Q&A with Director Kyle Alvarez
Written by Adam Peltz
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 00:23
|Q&A with Director Kyle Alvarez|
One monumental day, while flipping through GQ Magazine, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Kyle Alvarez read Davy Rothbart’s “true story” titled “What Are You Wearing?” Filled with urgency and “a sense of obligation to tell the story [in film]…the right way”, Alvarez contacted Rothbart, and two-and-a-half years later, Forty Second Productions released the indie comedy-drama Easier With Practice, showing this Monday at The New Orleans Film Festival.
In brief, the first half of the flick captures Davy Mitchell and his brother Sean, driving through the American Southwest, on the road for his book tour. One night, after Sean has gone out for a pack of smokes, as Davy unwinds in a motel (not hotel) room, he receives a “random” phone-call for verbal sex, and a courtship begins, in a whisper, with “Nicole.” Quickly, the idea of random turns into one of destiny.
Right place, right time, right number, Davy and Nicole complete the tour together in the rear of the tour bus –- a hooptie station wagon, in alleyways, and poolside. When he returns home, Davy shies away from the faceless, hushed voice and attempts a more traditional relationship, but when he is alone with his wall of post-it notes and a fleet of empty beer bottles posed before him, he still thinks about meeting Nicole someday. For Davy, the fantasy and the anonymity within it -- albeit his hand that works-over his “private parts” is surely very familiar – make for a more successful dynamic than phoneless, up-close intimacy.
With beautifully-executed camerawork, a contemporary soundtrack, and a thoughtful cast that includes Brian Geraghty ("The Hurt Locker," "We Are Marshall," "Jarhead") as Davy, the million-dollar-made quirky film, the funds for which Alvarez raised himself through private investors, will make a strong and lasting impression. Be aware of what phone-calls you screen, and go and see the movie.
Showing: Monday, October 12, 7:30pm, Prytania Theater
Adam Peltz: Kyle, congratulations on your success. I enjoyed the whole package – the story, the characters, the camerawork, the sets, the music, the website. Roughly, what was your budget, and how much did this budget dictate the outcome of the film? Where did you get the hooptie?
Kyle Alvarez: Our budget was around a million dollars. Money is always a challenge, but I really felt we had the right money to tell this story the right way. You can always use more shooting days, of course, and there were some scenes and shooting days we had to work quite quickly through, but I was happy that we were able to shoot on car rigs, and have a full proper crew. I spent a year and a half raising the money from independent investors. It was a tough time, and with the economic status today it would be next to impossible, but two and a half years ago there was a chance, it just took a lot of patience and persistence.
AP: In the press kit, you touch on a sense of urgency that Davy’s story welled-up in you. Can you explain this? I suppose I am asking, to you what is the film about?
KA: The urgency was more just a sense of obligation to tell the story, I really felt I knew how to tell it and how to do it the right way (hopefully). I was also so excited to find a story I connected to as much as I did to Davy's and I wanted to get on it!
AP: Who is your audience? Is it the same as Davy Rothbart’s?
KA: In a way yes, in that I really respect the taste of the people who enjoy Davy's work as a writer and as a magazine editor. Having said that, there wasn't a conscious decision to gear the film directly to Davy's audience. (ie- Davy and I both agreed we wouldn't include FOUND Magazine).
AP: Why is there the need to offer that this is based on a true story? Did that confine you?
KA: Honestly, I offer it more as a way to credit Davy, but we really did not try to have it confine us, whatever needed to be done to be the best story independent of what really happened. My first pitch to Davy was that I wanted to tell the story that happened, but not necessarily feel tied specifically to the people it happened to.
AP: The film offers striking images and portraits. Would you say the film is as concerned with still-photography as it is the moving picture?
KA: I'm excited you'd say that, the DP and I used a lot of photography as inspiration. Primarily Philip Lorca DiCorcia. I also really love Wong Kar Wai's work with Christopher Doyle and the way that they use photography to bring depth to the characters as opposed to just covering the scene.
AP: How close did you stick to his “true story?” Do you think Davy Rothbart is pleased with the outcome?
KA: Honestly, the core elements of the story, a man gets a random call in a motel room and develops a sincere relationship with the woman through phone sex and they ultimately decide to meet. I stuck to that, and I tried to stay to the ultimate things. Lots of things had to change, of course, just through the course of adapting a few pages of magazine into a 100 page script. Davy has been really supportive of the film and I do believe he is pleased with the final movie. He's been a great support.
AP: Kyle, I’ve got to ask. As I kind of know the real Davy (whatever that means), and I’m used to seeing Ann Arbor’s son in Value Village trousers, sporty tanktop, a Mr. T amount of gold-plated trinkets discoloring his neck, and a cap, why did you decide to portray his character’s style in the way that you did -- disheveled sports-coats and ties and so on? Is there a little of you in there? Did you think Davy Mitchell’s style would hold up better on film? Is this the way you saw Rothbart? Why does his name remain Davy but his brother’s name is the made-up Sean. Maybe these questions go with the umbrella one, how does your screenplay differ from Rothbart's short story? Is this your taunting our idea of truth in writing?
KA: There was definitely a lot of thought on how to approach this. Honestly, I actually hadn't met Davy in person until after I'd finished the first draft. Like I said before though, I had kind of sold Davy on the idea of this being a film of his story and not necessarily a "Davy Rothbart Film". I kept Davy's name mostly because I felt that ultimately there was still at least some of the real Davy in there; also I just liked the way it sounded. I wanted him to have a name that was like a kid's nickname he'd never grown out of. "Davy" really just happened to be the best choice for the name. I had never met Peter, and didn't know much about him and when I was coming up with the character I started to feel bad that people would think they were the same person especially since Sean is a bit of an ass and Peter is actually incredibly kind and sweet.
AP: Admittedly, I love Rothbart’s cameo, where he is sitting next to “himself”, and then he exits to the dancefloor while Davy Mitchell enters into an awkward encounter of his own with Samantha, a sort of ex-flame. Is the cameo moment your way of showing who Davy Rothbart really is or isn’t? Is it meant as a shout-out to the original author?
KA: Well we were lucky enough to have Davy on set for a few days and we knew we had to get him in there. Having them sit together I thought would be a perfect moment.
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