EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling directors of films nominated for the John Cassavetes Award or Best First Feature Award at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards.
Alex Holdridge’s film “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” is a nominee for the John Cassavetes Award at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards.
From the Independent Spirit Awards’ website: Wilson has just had the worst year of his life. With an unsold script, no concrete plans and no date, he’s convinced Los Angeles is where love comes to die. Before Wilson can spend another day locked up in his bedroom hitting his bong and getting caught in compromising positions while looking at pictures of his best friend’s girlfriend, his roommate browbeats him into posting a personal ad on Craigslist. When Vivian, a sexy, sarcastic and seemingly blind-date-from-hell responds, the two strangers embark on an unexpected, chaotic and hilariously awkward journey through the black-and-white streets of Los Angeles hoping to meet the right one before the stroke of midnight.
Please introduce yourself…
I’m 33, currently living in Venice, California and have made indie films for over ten years. In other words, I’ve struggled to pay the rent a long time eking out movies. I spent the longest amount of my life in Austin, Texas, a city which stole my heart.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
At 18 I watched “The Graduate.” At the time I was ignorant of films that had such a voice, a cynical comedic edge and wonderful music. After that, I endlessly rented films to learn. Then Richard Linkalter, Robert Rodriguez, Wes Anderson, and Kevin Smith were making films that really spoke to me and were doing so outside the system. I co-wrote my first comic feature, “Wrong Numbers,” with my friend Sam Merrick and decided direct it by putting it on my Visa. Four years of working odd jobs and shooting on the weekends later we premiered it.
Please discuss the project that you have been nominated for a Spirit Award for. How or what prompted the idea for the film and how did it evolve?
“In Search of a Midnight Kiss” couldn’t be closer to my heart. My years of struggle when arriving to Los Angeles that went into this lonely, comedy. While I was fighting to make a film in the studio system I had been talking with my indie collaborators about making a low-budget, guerilla film on the streets of L.A. and doing it in an old-fashioned style. I knew I wanted it to be on New Year’s eve and to capture parts of the city which were fantastic. Having gone through a car accident and living carless in L.A. I walked the city, which helped me and the actors find many locations. For the story I had heard about (and was one of) the flood of people that tried to find dates online between Christmas and New Years. I wanted to capture that moment of the year. Also, I knew all of the actors and had the luxury of writing parts for an extremely talented group. When my project at the studio fell apart, my friend, Robert Murphy, the cinematographer and crazy boyfriend in Kiss, called and said he just bought an HD camera, I jumped at the chance. I took my fifty pages of single-spaced notes called “If L.A. Fell into the Ocean I Wouldn’t Miss It,” and wrote the 130 page script in two weeks. I was so broke, lonely and frustrated it just came together in a snap. I called the actors and everyone dove in.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
Money. I’m not a rich kid and we started with pennies. We really began with my credit cards that totaled 3,000 dollars, every cent I had. Then Scoot McNcairy kicked in his cards and we got through principal with no plan for post. I had to beg and plead editors (Frank Reynolds and Jacob Vaughan) to help, and they graciously worked with me. My sister and brother saw what we shot, and for the first time in my life convinced me to not wait tables but to focus on the movie. They each let me borrow money. Other friends kicked in a few thousand here and there to keep us alive. Then my parents, who had been opposed to my filmmaking for a decade, saw the cut and helped buy the computer we needed to up-res and finish the film. This was a reconciliation of my entire family. I am incredibly grateful that they too get to share in the honor of being nominated.
Please describe your experience of finding out you were nominated for a Spirit Award…
I was walking into a Q and A at the beautiful Cine Verdi in Madrid, Spain when I received a text message that we were nominated. I was extraordinarily happy also that Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz were also nominated as I was in Spain and rooting for Spanish films. We told the crowd and they cheered.
What were some your favorite independent films of 2008?
These are few I loved: “The Wrestler,” “The Band’s Visit,” “Betrayed,” “Momma’s Man,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Synecdoche.” Many more still to see.
How do you define “independent film” and how has this definition changed for you personally throughout your career?
Anything made outside the studio system is independent. It takes people willing to support financially and creatively an idea before any distribution is in place. It is having faith in your concept and a group working to make it a reality in spite of tremendous odds and very little money. With this, however, it is possible to take chances and have a voice that a more risk-averse system would not allow.
What’s next for you?
I just sent off my newest script this morning with the intention of shooting in August/September in Paris. I have also recently co-written the adaptation of “Frank and Cindy.” John Malkovich’s company Mr. Mudd, is attached to produce with Scoot McNairy’s, The Group. I am also writing a comedy for Paramount that I hope will be perverted-ly funny.