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by Ad Wasey
June 18th, 2010

Tickets are on sale now for Saturday’s sneak preview of the IFC Films release, Lovers of Hate, with appearances from cast and crew, including writer/director Bryan Poyser.

Lovers of Hate is Bryan Poyser’s second feature, a comedy and tragedy about the toxic relationships between two brothers and the woman they both love. Poyser talked with Rooftop Films about sexuality in his films, strategies for low-budget filmmaking and his ties to mumblecore filmmakers.


Rooftop Films: We’ve already posted our review of Lovers of Hate, but tell us about the film in your own words.

Bryan Poyser, writer/director of Lovers of Hate: It’s a twisted love triangle between two brothers and the woman that comes between them, and it culminates in a mansion in Park City (Utah) where one of the brothers is trying to sabotage the romantic weekend the other two are having. It’s about sibling rivalry, a love triangle, and there’s poop jokes in it.

RF: One of the funniest parts of the movie is that one brother is hiding in the other’s house in the middle of a serious relationship drama.

BP: It was about always trying to balance, not wanting to make it too slapsticky, not wanting to make it totally implausible. Generally speaking, if you’re going to make a comedy, it’s going to have a light, everything-gets-resolved-for-the-better ending, so you come out of the theater energized. “That was so funny!”

RF: Not giving anything away, but the ending does have resolution for the characters.

BP: It resolves, but not in a pat way, not in a completely open-ended way, but in a satisfying way, which makes it more of a challenging movie in the mainstream — or even indie — world.

RF: You’re also taking a more truthful approach to sexuality than we’re used to seeing. Where did this approach come from? It permeates Lovers of Hate and your previous feature, Dear Pillow (which earned Poyser a Someone to Watch nomination at the 2005 Independent Spirit Awards).

BP: Generally, it comes out of a frustration [with the way] that sexuality is depicted in more mainstream movies. It never really has anything to do with plot. It truly is, let’s take a break and watch these two beautiful people, with soft music and saxophone music, just rub on each other. In thinking about this movie, I wanted the sexuality in it to be very forthright, but I didn’t want to shoot any sex scenes. That’s what I wanted to avoid. I wanted to focus on what happens right before and right after, when people’s guards are down and they’re naked because they’re naked and it’s not a big deal.

This is a movie about an affair that has been built up to for years and years. They’re going to not be self-conscious, and it’s going to be a movie where they’re just hanging around naked, because that’s what they would do, that’s what people do. They’re not keeping their arms down, holding a sheet over their breasts.

RF: You’re going to see nipples because there are nipples in real life.

BP: You’re going to see nipples, you’re going to see butts, you’re going to see a penis, briefly. If you’re not precious about it, prurient about it, then it’s not going to freak people out. It’s not going to make people feel uncomfortable.

RF: What’s the reaction been so far to all of that? I’m thinking of the scene with the Photo Booth application where you see… a lot.

BP: It always gets big laughs. I think it’s a laugh from just, “I didn’t think there was going to be that in this movie.” But it also comes from recognition that the Photo Booth application is just begging to be used that way.

RF: Eventually, the three main characters come to this mansion and we don’t leave for it for a while. How did that location come to be such a big part of the movie?

BP: The inspiration for the movie came from the house itself. For my day job at the Austin Film Society, we throw parties at Sundance for filmmakers that we support. After Sundance 2008, we had a party at that house. I ended up spending the night after the party and being there in the morning, just by myself, while everyone was out running around, watching movies. I was just, “Wow, this place is so big, one could really hide here and not be found for maybe days if you kept moving around.”

I thought, what would be a good story to do in a house like that — a small number of characters, using the geography, the architecture of the house to my advantage. The idea of (actor) Chris Doubek (who also appears the upcoming Rooftop Films entry The Happy Poet) hiding in this house and trying to sabotage them was enticing.

RF: It sounds like your day jobs have played a major part in getting your films made.

BP: I’ve been trying to make films since I went into film school at UT (The University of Texas at Austin). I co-founded a film festival at the university (Cinematexas) and did that for a few years, and I worked at SXSW for a couple of years — I did panels and programming — and then, working at the [Austin] Film Society… So, I’ve been in a support mechanism for other filmmakers for most of my adult life.

RF: Did you cash in any favors for Lovers of Hate, from all those years of helping other filmmakers?

BP: Absolutely. Without this job and without knowing this very nice board member who let us shoot at her house, I wouldn’t be here. But me and (producer) Megan Gilbride, we purposefully designed the movie in such as way that it would be low impact. We were going to have a small cast, a small crew, we were going to try to work as humane hours as we possibly could, because a lot of the people who worked on the movie essentially worked for free, or for peanuts. It wasn’t going to be financially lucrative for anyone. So, we wanted to make sure it was going to be a good, rewarding experience. In Park City, everybody had to have a day where they cooked, and everybody had to help clean up the dishes. I didn’t leave that house, except for once, in two solid weeks.

RF: I missed that. You lived in the house?

BP: That was the only way we could do it. There were ten people up there, between the cast and crew. We had to shoot in certain rooms and then it was, “OK, you’ve got to clean up!” I wanted to make something that was modest, so I could really focus on the writing and the acting, which was going to be the most important thing. It didn’t matter what were shooting on, it didn’t matter what equipment we had, it didn’t matter how many lights we had. We tried to be modest and not overreach.

RF: And there’s a lesson there for other independent filmmakers.

BP: As part of my job, with the grant program and other things [The Austin Film Society does], I see overreaching a lot. I see filmmakers getting way too ambitious with their first film and trying to do something they can’t afford to do or don’t have the experience to do. And then it doesn’t turn out well, and they have a bad experience and they don’t make another movie because they got completely discouraged. If you have $5, don’t try to make a ninja movie, because it’s just going to look silly. A lot of filmmakers don’t recognize that you have to scale your story to your budget. That’s a really important lesson to learn.

RF: You’re working with people who are associated closely with the mumblecore branch of independent film, if there is such a thing. Alex Karpovsky (of The Hole Story, Woodpecker and another 2010 Rooftop Films entry, Tiny Furniture) has turned into a “that guy” in this wave of indie films, and Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus, The Puffy Chair, Baghead) have executive producer titles.

BP: It’s weird. I’m of it but not in it. Or, in it and not of it? I don’t feel like any of the movies I’ve made really fit into the genre, if you want to give it a genre. I always have a script. I frequently use a tripod. I’ve never made a movie about 20-somethings talking about having relationship problems. My movies are a little bit more plot driven. But I am really good friends with Andrew (Bujalski, director of Beeswax and Funny Ha Ha), I went to film school with Jay Duplass. I came to know Alex (Karpovsky) through Beeswax, because I acted briefly in Beeswax, and part of it was shot in my house. I’ve known Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Kissing on the Mouth) since he saw one of my shorts in Chicago and contacted me — even before his first movie played at SXSW. I really like all of them and I think they’re all really talented and I get something from all of their films, but I don’t feel like I’m a quote-unquote mumblecore filmmaker. The whole movement, for lack of a better term is based around SXSW, and I’m there every year. SXSW offered that opportunity and it has great audiences from the city and from the Texas film community.

RF: And the other big opportunity for you, with Lovers of Hate, was Sundance (where the film premiered earlier this year). What was that experience like?

BP: Getting into Sundance was a huge surprise and a huge boost to us. We’d made a tiny movie with no movie stars and just tried to make it as well as we could and hope that something would come from it. The last two films that I made didn’t really get any wide distribution at all, and took forever, and didn’t make any money back for the investors. This time that did happen, so I’m happy.

Watch Lovers of Hate this Saturday at 8pm on the Lower East Side. Get tickets and information here, and for updates on Rooftop screenings and news, follow @rooftopfilms on Twitter.

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One Response to “Filmmaker Interview: Lovers of Hate”

  1. [...] Read our own Ad Wasey’s interview with director Bryan Poyser here. [...]

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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