Review Fix Exclusive: Inside Lefty/Righty

Lefty/Righty is an independent short film about an estranged father trying to reconnect with his daughter in the face of tragedy. It shows, most importantly, that family struggles are the same no matter where you go, even in the lonely, isolated modern American west. We had the chance to talk with the director, Max Walker-Silverman, about the unique setting, the striking imagery and the strong performances that make this modern parable so effective.
Review Fix: Lefty/Righty tells a widely relatable story for all of us. What made you decide to set this story in the modern American west?

Max Walker-Silverman: Well, it’s where I’m from. It’s what I know. Big skies, bloody soil, all that. The American West is a place dominated at once by its past and its future. The present is overlooked; vulnerable. And that vulnerability is sort of tragic and beautiful at the same time.

Review Fix: In a time when everyone leans towards 4K clear as a possible picture, what made you decide to shoot on 16 mm film?

Walker-Silverman: Two reasons I guess. First, Alfonso Herrera Salcedo (my dear friend and Cinematographer) and I wanted to “lift the words off the page,” in a way. To blow a breath of un-reality on the thing, to blur it into something soft and strange, to let people slip into something of a fable. 

Second, we’ve found that shooting in high, isolated areas tends to negate many of high-resolution-digital’s (very real) advantages. Batteries are hard to charge, cards are hard to dump, and the alpine sun sears right through the digital sensor. Celluloid still holds those highlights better and you ain’t gotta worry about charging nothing. I’ll take it. 

Review Fix: What led to the choice to have the father have no dialogue? Was that always planned to be the case?

Walker-Silverman: Yeah, that was always the plan. The film is virtually unchanged from the scrip. Righty is one of those dads who’s just not sure how to be a dad. He’s not a bad guy or anything. He’s just ain’t sure how to do it. And not knowing what to say is an expression of that not knowing what to do. Fortunately Lewis Pullman is one hell of an actor and can make you cry with his smile and laugh with his eyes.

Review Fix: Silence plays a big factor in the film, discuss if you can, just a bit of why that was important to you, to almost let the passage of time tell the story.

Walker-Silverman: There’s a strange tradition of silence in the American West. Amongst men in particular. I’ve yet to decide if that’s a strength or a weakness. Both, I suppose. But there’s remarkable fragility in that hard masculinity; a real tenderness to it. As for time, well. Time’s the thing that happens while pretending we’re ok. It ticks and ticks and pulls our own little stories along whether we like it or not. So maybe in that silence we just hear it better. 

Review Fix: In a story about the reconnecting a family in tragedy, there’s a fair amount of lightheartedness. Did you have trouble finding the balance between the two?

Walker-Silverman: Well, tragedy and comedy are really two sides of the same coin. Sometimes the only difference between the two is the soundtrack. I think one of the cruelest things a writer can do is rob a character of their sense of humor; I tried not to fall into that trap.

Review Fix: Where did you shoot? Seeing the tallest mountain on the horizon, was that something that came from your personal background growing up in Colorado?

Walker-Silverman: We shot in on Wright’s Mesa outside of Norwood, Colorado. In alpine communities, the world over mountains are these sort of deified things. Awe, reverence, fear. All of it. So yeah, as a kid in such a place you’re just steeped in the theology of them. I suppose it’s healthy.

Review Fix: What made you want to tell this story?

Walker-Silverman: Well. I just wanted to tell a story about an imperfect family somehow making it work in an imperfect place. Because ultimately, whatever we tell ourselves, that’s probably everyone everywhere. And rather than bemoaning that imperfection I tried my best to sort of celebrate it. 

Review Fix: I’ve never even seen a horse yawn, yet you captured it. Was that by chance or you made that happen?

Walker-Silverman: Just by chance! That horse had a real knack for…improvisation.

Review Fix: In that heat you must have gone through a number of foil balloons, how many would you say?

Walker-Silverman: Oh, golly. A lot. Our accomplished and dedicated Production Designer, Hanna Mundal, spent a good chunk of hours in the back of the grip truck hand painting balloon after balloon. God bless her. 

Review Fix: Marty Grace Dennis gives a really solid performance as Lefty, are children hard to direct? She was so natural in her line delivery, was that something that you had to make happen or it came mostly natural to her?

Walker-Silverman: Children are damn hard to cast but easy to direct. If you can find the right one all you need to do is tell them where to stand. The beautiful thing about that youthful neurology is that the barrier between the real and imagined is yet to really be constructed. So for a natural like Mary Grace Dennis there’s this very humble ability to step into a fabricated moment and just exist in it.  

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