As A24‘s “Waves” comes crashing into select theaters this Friday, it’s astounding to think that such a profoundly human, visceral, and heartwrenching tale is the work of a filmmaker on his third feature film. However, not every filmmaker is Trey Edward Shults, who joins me for Episode 12 of The Fourth Wall to talk about his third feature discussing the critical moments in his own life that directly inspired the events of the film.
The Houston native, whose previous works, “Krisha” and “It Comes at Night,” both garnered praise for their craftsmanship and intimate exploration of family, puts forth his most personal venture yet cementing him as one of the best filmmakers working today. Perhaps his prowess over the visual grammar of filmmaking originated during his time working on Terrence Malick movies possessing the same cerebral tendencies as the legendary auteur. However, there’s something distinctly provocative about how Shults captures the human experience, and nowhere is this more apparent than in”Waves.”
During our conversation, it became clearer that the filmmaker is someone who will always speak from the heart through personal experiences. This openness comes in the form of a wrestling injury, a pivotal conversation he had with his stepfather, a road trip he and his girlfriend took, and most importantly, his friendship with Kelvin Harrison Jr. as they bonded and meditated over “Waves” to Frank Ocean‘s “Blond” and “Endless.”
“Going back to a decade ago, I first had ideas for this movie when I was in high school and loving movies like ‘Boogie Nights‘ and ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘American Graffiti’ sort of soundtrack films that consisted of teens and music,” said the filmmaker. “I was also obsessed with music in high school. That was probably the most music hungry time for me. It was bigger than film for me and got me through a lot of things.”
He added, “So that’s where all this started, and that’s always been part of the brewing process. As new albums are coming out and new songs over a decade, I’m like, oh, maybe this can be in that movie one day. So there was a huge, massive playlist of possible things. But then once I actually started writing that’s when it really started getting organized with which specific tracks felt honest to these characters and their world and with the trajectory of the story to where you could separate it in a mixtape form, and a story’s being told from song to song that’s the same story of the film. We even embedded the music in the script, so when anyone read it, you could press play or pause on music cues. The whole script was really unorthodox in the sense that there were big fonts, small fonts, colors. The goal was to capture the spirit of the movie as much in script form so people, creatively, knew what they were coming on to.”
During our conversation, we also discuss the first time Shults listened to Radiohead‘s “Moon Shaped Pool,” his use of aspect ratio, color, movement, and how he discovered his cinematic voice.
“Waves” opens in NY/LA Friday, November 15th.
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