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The director of A Ghost Story wants to haunt his wife when he dies

David Lowery on bedsheets, pop songs, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and forgetting who made his movie.

David Lowery and the ghost on set
David Lowery and his ghost on set
Bret Curry / A24

Last January, the Sundance Film Festival buzzed with praise for David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, a film he shot in secret with the help of two actors who’d appeared in his breakout 2013 film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. On the heels of kind reviews for Lowery’s big-budget family film for Disney, a remake of Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story returns the director to his indie roots and benefits from the kind of creative freedom that comes from working apart from the studio system.

Set in a house in semi-rural Texas, it’s the tale of a couple separated by death — and then it becomes something else altogether. Some of the effects are almost childlike; our main ghost, played by Affleck, is represented by a bedsheet with eyeholes punched out. But to use a perhaps too-obvious critical cliché, it’s a haunting film, full of sadness and rumination on the nature of time and memory.

A scene from A Ghost Story
A scene from A Ghost Story
A24

I met Lowery at a cafe in Brooklyn the day A Ghost Story opened in theaters to talk about the film and his influences — everything from Virginia Woolf to 2001: A Space Odyssey — and even though I’d seen the film twice and read lots of interviews with the director, I kept learning new things that delighted and surprised me (the interview audio is filled with my gasps). I learned that his first film bore a striking resemblance to this one, that his grandfather was a truly adventuresome soul when it came to showing cinema to his grandson, and which scene in the movie was Lowery’s cameo. I was also surprised to find out that a certain famous pop star co-wrote a song on the film’s soundtrack.

Here are 10 things I learned from my chat with Lowery that made A Ghost Story even more enchanting, haunting, and meaningful.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Lowery’s been fixated on ghost stories since age 7

Alissa Wilkinson

Are there any ghost stories you particularly love?

David Lowery

There are a great many that I've loved. The Innocents by Jack Clayton is probably my favorite haunted house movie — It's The Turn of the Screw, and I don't know why they gave it a new title, but they did. That movie is really a wonderful ghost story. Ugetsu by Kenji Mizoguchi is one that I think about a lot. I saw it probably two years prior to making A Ghost Story, but it was nonetheless on my mind a lot, the folkloric aspects of that film.

Poltergeist definitely was a big influence on me. My parents were wise enough not to let me see it as a child, so I never saw it until high school, but I saw images from it in a magazine when I was very, very young, and it just transfixed me. I just was obsessed with it. The very first movie I ever made when I got a camcorder, when I was 7 years old, was called Poltergeist and starred my brother in a bedsheet. It was just me trying to make a ghost story. It's always been there. That goal has always been intrinsic to why I make movies, apparently.

Alissa Wilkinson

Even the bedsheet.

The ghost (actually Casey Affleck in a bedsheet) of A Ghost Story
The ghost (actually Casey Affleck in a bedsheet) of A Ghost Story
A24

David Lowery

Yeah, as a 7-year-old, that was the easy way to make a ghost. Now it's a little something different, but that's always been there.

I could go on and on. I mean all the Conjuring movies are really good. I love those movies. Conjuring 2 I talk about all the time, because I think in spite of how goofy it gets and how over the top it gets and how silly the screenplay gets, it's undeniably emotional. And the relationship between the two lead characters I find to be truly beautiful — one of the most beautiful marriages in modern cinema. I don't know why it's in that movie, but I tip my hat to James Wan for including such a beautiful representation of a couple in love in the middle of this phantasmagoric special effects movie.

Which is truly terrifying, ’cause I get scared by everything. Oh, my God. I mean, I watched those movies like this [holds hands over eyes]. I need to see them all again because I haven't really seen but a third of any given one. In those movies you're always so relieved when the sun comes up and you're like, “Okay, I can kind of breathe easy for five minutes,” and then when the sun goes down and you just know you're in for it again, I just cover my eyes. I just can't handle it. I usually have to leave the theater at least once in those movies. Just to like, relieve the tension. But I love them and I go back all the time.

Another one I've been thinking a lot about because Jonathan Demme passed away is Beloved. Which is about so many things, but it's a ghost story. And it is a tragic, a truly tragic one, but a truly beautiful one. You don't think about that movie or the book in terms of the horror genre, but it's terrific on all sorts of levels, both historical and supernatural. It is in the strictest sense a traditional ghost story, and a beautiful one. I really want to revisit the film.

Alissa Wilkinson

There's so much possibility in the ghost story genre.

David Lowery

Oh, completely. I don't imagine this is the last film I make that involves ghosts. It is rich and ripe with possibility, and I don't feel I'm done with it yet.

Lowery plays a dead grandmother in A Ghost Story

Alissa Wilkinson

I want the backstory of the ghost in the flowered bedsheet across the way from our ghost.

David Lowery

Oh, that was my cameo.

Alissa Wilkinson

That was you?

David Lowery

Yeah. That was me. A costume designer found the floral print sheet. I had a backstory for it. It’s a grandmother who passed away in her home, and is waiting for her grandchildren to come visit. So when she says she's waiting for someone and can't remember who, that's who it is. She realizes they're never coming, and it's horribly sad. But that's what that was meant to be.

Multiple ghosts.
Multiple ghosts.
A24

Lowery — along with his star, Casey Affleck — is strongly influenced by poetry

Alissa Wilkinson

I've seen A Ghost Story described as a “literary” film. But to me, the film is literary like a poem is literary. You're feeling what's happening in the world when you’re seeing it.

David Lowery

Completely. I'm a literature major — never got my degree, but nonetheless, I love literature. I love the written word and the many forms to which it can be applied. And film can be literary. I don't think it's fair to equate it to a novel or to prose, but I do think poetry is a wonderful equivalent.

The way in which images can be used in a film is exactly the same way that words can be used in a poem. And the way you use words in a poem, creating a rhythm and juxtapositions, is exactly what I'm doing as a filmmaker. So to call the film poetic is not a cliché to me; it's often what I aspire to do in my movies, and I love that it can be perceived as such.

Alissa Wilkinson

Have you written poetry?

David Lowery

I try to. Not often. I would never show them to anybody. I mean, in high school I wrote tons of poetry. I had the Moleskine journal, just writing love poems to the girls I had crushes on, all day long.

Once I started studying poetry in college and understanding its form, I really became fascinated by it in a formal sense and in a structural sense — in the way in which emotion can come through that form. And I've tried to practice that here and there throughout my adulthood. I'm so fascinated by the structure and the rigidity of it. That so much can come through that rigidity — that's really beautiful to me and something I should spend more time focused on.

In short, I do. I have written poetry, I do write poetry, but I would never show it to anybody.

Alissa Wilkinson

Do you read it at all while you're shooting?

David Lowery

I don't. You know, Casey's a big poetry fan. He has a lot committed to memory, and he'll just spout some sonnet. He just loves reading it. He described it to me as being a short time commitment, but you get so much out of it. You just can spend five minutes reading a poem, or less, and it is such a rich and considered piece of work. If a poem has reached publication, enough thought has been put into it that you can engage with it as if it's a full meal. And it doesn't take much time, but it can enrich five minutes of your life to such a wonderful degree.

So he's a big fan of it, and has introduced me to the pleasures of just kicking back and reading poetry. There's something that I've always thought of in far more academic contexts, and the idea that you could just take a poem, and just enjoy it. That it's pleasurable.

Alissa Wilkinson

You don't have to try to “figure it out.”

David Lowery

You don't have to try to figure it out; you can just enjoy it. It's a beautiful concept, and I thank him for reminding me that that's at the root of the art form.

A ghost stands behind Rooney Mara
M is haunted by her husband C
A24

Lowery wants to haunt his wife when he’s dead (though he thinks it will be a bummer)

Alissa Wilkinson

Speaking of literature: While I was watching the movie I kept thinking of this thing David Foster Wallace wrote in a letter to someone: “Every love story is a ghost story.”

David Lowery

Yeah, that was the title of his first posthumous biography, isn't it?

Alissa Wilkinson

Yes. I found out he had attributed the quote to Virginia Woolf. Apparently it's not her, but he kept attributing it to her.

David Lowery

Oh, that's amazing.

Alissa Wilkinson

And of course her story “A Haunted House” provides the epigraph for your movie and shows up in the film itself.

David Lowery

This is so bizarre.

Alissa Wilkinson

You were saying before that you hadn't really thought of A Ghost Story as a love story at first. But it seemed like it was inevitable, which made me think of the quotation. Do you think there’s something particular to ghost stories that lends them to also being love stories?

David Lowery

Definitely. I am married and am deeply in love with my wife, and spend way too much time thinking about one of us dying before the other. That is a thought that is never far from my mind, because I don't want to lose her. And I don't want her to lose me. Me not wanting her to lose me is largely an extension of my own ego, and my not wanting to lose her is a fear of being alone, but nonetheless those are circumstances which I spend far too much time pondering.

The ideas that are implicit to ghost stories are a source of comfort when you're thinking about losing someone or being gone from someone you love.

Alissa Wilkinson

In what way?

David Lowery

In that you could still communicate; that that communion can still exist between the two of you. I don't know why I'm doing this right now, but I'm gonna paraphrase Anne Hathaway in Interstellar, where she said something like, “Love is the one thing in this universe that can transcend time and space.”

That was the dorkiest quote in that movie, but nonetheless, it's such a comforting thought. It’s such a source of ease when you are finding yourself worrying about losing someone or being pulled out of someone else's life.

So, I don't actually believe in ghosts — I mean I kind of do, but not really. I don't believe that when I'm gone I'll be able to be the Patrick Swayze to my wife's Demi Moore, but I do find comfort in the thought of that. And it does satisfy my ego to think that I don't necessarily have to be gone forever, or that she doesn't have to be gone from me if that's what fate has in store for us.

So I think that's why they work well in terms of ghost stories; the idea that a relationship between two people can transcend death is very meaningful. It's very, very romantic; it's deeply romantic. And it is a great source of comfort.

Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in A Ghost Story
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in A Ghost Story
A24

Alissa Wilkinson

It's interesting you say that; the second time I watched it, my husband was in the other room. When it was over, I had to go talk to him and tell him that I felt sad, though not in a bad way — just a melancholy way. The movie makes you think about the inevitability of being separated from your loved one by death. It’s going to happen someday.

But the movie’s really more of a sad story for the ghost, isn’t it?

David Lowery

I guess that's the flip side. The ghost gets to do exactly what we wish we could do — stay close to our loved ones after we die — and it turns out to be an epic bummer.

I suppose inasmuch as I do feel that my desire to haunt my wife — which sounds really creepy now that I'm saying it — after I'm gone is an extension of my ego, this movie is a recognition of the fact that I need to let go of that. I need to let go of my ego, because ultimately it's not going to matter. Whatever does happen next is going to be another realm of existence. Or there's really nothing at all.

Whatever that may be, that nothingness or that next realm of existence will not be concerned with what is happening on earth. It'll be something separate, I presume. Maybe not. Maybe we'll die and we'll all just be stuck here hanging around, unable to communicate with anybody, and it'll be really sad.

But I do feel like realizing and embracing the concept of letting go of the physical, letting go of the immediate temporal realities around us, is an important thing. Not to be all the time — just be aware. Just to be able to take that step back and say, “These things will pass, and I need to be okay with that.”

Lowery doesn’t believe in ghosts, except when he does

Alissa Wilkinson

And it may not matter whether ghosts are actually around us, because sometimes we feel like they are anyhow. My father passed away some years ago and sometimes I still feel like he’s nearby.

David Lowery

You don't know what it is. It could be literally his ghost. It could be some scientifically quantifiable remnant of energy that is left behind, which I subscribe to. I do believe that, that makes sense to me. I don't know how to quantify it scientifically, but I believe science could one day figure out a way to explain those presences that we feel in rooms or in houses or in every space that we occupy.

You know, I say I don't believe in ghosts — but that's because I've never seen what we see in movies. I've never seen a phantom in the night. I've never seen an entire shelf get knocked over and all the plates shatter on the ground. But I am open to it.

And I also believe that that doesn't have to happen for those presences to be real, because I have gone into rooms that feel sad. That feel uncomfortable. And I feel there must be a reason.

Alissa Wilkinson

Like the imprint of the person is still there, on us.

David Lowery

The Shining had the best description of it, which is that if you burn toast in a room, you're gonna smell that toast. And I feel like that is something that exists in the world. When someone leaves a room they leave a little bit of themselves behind, regardless of how minuscule that might be. And sometimes they'll leave enough behind that you feel it, and maybe there's more to it than that. And maybe there's less to it than that. But I do subscribe to that because of the potential of that idea.

'A Ghost Story' Premiere - 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Lowery and Mara at the Sundance premiere of A Ghost Story
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

Lowery is a huge fan of the Kristen Stewart movie Personal Shopper

Alissa Wilkinson

That lingering presence gets represented a lot of ways at the movies. Did you see [Oliver Assayas’s 2017 film] Personal Shopper?

David Lowery

I am obsessed with Personal Shopper.

Alissa Wilkinson

I thought you might be.

David Lowery

I didn't see it until this past March, so I was aware of it last year when we shot this movie because it had just played at Cannes, but I had no idea that it was actually a ghost movie. I knew about the text messages, and I knew that there were some horror elements, but I didn't know that it actually was about haunting, and the movie knocked me off my feet. I can't stop thinking about it. I'm relatively obsessed with it. And the ghost visual effects in that movie are amazing.

Alissa Wilkinson

The visual effects in that movie feel similar to yours in some ways. There’s the lights —

David Lowery

The lights flickering.

Alissa Wilkinson

And sometimes the edges of reality seem to kind of blur out visually.

David Lowery

Yeah.

David Lowery on the set of A Ghost Story
David Lowery on the set of A Ghost Story
A24

A Ghost Story tried to follow the rules of haunted houses

Alissa Wilkinson

Your use of the bedsheet for the ghost makes sense, but can you talk about how you arrived at those other visual effects?

David Lowery

Setting aside the bedsheet, I wanted to follow the rules that have been established collectively in most haunted house movies, in most ghost films. So lights flickering, things getting knocked over, weird sounds in the night, all the things we collectively understand occur when a house is haunted — I wanted to utilize those, play into those, exploit those tropes.

The light blinking is something you always see, and I figured that was a great way for my ghost to communicate, to express himself.

There’s also the fact that he can't leave the house. Initially, we had a scene that was entirely concerned with laying out the “rules.” We had a scene that was about the ghost realizing what doors he could get through and which doors he couldn't get through, what he could touch, what he couldn't touch. There were a lot of Michel Gondry-esque gags of him jumping through walls, with two people in a costume — one pushing on one side of the wall and one pushing on the other, and a camera that panned and let us cut from one to the next.

There was this entire sequence that was just defining the rules, and it was pretty much the first thing to hit the cutting room floor. We realized that all our lives, we've seen so many haunted house movies and so many ghost movies that we understand them implicitly.

As audience members, we understand what the rules are — and the fact that he never leaves the house — is all you need to know to understand that he's trapped there.

And the fact that he can't get that note out of the walls — all you need to know is that he can't interact with things, but we definitely had a sequence originally where it was very much like the scenes in Ghost where Patrick Swayze learns how to physically interact with things. I thought we needed that. Turns out, you don't.

Alissa Wilkinson

The ghost can’t leave the house, but eventually the house leaves him! That was the only jump scare in the whole movie for me —

David Lowery

The bulldozer coming through the wall?

Alissa Wilkinson

Crashing through! So the house leaves him. That’s interesting for the audience from a mental framework. At that point in the film, you're doing something to both the ghost’s world and our idea of the movie.

The ghost in A Ghost Story
The ghost in A Ghost Story
A24

David Lowery

Completely. It’s the second time something seismic has happened. The first is when Rooney leaves, and he realizes — and we realize with him — that he's not haunting her, he's haunting the space. Then the space changes and transforms, and we realize that that's not permanent either. And he's still hanging on. He's hanging on for far longer than he should.

All of the things he's hanging on to keep getting pulled out from under him, removed and then taken away. Even this brief connection with the ghost next door goes away. The brief moment when he feels like he might have a connection with this little girl humming a song that sounds familiar to him is taken away from him as well. Everything keeps being pulled from him because he needs to understand, as a character he needs to understand, and we need to understand with him that those things are all impermanent. It's important to let go of them.

Alissa Wilkinson

And yet, they're cyclical.

David Lowery

The cyclical nature of it was my attempt to instill an understanding that we aren't defined solely by this life. Like the song, for example. He writes the song that is his, and he's gonna have this piece of art that potentially will outlast him. And when he winds up somewhere in a distant past and realizes that someone else was humming that same melody, hundreds of years away — that sense of authorship falls away at that point, because the song is no longer just his.

And nothing is. Nothing is just his. The land that those settlers settle on is not their land, either. No one is ever able in this movie to lay claim to any one thing. It always gets pulled away from them, because nothing truly is ours. The cyclical nature of history consistently reveals that. Things keep getting built up and then falling apart because nothing is permanent.

Every part of A Ghost Story’s musical score references the same pop song

Alissa Wilkinson

What's the story behind the song?

David Lowery

Daniel Hart, who's written the score to all of my films, has a band called Dark Rooms. And while we were doing the score for Pete's Dragon, he was also beginning to record songs for his next record with his band. He played that song for me one morning and I just became obsessed with it. I couldn't stop listening to it; I was just driving around LA listening to it constantly, and it was right in early days of developing the project. The script existed, but we were just starting to put the pieces together, and I went into the script and just wrote the song into the script. It became the emotional centerpiece of the movie ... It felt exactly the way I want the movie to feel.

There's sort of a hopeless longing to his vocals in this song. It's very, very sad, and we feel this sense of desperately reaching out for something you can't quite grab. Those emotions are what this movie was all about. I felt that he had already accomplished what I wanted to do with this movie with that song, and the best thing I could do was to just ... you know, borrow it, and let the song lend those qualities to the movie at key moments.

Alissa Wilkinson

It feels so ethereal.

David Lowery

I hate to use this word, but it's a very haunting song. And I love that it's a pop song, with a drum beat and all the normal things go along with a pop song. But it also goes so far beyond just a pleasant song to listen to. It's not just a fun song. There's a lot going on there. It's as rich and as beautiful and transportive as any film I could ever hope to make.

Rooney Mara in A Ghost Story
Rooney Mara in A Ghost Story
A24

Alissa Wilkinson

Music itself is important to the film in several different ways.

David Lowery

Once we had that song in there, Daniel knew that the score would be incredibly vital. He felt that the rest of the score should play upon that song. So every piece of score begins with an element from that song. Whether it's a little piece of the strings, or a little bit of the vocals, every piece of the score is based on that song.

And from there it goes off into completely different directions. I really wanted him to push beyond what our previous collaborations sounded like. Our previous films have all been very folksy, very handmade. I wanted this score to feel different. I wanted the pop elements of that song to sort of carry over into the score. But I wanted to go beyond that, even, and have things that feel ancient or transcendent because the movie ultimately becomes quite epic and quite cosmic in its scope. I wanted the movie to reflect that, and sort of guide us in that direction.

At this point in our collaboration, Daniel and I don't have to talk about things that much. He can give me a piece of music, and I can give a few notes on it, and he'll revise it. Then the next piece of music will be exactly what the movie needs. In this case, you know, the first piece of music he gave us was the music for the scene in the hospital. I told him to write a piece of music that sounded like a John Carpenter score from the 1980s, and he delivered exactly that. It was way too much, so we dialed it back quite a bit, and once we'd done that, the rest of the score just was first drafts. He just delivered first drafts, and they all fit perfectly.

The whole score is very resonant with the movie, even though you don't necessarily realize it. Some of the vocal elements in the other songs are the soprano singing vocals, and all the lyrics are all based on elements of the movie — whether it's the Virginia Woolf short story, or the Tibetan Book of the Dead; there's a lot of that material built into the score that provides a really rich subtext on a sonic level, even if you don't know all that. And most people won't! It really guides you towards the movie's ultimate conclusion. It’s the roadmap to follow as the movie becomes what it's ultimately about.

There's other music in the movie as well, including Beethoven's Ode to Joy, to underscore a monologue about Ode to Joy. In that same scene, there's a song that was co-written by Kesha the pop singer, who's one of my favorite pop singers. And there was a lot of other music in the movie that has its own flavors and own reasons for being.

Alissa Wilkinson

It sort of felt like it had an overture.

David Lowery

Yes. In fact, we actually created an overture for the film to kick the movie off. It was a four-minute piece of music that I believe is on the soundtrack — maybe only on the vinyl, but I'm not sure. We thought about just introducing the movie with four minutes of music and a blank screen, just so people could get into the mindset of the film. Ultimately that proved to be a little too alienating; I remember going to see Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, with its overture, and no one knew what to make of it. You go see that at the local AMC and people are like, what is going on? Did the projector break?

The movie's challenging enough. We didn't want to predispose ourselves to audience alienation. But nonetheless, it would be great to have that because this is the type of movie that could utilize that. And even if we don't have a complete, traditional, opening overture, the entire pre-title sequence still functions as such and it kind of started perfectly in its own right.

A film still from A Ghost Story by David Lowery, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
A Ghost Story
Andrew Droz Palermo / Sundance Institute

The first film Lowery saw — as a 4-year-old! — was 2001: A Space Odyssey

Alissa Wilkinson

There's this trend toward performing films with live orchestra. A Ghost Story would be really good candidate, I think.

David Lowery

We have talked about it, and we would really love to do it.

Alissa Wilkinson

When I saw Tree of Life that way, it made the film feel bigger somehow.

David Lowery

Oh, I can only imagine. I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey that way, and it was like, how did they actually write the music on paper? Watching it live, you suddenly realize how complex this music actually is. It just makes no sense to me. It's so profound and so immaterial, and yet all of these musicians are playing it live in front of me. It really illuminated how powerful that music, and music in general, can be.

Alissa Wilkinson

I was actually reminded of 2001 when watching A Ghost Story, because of how time circles.

David Lowery

That was probably the first movie I ever saw. At the time my grandfather knew that I loved outer space and he showed it to me from a very early age, before I even saw Star Wars. He always left off the “Dawn of Time” sequence, because he figured I wouldn't care about that. He figured as a 4-year-old, all I wanted to see was spaceships. But he always left in the ending, and so as a 4-year-old, getting hit with that cosmic journey — I'm sure that that had a profound effect on me, and has impacted everything I've done ever since, even on a very subconscious level.

So I didn't think about 2001 while making A Ghost Story, but I also didn't need to, because it's always there for me.

Alissa Wilkinson

You never forget those big, crazy movies you see as a kid.

David Lowery

Even though the effects in 2001 are dated, the actual way that sequence at the end of the film functions within the movie is still completely transcendent. It is so far beyond what anyone does now or has ever done. No one's ever done anything like that. There's no movie that takes those great leaps. Even to have a protagonist shift halfway through the movie is a profound narrative device that no one does. It's very rare to have that happen. It's next-level stuff.

When he watched the finished film, Lowery forgot he made the movie

Alissa Wilkinson

With films like 2001, or even like Personal Shopper, I think people crave closure and don’t get it. They’re left wondering, what did I just watch? Do you have an idea in your mind for what you want people to feel when they leave the theater from A Ghost Story? Or do you not think about that?

David Lowery

I try not to think about it too much, but the first time I watched the movie all the way through with the finished sound design, when we were checking it for Sundance, I forgot that it was a movie I made. For a second. Which is almost impossible to do. And the effect it had on me was not what I was expecting. And I'm still trying to figure out what that was.

Ultimately, it left me feeling very comforted, and left me feeling at peace. Which is good, because that's what I was going for. But the way in which it achieved that was not something I was consciously trying to do. It really took on a life of its own for me, as the filmmaker, and worked on me in objective fashion. My response to it was objective. And I treasure that, because I don't ever get to have that experience in my own films. I don't think I ever will again.

But as a result, I'm still trying to come to terms with what it means to me and I hesitate to describe a reaction to audiences in the stands. I don't want to say that it's open to interpretation, or that you can get out of it whatever you want to get out of it. Of course that's true; I don't feel a film so non-specific has to bring in that sort of disclaimer. But whatever the specificity has is as of yet something I can't quite define. I know that it's specific, but I don't quite know how to put it into words.

Alissa Wilkinson

I think that's probably going to be most people's experience.

David Lowery

That's great. I'm glad to have provided an experience like that. And I'm glad that to a certain extent I can partake in it, because it's really special to me to be able to sit back and — you know, 45 minutes into the movie, that's where I'm just like, all of a sudden, for whatever reason, just along for the ride. And I'm able to watch objectively. It's a beautiful thing.