EDIT: I’ve gotten more details about the project and I can confirm a few things for absolute fact:
• The film is a new thing, unrelated to A Topiary. That project is still active and expected to shoot next year, but Upstream Color is its own thing and said to be a perfect kind of movie if you’re a Shane Carruth fan.
• This is definitely a small, under-the-radar affair that looks to be very nearly as controlled and intimate as Primer.
There’s no director for whom I’ve crossed my fingers tighter than Shane Carruth over the last few years. The director of the brilliant Primer, Mr. Carruth hasn’t surfaced often in the seven years since his ultra-indie debut, which took Sundance by storm and has left a lasting impression on the science fiction genre. We all celebrated earlier in the year when we heard that Carruth had joined forces with Rian Johnson to contribute to Looper, but even more welcome is news that I can now bring you that the director seems to be prepping a “romance/drama/thriller” film of his own…
Currently going under the title Upstream Color, the film is in the process of casting and prepping for a shoot that will last forty days from early November through the end of January. Casting is taking place in Dallas, Texas where Carruth shot Primer. The film was written and will be directed by Carruth, who is joined by producer Ben LeClair (Nacho Libre, Gentlemen Broncos).
It’s unclear if this film is based off the same script that Carruth shopped around for some time called A Topiary, which was described by those who read it as an “insane” follow up to his first film. The best plot synopsis anyone could muster was “an abstract arthouse take on Pokemon,” a description which surfaced around the same time as what seemed to be the beginning of a viral site (which remains online and unchanged now). As it is still soliciting for actors to audition, I’ve gotten my hands on some character descriptions from Upstream Color that suggest this is a brand new script,
though I suppose the characters could still possibly fit into A Topiary (or it could have been heavily re-written)…
Kris – This is the lead part, and beyond involving a severe haircut change in the film, little is said beyond her being intelligent and plain.
Other main roles include Wesley, a composer in his 50s who is also a farmer, as well as Evan, a guy who works in a record shop and sounds a bit like a psychopath.
There are a few secondary roles up for grabs as well: two 12 year olds from the inner city, along with 16-year old name Phoebe and her grandmother Elise, who are described as being very similar souls.
Upstream Color likely refers to an esoteric biopharmeceutical term that describes impurities present early in the processing/manufacture of a chemical. Such a source for the title of a Carruth film would not shock me –especially considering Primer is a symphony of jargon-filled dialogue– but it’s even more interesting when the film’s being listed as a “romance/drama/thriller.” Come to think of it, a title referring to some kind of impurity or problem early in a chemical process isn’t difficult to align with a story about a girl who had an unknown trauma early in life. That said, it could mean something entirely different in this context, and it could just be a working title.
I don’t know much more about the scale of the film, aside from it being a non-union indie, and I don’t have any more plot details but I assure you we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled. This film has quite literally shot to the absolute top of my radar. You would do well to keep it high up on yours.