A family playing a family just like them???
Director Gregg Lachow, known for his prior work with artists such as Guy Maddin and Lynn Shelton, looks no further than his kitchen table to find the leads for his current project, now going into its SEASON TWO, The Uncertain Detective. The cast includes Lachow’s wife, Megan Murphy, and their sons Charlie and Sam. In the show, a film director (played by Lachow) creates a surreal, neo-noir tv series featuring a bumbling detective, and casts his wife and kids in it. Each character tries to solve the central mystery of life.
Here, Picture This Post (PTP) talks with Gregg Lachow (GL) about his thoughts on writing what you want to know and more.
(PTP) In The Uncertain Detective you and your family play versions of yourselves. How much does your art imitate life?
(GL) I’ve got three responses to that. The first is pragmatics: we're not playing ourselves in the show, but we are playing family members like ourselves, and the show's almost non-existent budget dictates that we go with the flow. So if, for example, we move to a new apartment in real life, our film versions are consigned to the same fate. And they're stuck driving the same car we drive.
The second answer is happenstance. Every scene is tightly scripted, but the real world is a much better writer than I am, so usually in rehearsal or on set someone says or does something that beats what I wrote, and that will get quickly substituted into the show.
And third, I guess, is:
rather than write what you know, write what you want to know more about.
And so the conflicts and troubles that our characters face in the show are inevitably the same ones that we are trying to figure out in life, individually and collectively.
What’s it like collaborating as a family to make art together?
Megan Murphy and I have been making work together since 1989. She's performed in pieces that are mostly mine and I've done the same for her. Working as co-creators has been especially rewarding. I'm thinking of a piece we made in 2015...like all our performance work it interwove theater, film, dance, and live music. Three nights before opening it was, as per usual, a disaster, and the two of us stayed up all night after rehearsal, methodically reworking the entire show (and making it better!). It was high wire, high risk (our son Charlie was also in the show), exhilarating, and ultimately a confirmation of the strength of our partnership. And it doesn't hurt that she's the best actor I've ever worked with.
Our eldest son Sam featured in our work from an early age. I felt comfortable with it at the time because it seemed clear that he would not be doing any performance as an adult--he's very much an introvert--so this would be a chance to be immersed in something he could look happily back on as having once been a part of. And he was, probably reluctantly, really good. Now he's a terrific, touring hip-hop artist with lingering memories of stage fright and I feel guilty. Charlie, on the other hand, always wanted to be in our shows so we held him back. When he did join us at the age of 15 he was a fish in water--by the second rehearsal everyone would instinctively turn to him when we were trying to improve a scene.
What was it like to revisit your earlier films in The Uncertain Detective?
When I look at my films I often wonder, how did I do that? Not like a technical question I might ask, like how did Alfonso Cuaron get that cool 360-degrees shot in the car in Children of Men, or a narrative one like how does Kiarostami get both a laugh and a cry from his audience in the final 30 seconds of Closeup. This is more like: I could never make that film now—where did all that energy, the money, the talent, the crew, the naïveté, the presumption—where on earth did all that come from? I could never make that today. I could never face the exhaustion, the setbacks, the insurmountable hurdles.
But then I start in on something new--like now it's The Uncertain Detective--and I guess when you’re in the middle of it you’re blessed with ignorance of the future and it just seems like, yeah, this is what I do, let's go.
Later on, I'm sure I'll look back at this show and think, I could never do that, it's impossible.
Why did you choose a self-deprecating approach to lampoon filmmaking?
Someone else also told me they like the self-deprecating approach of the show and I thought, what is she talking about? I'm not smart enough to do that. So I guess it comes naturally.
What can viewers look forward to in season 2?
I made Season 1 in half-hour-ish episodes. For Season Two we are making shorter episodes, more like 7 - 10 minutes each. The season is broken up according to the cases the detective is working on, like in the Encyclopedia Brown books that I loved as a kid, and each case is about six episodes long.
The first case, for instance, is The Case of the Invisible Clairvoyant. There will be at least three cases, so about 18 or 20 short episodes--we'll post a new episode every Tuesday at least until the end of February. As to what can viewers look forward to? In Season One we solved the problem of time, and we hope to make similar breakthroughs in Season Two.
Has making THE UNCERTAIN DETECTIVE helped you answer any of life’s big questions?
In Autobiography of a Face Lucy Greeley writes, and I’m gonna get it wrong but it’s something like: there are only four basic truths in life; the problem is you need to relearn them every day.
That reminds me of a time I was making lunch for my four-year old and his friend; I set their juices down on the table and each exclaimed, I want the blue cup! and I was having a day and yelled, it doesn't matter what color the cup is! and they both stopped short and looked at me like I was crazy and said, of course it does.
Making art is the process of helping yourself and others find—in ourselves!—those basic truths that we regularly lose sight of, that have been buried under the detritus of everyday life.
Click this link to view The Uncertain Detective.
Images courtesy of Gregg Lachow and The Uncertain Detective
Photos Courtesy of UNCERTAIN DETECTIVE