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Spirits 2010 | “Practice”‘s Alvarez: “Everyone who worked on the film should feel like they own it”

Spirits 2010 | "Practice"'s Alvarez: "Everyone who worked on the film should feel like they own it"

Kyle Patrick Alvarez makes his feature debut with “Easier with Practice,” the story of a man who becomes embroiled in a phone-sex relationship while on a road trip. The film opens in theaters this week, having previously screened at AFI Fest, Edinburgh, and CineVegas among other festivals. indieWIRE contacted Alvarez to discuss his career, film and belief in the importance of collaborative filmmaking.

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.

I definitely set out to make a movie that was entertaining above all else. I hope it’s thought provoking and that people leave the movie having some kind of conversation about it afterward, but I also hope they find it funny and touching. Maybe that’s a lot to ask though! I think our lead actor, Brian Geraghty (from “The Hurt Locker”) committed himself so much to the character and pulled off a special performance. I really hope people get a chance to see his work in the film.

Alvarez on his inspirations…

There are a bunch, but I really love Wong Kar Wai’s work and took a lot of inspiration from him on scene coverage and compositions, especially from “In the Mood for Love.” Right before we went into production I saw “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” which just blew me away and really left me in a state of confidence that we could pull off long takes and trust the audience to go with us (our film has a ten and a half minute take at one point).

…and future projects…

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.

This is part of a series of profiles and interviews that indieWIRE will be publishing in the days leading up to the 2010 Film Independent Spirit Awards that profiles nominees in the Best First Feature and John Cassavetes Award categories. Previous editions include:

Spirits 2010 | “Crazy Heart” Director Scott Cooper: “Truly independent in spirit.”
Spirits 2010 | Tom Ford: “I have always been obsessed by film.”
Spirits 2010 |”Zero Bridge”‘s Tariq Tapa: “We were starting from ground zero every day”
Spirits 2010 | “Paranormal”‘s Peli: “The film had to have the look and feel of authentic home video”
Spirits 2010 | “New Year”‘s Tom Quinn: “This incredible honor is exhilarating and a total thrill.”

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