SxSW 2016 Interview: CLAIRE IN MOTION directors Lisa Robinson & Annie J. Howell

By Jason Whyte
Posted 03/08/16 10:49:04

"CLAIRE IN MOTION is about a woman whose husband goes on a hiking trip, and simply disappears. Weeks later the police are winding down the search, and her son is beginning to grieve and the only one who hasn't given up is Claire. It's then she discovers a whole world of secrets about him including an ambiguous relationship with a graduate student, Allison. As she digs deeper, these strange secrets begin to make her question what she knew about his life, and her own. Betsy Brandt and the rest of the cast are amazing and the cinematography is, well, stunning!" Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell on CLAIRE IN MOTION which screens at the 2016 edition of South By Southwest Film.

I have interviewed you both in the past at SxSW, but tell me about your previous work!

Our first feature, SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS premiered at SxSW here in 2011. We love this festival! We love the tacos, the barbeque, the cocktails and the hospitality. Meeting the type of creative, no-holds-bar filmmakers that you might collaborate with in the future or just exchange inspirations. As far as our start, we were classmates at NYU Grad Film, and after making a web series together, decided to make features. It was really using our film school networks and just jumping in. We both have also worked as screenwriters, and that grew out of simply being in the New York mix for many years.

So how did this movie come together from your perspective?

We willed it into being. We knew a second feature was in our cards after our first, and so we wrote a story utilizing a setting, a town, that was both aesthetically exciting and within reach. Once we had worked for a long time to write a great script, we were able to work with an enthusiastic and talented casting agent, secured through both the script and relationships built over years in the filmmaking world. We had a terrific response to the material and were fortunate to see ours stars align.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

Lisa: It's chai and the adrenaline of excitement about what we are tackling visually and story-wise that day.

Annie: Coffee plus any set jokes that will keep the fun alive and kicking, in between the more serious business of storytelling.

What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?

The biggest challenge was simply a very tight schedule. We had 18 days to make the movie in order to accommodate cast availability as well as budget. That meant managing our days well, as we had a huge number of locations. Even though we were in a small town and it was easy to get around, moving an entire film crew is always a like moving a mountain, even if your destination is only one grown-over alley away. Speaking of mountains, when we were shooting on top of one, in the Hocking National Forest, and the thunder was rolling in and the wind blowing through, and our lead Betsy Brandt was delivering amazing moments, out there in the wild, we knew we had a great drama.

I am about to get all tech on you two, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie; what camera did you use to shoot, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

We shot on the RED Scarlet with Cooke lenses for a moody 1960s look. We collaborated closely with cinematographer Andreas Burgess to develop Claire's subjective moments. Our character is lost in her head, in the intensity of the crisis of a missing husband and the strange secrets that emerge, so we created this intimate space around her by staying close with the camera and allowing other characters to drift away from her attention, out of focus or off screen.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin, and where is it going next?

The enthusiasm of the audiences! And as for the release, we are working it out!

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

The new Metrograph on Ludlow Street in New York is looking very suave. That said, the Castro in San Francisco would also elevate the suspense of our film with such a giant, almost-haunting palace.

What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?

Actions speak louder than words, and insert assertive physical gesture here. There are two of us.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

Annie: Watch movies, meet people, read books, form a network to help one another. Then begin.

Lisa: Start experimenting now and make something, with whatever resources you have.

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

Annie: A three-plus hour documentary about Cassavetes at SX 2001 called A CONSTANT FORGE with deeply insightful actor interviews about what it was like to work with him. When we left the theater, the audience stayed in the hallway talking about this crazy shared experience for even LONGER.

Lisa: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE at the New York Film Festival. There was this electric feeling in the audience just communally relishing the pleasure of beauty and sadness intensely combined, and the costumes, of course.

Be sure to follow the progress of CLAIRE IN MOTION at!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our interview series for our site. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 11-19. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.