Coming soon will be two looks at the film Alex & Jaime, a post-modern masterpiece of unconventional film storytelling that brings multiple actors into the shoes of the title characters, allowing for an examination of how a relationship can be viewed from many angles, and how there is a universality to love that moves beyond aspects of gender preference and personal identity.
I was lucky enough to get the director and co-writer Brian Flaccus to answer a few of my questions!
So I've watched Alex & Jaime and was blown away by the approach to a single story through multiple characterizations and performances. In the writing process, how did you approach the different temporalities?
Brian Flaccus - First off, thank you so much! We didn’t know when starting this whole adventure how it would be received with such a non linear story and multiple takes on the same people. In writing it, Chadwick and I started off with a single love story, and only considered the differences that age and relationship familiarity have on any couple. It was largely based off of my relationship with my now wife Jess, and initially, between each act we were going to have Alex and Jaime switch genders to show how the struggles and triumphs in a relationship are not bound by sex. But in doing that our conversations expanded to include that not only are all these relationship experiences universal across gender, but across culture, race and sexual preference. Once unpacked, we realize that all humans run across the same emotions, obstacles and victories regardless of any of those details. We feel strongly that love runs much deeper in the human condition than these physical attributes we talk about so much. Once we had this concept down the story just flowed very easily from that understanding.
While shooting, what were your methods for ensuring a emotional continuity within the transmutations? How concerned were you with maintaining a consistency between those actors playing the roles?
BB - I definitely wanted to maintain a semblance of continuity, so that it would be believable that these characters could be the same people. What made that transition easier was the realization that we become different versions of ourselves in every situation that we encounter, and that definitely includes the various milestones of relationships. So since time passes between each act, it is believable that the emotions of the actors have changed though their core person remains the same. It usually only took one good long conversation with each actor before we shot, and they not only absorbed what I told them about the previous act, but brought something of themselves and something universal to the act they were portraying. It’s also a great testament to the actors we cast. Their open collaborative ability is palpable on screen, and everyone was working toward the same story goal.
When you're editing a piece that is this complicated for an audience, what were your guidelines for keeping people on track?
BB - This was tough, and to be sure, we cut a ton of dialog and a lot of the ‘totems’ that tied each act together. The more complicated we had written them, the more they seemed to muddy the story and the character’s through-lines. It was a good lesson to see that the simplest choices often worked the best, like Alex smoking though out the film. The metaphor of the growing tomato plant was also a good grounding idea that kept us on track. We wanted to let it be clear what was changing without beating the audience over the head with it. It's a delicate balance.
I found the audio design to be absolutely on-point at every turn. Can you talk a bit about the music?
Yes absolutely. We were incredibly fortunate to get access to the quality of music that we did. My friend Tim Kirch of 8123 Records in Arizona, manages several really incredible indie bands, and they were kind enough to let us use songs from bands like The Bambinos, The Technicolors, Nick Santino and John the Ghost. We shot with these tracks in mind, and edited a great deal around them. We also had so many talented musicians in LA offer tracks that magically brought the theme together and really surprised us, by bringing new depth and meaning to the scenes. Artists like Tommy Freed, Maggie Malyn, Roshan Maloney and Joshua Hill offered tracks. Like I mentioned we had cut a lot of dialog, and there are large pieces of the film that ended up as montages but I think they hold up with the emotional power of the songs. Music is really important in a film for me, and we wanted to have a killer soundtrack that I would listen to on a road trip.
Would you say this is an avant garde work? Do you think it exists within the world of the art film, or is it something more mainstream? Did that ever enter into your mind?
I did give a lot of thought to this from beginning to end. We never made this with the intent to be ‘artistic’ for art’s sake; we just tried to portray an appealing universal love story in a non-conventional way. What we ended up with I think is a good crossover piece that has mainstream appeal, and some art-house sensibility. Inevitably, when you are making a film without a budget (we shot and edited this for under $8k) you have to get a little avant-garde to make shots work, but in the end, I think any audience can appreciate something about this. The best balance of this in my opinion is to use something familiar to create something new, and I hope this film nears that goal.
There are some really talented actors here. Where might we find more of them?
Yes! Our casting was probably our greatest asset. Most of these guys are friends I’ve known for years and really wanted to work with. Not to mention get them out there to get the exposure their talents deserve. All of them are up to some great work now, so without going too detail crazy, here is a short list of what some of our stars have done since Alex & Jaime:
Dominic Bogart – The Birth of a Nation, ‘Joe’ on AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead and ‘Robbie’ in the upcoming film Glass Castle with Brie Larson
Justene Alpert – As “Marissa” on Bosch on Amazon
Chadwick Hopson – lead of the film The Last Descent (blu-ray in stores or online)
Eden Malyn – Orange Is the New Black on Netflix
Gentry White – ‘Romeo’ on Lifetime’s Unreal
Hope Lauren – ‘Ophelia’ on MTV’s Awkward, and ‘Bizarro Girl’ on CW’s Supergirl
What's your next project?
One thing we are working on now is learning how to accept help and raise financing. We did a ton of work producing our first two films alone with very limited crew, and no budget to speak of. I think we have proved that we can create a compelling story without resources, but now we are ready to step up our production size.
We are working on several more projects currently. Zephyr is a feature film about a troubled VR programmer, and we hope to shoot in China later this year. Paul is a short film about the 1980s AIDS epidemic we will shoot this summer. And we have another feature film that is a really fun post-apocalyptic love triangle we call a rom-com-dram, called Some Things Are Better Left Undead. That film we hope to fund and shoot by early 2018.
Finally, a question I've recently started asking everyone - If I'm going to train to watch your film, what other movies should I warm up to it with???
It’s got some elements of music driven indie romance in the vein of Like Crazy, and contained and conversational like Blue Jay or The Layover.
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.