Elle Fanning and John Hawkes in ‘Low Down’
Director Jeff Preiss’s first feature film, “Low Down,” premiered at theSundance Film Festivalin the U.S. Dramatic Competition category this week. The film explores the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany (played by John Hawkes), the virtuoso musician who struggled with heroin addiction, through the eyes of his young daughter Amy (Elle Fanning). “Low Down” is based on a memoir by Amy Albany, who co-wrote the film with Topper Lilien.
“Low Down” uses historical recordings of Joe Albany’s music, but Hawkes also learned to re-enact his performance. “When John is at the piano, what his fingers are doing on the keyboard match Joe,” Preiss said. “His technique as an actor is unique and he was able to focus that mindpower and pull it off.”
Preiss, who is based in New York, talked with Speakeasy about Hawkes, adapting Amy Albany’s book, and his hopes for “Low Down” at Sundance.
This is your first feature film. What is your background?
I came out of the art world actually and made and continue to make films that get shown in gallery contexts and through that, I became a director of photography. Through my work as a director of photography, I began also directing music videos and television commercials. In 1995, became a partner in Epoch Films, a New York-based commercial production company.