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Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #33: Chris Messina On How He Completed ‘Alex of Venice’ While Shooting ‘The Mindy Project’

Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #33: Chris Messina On How He Completed 'Alex of Venice' While Shooting 'The Mindy Project'

Chris Messina both directs and stars in “Alex of Venice,” a drama about Alex, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a woman pushed past the comfort zone of everything she knows. Previously known for his work on “The Mindy Project” and HBO’s “The Newsroom,” this is Messina’s directional debut. 

Tell us about yourself? I was born and raised in New York and spent many years performing in plays from anywhere from the Bronx to off-Broadway to Broadway. About 8 years ago Alan Ball cast me on the last season of “Six Feet Under” and I moved to Los Angeles to work in film and television more. I’ve been lucky enough to work with film directors like Woody Allen, Sam Mendes, Nora Ephron, Ben Affleck, David Gordon Green and Noah Baumbach and I learned a great deal from all of them. I live in Los Angeles with my wife Jennifer Todd who is a film producer and our two boys, Milo and Giovanni.

Biggest challenge coming into the project? During the shoot, we had limited time due to our budget constraints so we were forced to move as fast as possible. That brevity did not end throughout the entire production process. Post-Production also moved quickly as I was working on a television show and therefore had to cut the film at night, on the weekends and even at times in my trailer. It was a very challenging way to finish the film.

Did you crowdfund? No. I was lucky enough to have great producers, Jamie Patricof and Lynette Howell, who secured all of our financing.

What films have inspired you? There are so many films and filmmakers that have inspired me through out my career . For “Alex of Venice” I watched “Kramer vs Kramer,” “Hannah and her Sisters,” and “All the Real Girls” pretty much non-stop.

What camera did you shoot on? The Arri Alexa 

Did you go to film school? did not, but I have taken a great amount of acting classes. I’ve been lucky enough to study with some of the best teachers like Ron Van Lieu, Kim Gilllingham, Earle Gister, and Harold Guskin. By working with master teachers like these, I learned so much about script analysis and storytelling.
I love the website Cinephilia and Beyond – each day there are incredible posts taking you through the process of your favorite films and filmmakers. This website was instrumental to me.

What do you have in the works? I have a few scripts in development as a director, and I’m hoping to make another film on my next break in 2015. I just finished playing Al Pacino’s son in David Gordon Green’s “Manglehorn.” I’m currently shooting the third season of “The Newsroom” on HBO, and in the summer I return for a third season of “The Mindy Project.”

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about
their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and
what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up
to the 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries.

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