Virgin Alexander is a new comedy making the festival circuit while seeking out a distribution deal. While the movie made a stop in Oklahoma City for the deadCenter Film Festival, co-directors Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett were kind enough to stop by and talk about their experience making a low budget independent film.
Shawn Lealos – What was the genesis of Virgin Alexander?
Sean Fallon – We met at NYU and sat next to each other in our first Film Production class. Before we started dating, we were working on each other’s short films. We graduated from NYU in 2004 and worked for the Late Show with David Letterman for a year before moving out to L.A. We were in L.A. for three-and-a-half years and got really sick of living in L.A., so we moved to Vegas. One of the reasons we moved was because the housing market collapsed and Vegas was hit harder than any city in the country. We bought a foreclosed home that had been vacant for over a year.
After moving there, we saw so many foreclosures and started thinking about that. In Virgin Alexander, he finds out that his home is being foreclosed and he is being evicted. So, we looked at foreclosures and questioned who is the least capable person of handling that kind of situation. That is the genesis of our story that we wrote over the period of a year and a half. After we felt like we had the script, we sent it to Houston Hill, a producer in Austin. He came on board in January 2010, we started pre-production and everything came together really fast. We were shooting in June.
Shawn Lealos – How did you go about bringing in the name actors to work on a low budget film?
Charlotte Barrett – We went to their agents and representation and they responded to the script. We then met with them to see if we liked them, they liked us and if we could communicate with them. We had to speak the same language concerning movies and have the same ideas about the script.
Sean Fallon – First we met with Paige Howard, who plays Ruby in the film. She was great in Adventureland, a great young actress, and she came on board first. You read the script, we’re a brothel comedy, and you might think ‘oh, it’s a sex comedy like American Pie!’ But that was never out intention. You can also read the script and say it’s pretty funny but it’s also pretty sad. Alexander is the least capable person handling this situation, opening the brothel is a terrible idea, but we never sacrifice character for a joke in the script. We will always cut a joke if it is at the expense of the character. Paige really responded to that and really understood Ruby.
After that, we met with Bronson Pinchot. I loved him in Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers and he’s amazing in True Romance. He read the script and we got to meet with him. He loved our script and he liked us. After we met with him, we knew he had to play this character. We didn’t care how we had to do it, but he had to play this character.
Once we got Paige and Bronson, momentum kind of picked up because it validated us. Once they signed on, everything else started falling into place.
Shawn Lealos – What are the challenges of getting a low budget movie financed?
Sean Fallon – When we go to the actors, they want to hear us talk and find out what are our ideas. We could have been like ‘it will be a crazy sex comedy!’ but we talked about character. It is a comedy but it is a very personal story. We could get investors because it is very commercial comedy idea. A virgin opens a brothel in his house. It is high concept. But, for us, it’s a very personal story because Alexander is a person who feels trapped in a situation. He strives for greater things and doesn’t know how to achieve them. That is something I can relate to. He likes to play the piano but he doesn’t know how to express himself. He doesn’t know how to have a career doing that. How do you do that? I remember growing up in Saratoga Springs, New York and wanted to make movies but how do you actually do that? It was a very personal story. It lets them know we are taking this story seriously.
Shawn Lealos – How hard is it to find humor in this type of situation with the economic climate of the world?
Charlotte Barrett – I process things with humor. If something is really bothering me, I need to laugh about it and that is how I move forward. That is why I can find humor in sadness, which is where I always find humor. We take it seriously, he is losing his home. It is not going to go well because the brothel idea is not the greatest. It is really scary, especially to inexperienced guys who have never been around beautiful women.
Shawn Lealos – How do you work around a limited budget?
Sean Fallon – We got a better cast then what we pitched our investors. We thought we’d be hiring a lot of local actors in New York but there are some roles, such as two cops in the movie who are played by Joe D’Onofrio (Goodfellas) and Richard Lounello (The Sopranos). We got these guys to be in our movie and we couldn’t say no. So, we took the money away from the lenses and put it towards these great actors.
We were always up front with everyone about what our budget was and never passed ourselves off as something better so nobody made this movie for the money. From the P.A., who wasn’t paid, to the actor who worked scale for what we legally had to pay them. Everyone was there because they wanted to be there and no one was there because they are getting an amazing paycheck.