Lazy Eye
Lazy Eye
U.S. Narrative Features
(USA, 2015, 86 min)
Directed By: Tim Kirkman

Director Statement

Around the time of my 40th birthday, I experienced a sudden change in my vision. I was born with amblyopia (commonly known as a “lazy eye”), so eye problems were nothing new. But this change was dramatic and it triggered an accompanying unexpected emotional upheaval. I experienced a profound need to assess my life and examine all of the things I had—and hadn’t—accomplished. Jung called it “The Pluto Crisis,” a moment in mid-life when a person is overwhelmed by an acute sense of aging and a profound recognition of our own mortality. More commonly known as the “mid-life crisis,” it is actually a time of intense feeling and growth: the unconscious is awakening, the soul is stirring, and something within us is crying out for greater depth and meaning. All I could see were things lost, chances missed, roads not taken. So many questions arose. What if I had never moved to New York? What if I had married the guy I loved when I was 22? The one who made me feel most alive and youthful and full of the promise? What if he showed up in my life again? What if, out of the blue, he reappeared and took everything that was disturbed and fuzzy and brought it into sharp focus? What would I do then? What would he do? What would we say? What would we do together? In the digital age, one’s past can be as close as the tap of a key or a swipe to the right. It can hit you at any moment and disrupt your life for a moment or forever. In the midst of my own Pluto Crisis, I found a productive way to get through it—writing. It seemed the more I wrote about these feelings and events, the more I saw a chance to present an LGBT story that I had never seen onscreen before. For the first time, I was writing a film in which being gay is not the issue or the obstacle or the problem. The two men in Lazy Eye could easily be a heterosexual couple. Ultimately, Lazy Eye is about two people who shared an intense, important moment in their lives many years ago and now reconnect, years later. But it is also about one man’s realization that in order to move forward, he needs to adjust to a new way of seeing. Shot over the course of twelve days — nine in towns around the city of Joshua Tree near the Mojave Desert, three in Los Angeles. Working with a small, nimble group of inspiring collaborators in front of and behind the camera, I have never had a more satisfying experience making a film. Lazy Eye required two actors who could believably age up to forty and down to twenty-five. Both Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and Aaron Costa Ganis managed to do this and, more importantly, bring a naturalism to the characters that was essential. While we didn’t improv on set, these guys made the words their own. A lot of dialogue was cut in the editing room because their expressions said more than any words. Working with Michaela Watkins was a blast, too. She’s naturally funny, but also brought genuine concern for Dean that gives the scene its real purpose and focus. She gets him and we like her, and therefore we like him, too. Gabe Mayhan, the Director of Photography, and I worked to capture as much as possible the isolation and romantic quality of the Mojave desert. His work is exquisite and I’m awestruck by the way he studies light. He’s also incredibly strong, so he spent a lot of the shoot with the camera on his shoulder, capturing scenes hand-held to create less distance with the audience once Alex arrives on the scene. The location itself sits atop the highest point in Yucca Valley and is famous for being the pool house for the estate of the Van Heusen family. The current owner told me that JFK, Marilyn Monroe and the Rat Pack sipped cocktails and took dips in the pool there, which was exciting for all of us. Costume designer Wendy Chuck, who designed SPOTLIGHT (Academy Award Winner for Best Picture) and I had a blast getting the clothes just right, especially Dean’s late 1990s garb. Wendy understood immediately how to create external expressions of the contrasts between the two characters’ personalities. Production designer Frances Hernandez was given the challenge of finding an apartment in LA that could sub for NY. I told her it required only three elements: a radiator in the corner, a vertical heating pipe, and a window that looks out onto a fire escape. We got everything but the fire escape and shot in a loft downtown with a green screen for New York at night. I loved what Frances and Gabe did with the look of the flashback, bathing the guys and the environment in red. I also wanted to create realistic sex between the guys, and also with Dean alone. Their connection is not just emotional and nostalgic — it is carnal. We were determined to capture the raw, authentic ways in which our sexuality plays a role in our lives in ways that help us not just to connect, but in Dean’s case, to disconnect. Frances (the production designer) and I had some fun creating semen for the masturbation scene. (It's not as easy as you might think and involved egg whites.) When we finally shot the scene, I was alone with Lucas with the camera over the bed and we both remarked at how it was one of the strangest things either of us has ever done for film. I find the masturbation scene ultimately comical and sweet, but I also think it has a sensuality that makes it erotic and voyeuristic. I have never directed sex scenes before and these two actors were so game. They went for it in a fearless and bold way, which I appreciate since during casting I kept coming up against actors who were afraid to do it. Lazy Eye was edited by my longtime collaborator Caitlin Dixon. There is probably no one I trust more in the world with my work than Caitlin. She has a remarkable way of distilling a scene to its essence and finding gentle humor, but also understands how important silences are, breaths. Similarly, composer Steven Argila wrote minimal score for the film, placing us inside the heads and hearts of the two main characters, triggering memories and desires and giving rise to tension, but without telling audiences how to feel. -Tim.
Post-Screening Reception: DGA Atrium
Screening Schedule
Sat, Jul 16th 1:30pm

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