I Play With The Phrase Each Other - Jay Alvarez interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
JAY Alvarez talks about some of the challenges involved in making I Play With The Phrase Each Other, including taking a leading role and how it all affected his health.
He also offers up some views on the dangers of mobile phones, what he learned as a filmmaker from the experience and more. I Play With The Phrase Each Other receives its world premiere at the Raindance Film Festival on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 (see booking details below)…
Q. Where did the idea for making I Play With The Phrase Each Other come from? And what made you decide to make the film entirely composed of cell phone calls?
Jay Alvarez: Several years ago, I was corresponding with a group whose name I can’t specify, but whose purpose concerned a resistance against certain forms of wireless pollution in America. And the world. And there was a man in this group. He was an official of the group. A leader. And he wrote to me, after reading something I’d written. A piece of fiction someone had sent him. He wrote to me with an offer, which at the time was very advantageous. And the offer he was making was in exchange for me writing a film, which I’d never done before, in which several young characters, through their incessant use of cell phones and other forms of wireless communication, develop malignant brain tumors, and die.
And before the movie was written, before it was even contemplated seriously, the man himself died. In a car crash. And even though nothing had been written down when he died, and I’d only received a very small part of his offer upfront, the man still had a great affect on me. And I continued to work on the movie, through its thousands preparations and plagued creation. And even without him, the man’s offer continued to enhance my vision. To correct my posture.
Q. Did this, in turn, bring any creative challenges or headaches, especially given that no two characters occupy the same room?
Jay Alvarez: Creative challenges are one of the few types from which we’ll luckily never suffer.
Q. What made you decide to give yourself a role in the film too? And how was balancing script duties with director’s duties and acting?
Jay Alvarez: I cast appropriate people. And balancing writing, directing and acting doesn’t begin to describe my nightmare. I lost twenty pounds preparing the movie alone. And I had a visible abdomen. They’re pronounced. The movie’s a record of my health’s nadir. Of all the begging and sweaty cajoling I did, every malnourished hour to pulseless peers whose lumbering lifelessness spoke to me as though descending sage repose. It’s a record of every frantic phone call I made at two in the morning to one of my 70 unpaid friends and neighbours, persuading them to call out of work the next morning and rush on their dime to one of the movie’s 55 cramped locations, then hopping on a light-rail train with four oversized tote bags to an all-hours grocery store to buy the next day’s food so that four hours later, upon showing up at six in the morning to the current location, everyone could complain about how it was “bagels again” for that morning’s breakfast.
Q. The film has drawn favourable comparisons to the likes of Richard Linklater’s Slacker and Kevin Smith’s Clerks. How do they make you feel?
Jay Alvarez: As young, distinctive voices: undisturbed.
Q. How difficult is it to get a film like this made in the current economic climate?
Jay Alvarez: A movie like this can never come from opulence. It’s personal climates that I oppose.
Q. And how invaluable a tool is something like Kickstarter? Do you agree with some of the more recent criticisms levelled upon it, or more at established filmmakers such as Zach Braff or Spike Lee using it?
*Jay Alvarez:*Our movie was not funded through the Internet. That’s a charade. It was funded by ecstatic agony.
Q. What was the biggest lesson you learned from the experience of making the film as both director and leading man?
Jay Alvarez: I learned that my pain could be, for other people, a posture. A means to the goal. The goal being to lean against light fixtures, donning sun glasses, muttering gaudy jargon.
Q. And what has been your favourite response to the film so far? Jay Alvarez: The intense commitment of my most talented collaborators.
Q. The film does show how, as a society, we now live so much of our lives on our phones—do you think that’s a good or bad thing?
Jay Alvarez: I don’t consider the ignored abundance of radio frequencies that threaten the integrity of my cells a “good thing”.
Q. What’s next for you? Has I Play With The Phrase Each Other started to open doors for you?
Jay Alvarez: I’ve received some hopeful contact. But moviemaking has taught me superstition.
I Play With The Phrase I Am receives its world premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, at 6pm. Viewers can catch it again on Thursday, October 3, at 3.15pm.