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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.