Ready, Aim ...
Geoff Marslett's 'Loves Her Gun' inadvertently finds itself in the crosshairs of a political discourse
When director Geoff Marslett began filming Loves Her Gun in September 2011, he hadn't known that he was making a political film. In 2011, a movie about a young woman named Allie who moves to Austin and finds herself fascinated by gun culture didn't carry the same political overtones that it does in post-Aurora, post-Newtown 2013. "When we started writing the script, we were writing about fear. And within that context, how someone with a gun deals with fear, because it's different," Marslett explains. Now, of course, the fear surrounding guns in America is present in ways it wasn't just a couple of years ago.
But while Marslett didn't set out to make a political film, he's aware that he's got a film that taps into the current conversation. "If the film had come out in 2011, all the questions at the post-screenings would be about Allie's character," he says. "I think now it's going to be about guns. There could be angry questions. One of the things I'm curious about is how many people read the movie as pro-gun and how many read it as anti-gun. I think there are elements of both."
It's an impassioned debate, and it could be especially contentious at a Festival like South by Southwest, where the screenings will be attended both by people who, like Marslett, grew up surrounded by guns, and by those from around the world, including places where guns play a very different role in the culture.
Whatever people come into the film expecting, one thing they won't find is a movie that treats the topic of guns lightly, or that polemicizes the issue. The script, which was improvised based on scenes written by Marslett and co-writer Lauren Modery, takes a subtle approach to making its point that draws heavily on mumblecore. There are no melodramatic speeches, and no shoot-outs, either; no one opines the state of gun control in America or holds a gun sideways to shoot.
The strived-for authenticity extends to the weapons themselves: With just one exception, every time a shot is fired in Loves Her Gun, Marslett opted to use live ammunition. "You can see, when [Trieste Kelly Dunn, who plays Allie] fires those first bullets – it's scary to pull the trigger. It sends a shockwave through your whole body. I wanted that view of the gun, to give them the respect that they're due," Marslett says. "We made our guns be mumblecore. We made them really be there and really do the thing we were asking of them."
Now that it's finished, Loves Her Gun may give audiences a dose of reality in ways that Marslett never anticipated. All that's left for him is to see how an audience responds to questions that were less prominent when he started. "I'm curious what people will bring to it – if they'll see it their way and agree with it, or whether they'll see me as arguing with them. I'm both scared and excited about how those answers will come out."