Director Taylor Guterson Chats with INFLUX Magazine

by Martin Hafer

I recently discovered an incredible movie that recently debuted on Netflix titled Old Goats. It features elderly folks who are not actors and tells their story with amazing grace and style.  It was so good that I tracked down the writer/director’s other film, Burkholder, and was even more impressed. Taylor Guterson may not have as much experience as his peers, yet his films are touching, very professional looking as well extremely watchable. Because of this, I asked the filmmaker if he would talk about his films and he graciously accepted.

Martin Hafer: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Taylor Guterson: I made Old Goats when I was 27 years old, I am now 34, have been married 9 years and just had a son who is a few months old.  I spend the vast majority of my time running a video and event production company called Elliott Bay Productions in Seattle, which I own with the best partner a guy could have, Johnathan Boyer, who was my crew member and loyal helper on Old Goats.  Filmmaking is just really a side hobby for me.  I have not actively tried to make a career of it, and don’t plan too; I just love making films the way someone might paint or garden as a very serious side hobby.

MH: What prompted you to make films about elderly men?

TG: It all started with time; older guys who were retired had the time to participate in the unpaid production within the schedule I basically demanded that could fit around my life.  They all paid their own expenses during production as well, which was very nice of them!  But beyond that, I was really interested in creating a film that didn’t use actors at all, so I was looking for people who could just be and were not self-couscous, or too aware of themselves, or care too much about what people thought of them.  I felt older people had the ability to truly just be like you might see in a documentary, but in this case, a fictional film.

MH: This would explain why your films look almost like documentaries, which they aren’t. Were there any special difficulties or benefits from working with such folk, and what were the stars of Old Goats like to work with?

TG: In almost all cases I believe “actors” — unless they are really proven and professional, like Daniel Day Lewis or something — are the last people you want to cast in film. You’re better off just casting unique and interesting people if you can get them to participate because that’s really what any good actor is to me.  So, I was like, how can I just find unique people and put them in film?

Britt, Bob, and Dave all came to mind, as I had worked with them all before on short films.  None had any acting experience prior to working with me and each was a person with a really interesting personality, and not in the corny grumpy old men kind of way…just as people.  I met them each in different ways, perhaps the most interesting, is I worked for Britt in his yard while in college mowing his lawn and weeding and stuff, and he would invite me into his house.  He and his wife would sometimes argue, and he was so deadpan in his comedy without even knowing it, I thought, I must get this guy on film!

That was the same with Bob and Dave, they were so funny and interesting without even knowing it – just the way they talked and acted always was interesting to me.  Bob’s real life was amazing too, that book he writes in Old Goats is his own book, and those photos of him are him as a young man, he had an interesting life of hunting, WW2, living in Alaska, going through the woman … and he was still that guy. He had a girlfriend and was sexually active with her and would not shy away from talking about it. David was recently retired from Boeing and was going through some of the same issues in his life that his character was.

MH: What motivates you to make these films?

TG: Stress-relief.  I have a good life, but still, making films is a great distraction.  I love not knowing where the movie is going, as I don’t have much of a “vision” going into the process.  I have an idea of the tone and style of the film but a storyboard or a shot list.  I like seeing where the film will go.

I also love the challenge my making my films essentially by myself.  I like the idea of a “man with a movie camera.” I like to feel like I found the actors, I shot the film, I edited the film, I made the movie, instead of overseeing a whole group of technical experts make the films. But I love really good traditional movies, so this is not a knock on how people make films, it’s just what I like to do.

Since Old Goats I have had a few semi-legit requests to direct a film with a real budget and crew, but have not really gone down that road I just like doing my own thing.

MH: What have you done to market your films?

TG: I did send Old Goats off to a few festivals to see what would happen just thru Withoutabox and sure enough it started getting picked up, and won a few audience choice awards, and then ShadowCatcher, a local production and distribution company got interested in it, and asked me if they could help get it out there, and of course I said sure!  Without ShadowCatcher the film would never have been seen by any major audience.  They went through all the legal and marketing hoops to get Old Goats ready for NetFlix, and they dumped a lot of money into these things to make it happen because they wanted people to see the film; I am very grateful to them for that.  David Skinner and Tom Gorai are the producers who cared about the film enough to spend a ton of time and money getting it out there for no real personal gain at all.  Right now Burkholder is not out for anyone to see, I may just throw it up for free on YouTube at some point soon.

MH: Thank you, Taylor.