on my end was unfortunately probably too expensive and it just seemed like we are going to spend a lot of time forcing this through and maybe we should just take a beat. 

And [Rian] got to a point where he thought maybe it was the wrong path to go down anyway, that maybe it needed to be told through performance and not through a gimmick, which I totally get. I mean, even in "Upstream Color" we’ve got so much more of the microscopic, biological footage than we ended up using, because that same choice was made: we’re not doing a film about microscopic stuff, we’re doing a film about an emotional experience. 

But yeah, the end result doesn’t have anything from me in it. 

We’ll have much more from our interview with Carruth soon, and "Upstream Color" will transport audiences (some figuratively; some quite literally out of the cinema midway through, if our screening was anything to go by) from Friday April 5th. Go see.


This article is related to: Shane Carruth, Upstream Color, Berlin International Film Festival, Interview, Looper, The Modern Ocean


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