At the suggestion of Bushnell Keeler, Lynch applied for a grant from the newly formed American Film Institute by submitting The Alphabet, and a script for a new short film which would become "The Grandmother." Even though it was budgeted at $7119, Lynch accepted AFI's offer of $5000 to make the film. "...The beautiful thing about that grant programme is that they put you into a place where you have a channel to put your work out. It put a solid foundation underneath each thing they did" Lynch remembers.1 Lynch once again painted the walls of his house black and set about filming. "...A certain amount of black will allow you to do a little bit of colour...I like colour, it's just that if it gets too busy, it holds you on the surface, and that's what I don't like."2
The plot of the Grandmother centers around a boy who, looking for an escape from his abusive parents, grows a grandmother to comfort him. "There's something about a grandmother...It came from this particular character's need - a need that that prototype can provide. Grandmothers get playful. And they relax a little, and they have unconditional love. And that's what this kid, you know, conjured up."3 The cast once again consisted of people Lynch knew. Virginia Maitland and Bob Chadwick were friends from art school. Dorothy McGinnis was a co-worker at Lynch's job printing engravings. Richard White was a local kid from the neighborhood.
The Grandmother marked the first time Lynch worked with sound editor Alan Splet, starting a collaboration that would span through all of Lynch's films up to Blue Velvet. Lynch and Splet spent 63 days recording sound effects for the film. Thankfully, the studio agreed to charge him on a per reel basis instead of by the hour. Unfortunately, even with the price break on sound, Lynch ran out of money to complete the short. But after he showed the work in progress to Tony Vellani from the AFI, Vellani was so impressed that AFI agreed to give Lynch the rest of the money to finish the film. That meeting also let to Lynch being accepted into the second year of AFI. "He said two things: 'I'm going back to talk to George Stevens, and I'm going to get you money to finish this.' And then he said, 'You've got to go out to the Centre in LA and I'm going to try to make that happen.' He also said that he wanted Alan Splet to head the sound department."4
You can purchase The Grandmother on DVD from the store at davidlynch.com. It's on the Short Films DVD.
1. Chris Rodley (editor), "Lynch on Lynch," Faber and Faber, 1997, p.40
2. Chris Rodley (editor), "Lynch on Lynch," Faber and Faber, 1997, p.48
3. Chris Rodley (editor), "Lynch on Lynch," Faber and Faber, 1997, p.50
4. Chris Rodley (editor), "Lynch on Lynch," Faber and Faber, 1997, p.51
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