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$60K in hand, Alvarez-Flatow ’14 will shoot first feature film

$60K in hand, Alvarez-Flatow ’14 will shoot first feature film

By Cora Markowitz

Imagine you are sitting by a bonfire at night in a foreign country with a few friends. You’ve taken a mind-altering drug ラ acid, maybe ラ and the darkness seems unfriendly, even dangerous. Your friend moves out of the flames’ sputtering halo of light and then ラ they’re dead. To your horror, you realize the darkness is harboring something more lethal than you could imagine.

If this sounds like the beginning of a psychological thriller, you would be right; in fact, it is the outline of Miguel Alvarez-Flatow ’14’s current project, a film he will direct and is scheduled to begin shooting in Mexico next July.

Alvarez-Flatow is currently translating the screenplay from its original Spanish to English as part of an individual study project with Professor of Drama Jonathon Tazewell. Writing the script will serve for part of Alvarez-Flatow’s senior exercise as a film major.

“Miguel has been very enterprising and creative in putting together this film project,” Tazewell wrote in an email. “It’s exciting to see how quickly he has been able to develop this idea into a reality.”

Alvarez-Flatow is no newcomer to the film industry. Though this will be his first foray into directing a film, he won a role in the 2012 Sundance-nominated film Keep the Lights On. At the film festival, Alvarez-Flatow met the producers of his current project.

Through a “nerve-wracking” application process, Alvarez-Flatow received a $60,000 grant from the Mexican government to pursue the project. This may seem like a large sum of money, but Alvarez-Flatow stressed that most films are significantly more costly.

“We’re aiming for $200,000, which typically for a film is super low, but the movie we’re writing has only two locations, so location cost and production cost all goes down, so it’s not that expensive a movie,” Alvarez-Flatow said.

But because the $60,000 grant amounts to only 30 percent of the film’s anticipated budget, Alvarez-Flatow acknowledged that he might need to make adjustments.

Though the film will be in English, Alvarez-Flatow chose to shoot in Mexico because he received the grant from there, and unions have fewer restrictions regarding filming in Mexico than in the U.S. More than that, the Mexican government has been allocating funds to emerging filmmakers in hopes of retaining artistic talent amongst the hordes of film directors who have moved to Hollywood.

“It’s surprising, I guess, that [the actors will] be speaking in English,” Alvarez-Flatow said. “Right now, Mexico is trying to invest a lot in films and new talent, so there’s been a splurge of new films in Mexicoナ they’re trying to retain some of that by giving out funds.”

Though the project will be shot in Mexico, the actual setting of the film is intentionally unclear.

“We’re playing with the ambiguity of the situation,” Alvarez-Flatow said. “I don’t think they’ll ever explain the situation; the audience is left with a vague uncertainty. But, as of now, I guess we do allude to the fact that they’re foreigners, Americans in a different country ナ but there’s basically no need to [explain the exact country].

“The first scene is going through the jungle to get to the bonfire, and the rest of it is at night,” Alvarez-Flatow said.

He cited the 2010 Spanish-American psychological thriller Buried as artistic inspiration for his project. The film takes place in a coffin, and “the camera never abandons that space,” he said. Alvarez-Flatow’s film will try to recreate that sense of claustrophobia through an encroaching darkness.

Before shooting begins, Alvatrez-Flatow still has much to do. He is scheduled to travel to New York to audition actors over winter break.

“I also do some acting, so I have an agent, so I sent the synopsis to my agent, and he said he could be in charge of the casting, but I will be there,” he said.

Alvarez-Flatow also plans to storyboard the entire film, a lengthy process that involves mapping out every sequence in the film before shooting starts. “Because we don’t have a lot of time to shoot, it makes it easy to just look at the storyboard and shoot like that,” he said.

The actual filming is estimated to take three weeks. Afterwards, post-production will begin.

“Post-production will probably be the most expensive, because you have to find a really good editor to find a good rhythm for the film,” Alvarez-Flatow said. “With only two locations, editing is extremely important, probably the most important. So we need to find a good editor, and a sound editor as well.”

While the project is still in its early stages, Alvarez-Flatow entertains high hopes for its future. “We’re going to send it to some festivals ラ that’s partly why we want to film it in English,” he said. “The dream would be Sundance.”

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