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“Practice” Director Alvarez: “Everyone who worked on the film should feel like they own it”

"Practice" Director Alvarez: "Everyone who worked on the film should feel like they own it"

Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s “Easier with Practice,” about a man drawn into a long-term phone sex relationship, is up for the Best First Feature prize at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards. Alvarez discusses his career and the importance of collaboration in making the film a reality.

Alvarez on his background and how “Easier with Practice” developed…

My name is Kyle and I’m 26 years old. I fell in love with film at a young age when my mother prematurely showed me “Psycho.” I was scared shitless. Ever since then I knew I wanted to be making movies.

I had been living in LA for a year and had spent that time working as an assistant for Warren Beatty. I gave my two weeks’ notice because I knew I wanted to focus my efforts on trying to get a film independently made. It was during those two weeks, back in 2006, that I read this GQ article called “What Are You Wearing?” It was by (and based on) Davy Rothbart about his true experience of being in a long-term phone sex relationship. I instantly connected with it and set out to get the rights. It was really difficult, because I didn’t have a lawyer or an agent at the time. So it took a while, but Davy was really supportive and encouraging. I wrote the script myself and then spent two years financing it. All in all it’s been a three and a half year process, but here we are, nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards and having a theatrical release. I couldn’t be more grateful or feel any luckier.

Alvarez on realizing his film…

My main goal was to respect the people I was working with, both in front of and behind the camera. I’m well aware that this was my first film and that I was going to learn a lot while making it, so I wanted to make it as collaborative as possible. I really believe everyone who worked on the film should watch it and feel like they own it, not just me. When it came to working with actors, I really do believe that casting is most of the work. You hire the right actors and trust them to work, if they needed my help, of course I’d be there, but I never wanted to over-burden them with notes or direction.

Logistically, the biggest challenge was raising the funds. It took me a year and a half or so to get all the money together. I did it entirely on my own, so it really was process of begging. This was before the economic collapse but if I was doing the same thing today, I don’t know it would’ve been possible. Creatively, the hardest thing making a film where the lead character spends most of his time by himself, talking on the phone to someone we never see. I knew that it was going to be a delicate balance between interesting and boring with those scenes. The other challenge was, of course, working within our limited means. Every minute of every day counted during production, there wasn’t any time to hesitate or re-think things. It definitely trained me to just trust my instincts: make decisions, move forward and don’t look back. Thankfully, Cookie Carosella, the film’s producer was there to support me 100 percent of the way. She’s the best producer I could ever imagine working with.

Alvarez on what it means to be a Spirit nominee…

Oh, it means more than I can put into words. I never could’ve thought I would be up there, nominated amongst so many filmmakers and films I admire so much. I know people say it all the time, but I could never have anticipated these nominations. I’m just so grateful for the 2 nominations and what it brings to our movie; hopefully more people will know it’s out there and check it out!

…and his favorite indies of 2009…

Well I loved “Mother” and “The Hurt Locker.” On a smaller scale of production, I really enjoyed “Humpday,” “Dare” and “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.” There were many other great films too, that just aren’t coming to mind right away!

Alvarez on the projects he’s got in the pipelines…

I have a few things I’m working on. One is a project I’m just about to close the option agreement on so I can’t talk about it, but it’s a dream project. Based off work by one of my favorite authors (who’s actually never allowed his/her work to ever be made into a film before). I’m also attached to direct a script my friend Bob Berens wrote, called “Disorientation”, about a gay man who enters into a drug trial and subsequently starts to fall in love with the girl that moves in next door to him. The third thing I have, is a script I’m writing that’s a female ensemble drama about four women who all find out they are sleeping with the same man. Making Easier with Practice was the best experience of my life so I’m eager and excited to get something off the ground again as soon as possible.

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