Disney sets ‘PETE’S DRAGON’ filmmaker David Lowery’s heart ablaze


david_lowery_petes_dragon_1Preston Barta // Editor

When you watch any given film, you are witness to every ounce of time and energy a filmmaker devoted to their labor of love.

Three years ago, we saw a stunningly realized film in David Lowery’s AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, showcasing directorial capabilities beyond what his previous body of work suggested. With only short films and editing credits to his name, few expected to see the Dallas-raised filmmaker successfully direct talents like Casey Affleck (TRIPLE 9) and Rooney Mara (CAROL) with such natural ease.

Lowery cut his teeth by editing films for the likes of Shane Carruth (UPSTREAM COLOR) and Kat Candler (HELLION). Now he’s stretching his wings by helming works such as Disney’s upcoming modernization of PETE’S DRAGON, due in theaters Aug. 12.

Oakes Fegley stars in PETE'S DRAGON. Photo courtesy of Disney.

Oakes Fegley stars in PETE’S DRAGON. Photo courtesy of Disney.

“My love for Disney has been there since day one,” said Lowery, who’s stopped by the Oak Cliff Film Festival last month to present a special screening of 1986’s FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR. “The first film I ever saw in a movie theater was Disney’s PINOCCHIO when it was re-released in 1983.”

Lowery grew up without a television, so movies were very much a big screen event for him.

“It was my induction into what would later be my religion,” quipped Lowery. THE LITTLE MERMAID rocked my world when I was eight-years-old, and the same with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST two years after. I never really thought of Disney’s films as animated films or cartoons. They were just movies that had a real impact on me.”

Through his time at the University of Dallas, Lowery’s love for filmmaking grew. He established himself as a freelance editor, pumping his spare energy into his own projects when his finances allowed.

“Making money was never something I knew how to do or was interested in doing,” said Lowery. “I made just enough to pay my rent and phone bill. I knew I wanted a career in filmmaking, but I didn’t know how to do it.”

Lowery insisted the best of his film education came from getting out in the world, meeting people with similar interests and making as many films as he could.

“I was about as ‘uncareerist’ as you could possibly get,” said Lowery. “I didn’t have a car of my own until last year. The car that I had when I was younger died in 2008. After that, friends would help me and I shared my wife’s car after I got married in 2010.”

He joked, “I don’t think I was living the best way I could.”

Lowery described his career climb as part luck and part hard work. He never knew when listening to his gut instincts were going to pay off.

“You hope that they do and you trust that they will, but maybe they won’t,” said Lowery. “I’ve made plenty of bad films where I thought I was doing the right thing and I wasn’t. Those films were never seen, and the reason why is because I hadn’t learned all the lessons I needed to from mistakes.”

There were many instances in Lowery’s life where he despaired.

“I could see no future where I was going to change. I could not see a way out of that situation,” said Lowery. “There was nothing on the horizon that was going to indicate to me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I had to ask myself, ‘Am I OK with that?’ The answer is I’m not OK with it, but I don’t want to stop making movies because I have no other skill. Hopefully I can just keep doing it and the luck factor will kick in.”

While Lowery described his life choices as not the best ones he could have made as a responsible adult, his promising career illustrates that the odds are definitely in his favor. You don’t always have to come from New York or Los Angeles, go to a well-regarded school or makes large sums of money to rise fast in the film industry. Sometimes all it takes is a little passion and perseverance to soar with the dragons.


PETE’S DRAGON opens on Friday, August 12.

Previously published on DentonRC.com.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.