Jordan Galland (Director - 'Alter Egos')
'The Ego Has Crash Landed!'
At a time when Superheroes have lost government funding and public support, a Superhero meets a girl who can help him overcome his own emotional crisis.
Directed by Jordan Galland, purchased by Phase 4 for Kevin Smith's Smodcast label, its world debut was at the prestigious Fantasia Film Festival this past July 24th, 2012 - where it was chosen as an official selection.
'Alter Egos' stars an accomplished cast from TV, film, and Broadway: Kris Lemche ('Final Destination 3'), Danny Masterson ('That 70s Show'), John Ventimiglia ('The Sopranos'), and Joey Kern ('Cabin Fever').
Musician Sean Lennon, who besides playing "Electric Death" also contributed the musical score for this film. Indeed, Galland and Lennon have been friends for around 15 years, and have collaborated on each other's albums. Lennon also scored Galland's feature, 2009's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead.' And he also worked with Galland on his award winning debut short, surreal film 'Smile For The Camera.'
Chatting recently with the Writer/Director himself Jordan Galland, I first wondered, at the beginning when "Fridge" is walking by Penn Station, what was the percentage of bystanders that were in on the filming?! "Nobody," he gently laughs. "That was kind of a baffling moment for us when we were looking back at the footage. There were like four takes of him crossing the street and no one really looked at him. At him or at the camera. Which is just a testament to what New York is kinda like, I guess. I wasn't so surprised though. I guess part of me knew that would happen because I grew up in New York!"
You obviously came up with the 'Alter Egos' superhero names and costume designs, correct? "Yes, I wrote those parts with the actors in mind. So I'm sure the fact that Joey Kern is blonde made me think of yellow. I think the blue for Fridge was just the cold and the ice. And those are two primary colors coming together, lighting up the screen. And part of the characters is also the effects. I mean, from a budgeting perspective, and for a low budget movie, I had to ask the Special Effects department if we could do somebody that could shoot ice out of their hands."
"And then a lot of things just come together at the same time when dissecting it. I wanted powers that really could have a sort of metaphorical look on a layered level. X-ray vision is rife with interpretations. And then part of it was just coming up with cool names. I thought, to me "C-Thru" and "Fridge" had a kind of post-Hip Hop affectation. Like, Superheroes had been around that long and that there were so many of them, that they just had middle-management positions. And they sat around just to churn out nicknames for each other. To make their official Superhero alter ego. Like they would start to use rapper names or something," he laughs.
The 'F' for "Fridge" I get, but the 'C' for the purposeful misspelling of "C-Thru" is stretching it! "That's what I'm saying," he laughs again. "There's a little Hip Hop reference in there. But, I'll tell you something that I've never told anybody except Joey Kern. In the back of my mind we meet "Fridge" and we need Brendan, but we never meet "C-Thru"'s alter ego. And sometimes I'll write prose about the characters as I'm getting into it and "C-Thru"'s alter ego was Colin! So, I kinda kept the 'C' in there."
Were there many complaints of (super) suit rash or some such other ailment associated with wearing the costumes, perhaps?! "Yeah, we had three of them for each character. But then one of them got bloodied so that wasn't reusable and one of them got torn up. But, above all they were very cold. It doesn't look like it in the film, but it was a very, very cold April. And it was freezing because those suits were not warm."
"We had the proper underwear to go under the belts so they didn't have any real long-lasting physical pain. But definitely it was the freezing aspect. And that weird feeling of being in a really tight suit for three weeks!"
Although there were not too many different locations shot in for this film, what was the hardest scene to shoot and why? "Well, there were a couple of difficult scenes. Any violent scenes or where there was action were hard. The time constraints to do that properly, to get those shots right, to make sure the actors are safe and that nobody is gonna get hurt. And just the make-up and the costumes. And the effects make-up will just stain the costumes. So you've got one pair of pants and you can't get blood on it!"
"So those kind of scenes are really difficult on a small budget with no time, because they can end up looking really fake. And sure you can fix them up a little bit in Post Production, but without spending a lot of money you just can't hire somebody to go make blood look kinda real. I mean, we did in a couple of places, but it ends up with a comic book kind of quality. Which is why I have to work in a budget range."
"And another difficult day for me was some of the scenes you see in "Shrink"'s flashbacks. When he's telling the whole story. That was at the end of the shoot, the very last day and I had a 103 fever! I had this insane fever and nobody believed me! And at the end of the day I got home and I took my temperature - and it felt like my whole body was eating itself! It was crazy. But I was very proud of myself for getting through. And definitely Starbucks got me through. That was when I was like, 'Wow, this sh*t's like crack," he laughs.
"And at the beginning when the body is being disposed of. That was a weird, rainy day, but it was a beautiful shot to get. You can see the water's really high and rushing by, but at the same time we had to throw the body into the water. And we had to do it a bunch of times, because it kept floating! And so we had to figure out how to weight it down. And the problem was we weren't polluting so we had to attach these thin strings to it. And, of course, they do that in movies all the time, but we were a crew of 15 people. So, we ended up having to film that scene twice. Which you don't want to be re-shooting in the middle of a 15 day shoot."
Iím curious, when "Fridge" meets back up with "C-Thru" in the motel back yard, he casually mentions that the weather has cleared up! Was that due to it being a new days shooting and he was helping you with some continuity aspect, perhaps? "Well yeah, but what's interesting about the whole thing is that scene is exactly mid-point through the film. And the beginning of the film is all foggy, grey, and dark. And then at that mid-point Brendan thinks he's resolved all of his issues and everything's feeling better. And so with the sun coming out as well it was just stacking up all of the things that were good about that moment. And that's when, and not to give it away, but that's when "C-Thru" drops the bomb on him!"
So it was a 15 day shoot, but how much was the budget? "I can't tell you the exact budget, but I can tell you we actually filmed for 17 days. The reason I say it averaged out to 15 days is because it was 12 days of dialogue and like 5 days of flashbacks that had no sound. So those were easy days in a sense, except for the day when I was sick! I can tell you though I intended to write the movie for $50,000. I mean, I wrote the movie with the intention of the cheapest I can make this for is $50,000 with a 5D by myself with the actors. And it was a bit more than that, luckily and we ended up shooting on the red. I even got the Cinematographer from my first film and all this stuff. I designed it to be very, very ... do it at any cost."
How did you approach the writing of 'Alter Egos'? "To be honest, I watched a bunch of plays that had been turned into movies and I thought of it sort of as a play. Making a low budget film you kind of want to keep it in one location. And so kinda make it like a play. And so the characters need to be intriguing and you have to really want to see where the characters are going. I read this playwriting book that said no matter what play you're writing it's always a mystery. Because at the moment the play starts you're wondering where it's going to go. And so it just made me commit to the fact that I was making a Superhero movie that was also a romantic comedy. But no matter what there had to be a mystery element."
My favorite character/superhero was "Electric Death" (played by Sean Lennon)! My God, we needed to see more of him! We need him to have his own stage play set around that one character! I mean, wow, all that aside he needs his own damn comic book!! "That's awesome," he laughs. "He'll love hearing that. I wanted to give Sean a part. I just thought this would be a really funny role for him. This ultimate bad influence. I mean, he's older than me so it's this inside joke between us. A good influence, as well but I guess I just thought the idea was being that he electrocuted himself. And so he's dead, but he's being kept alive by some electrical impulse so he doesn't really age. And he can kind of, perhaps, influence electrical circuits in some way. So his hair is crazy and as most of the damage has obviously been done to his face, he wears this kind of creepy, Day Of The Dead make-up."
So, for Sean's involvement, did he sign on for the music soundtrack first or the acting role? "The music first. The thing is he did the music for my first film as well. It stems from a long time of us collaborating on music and stuff when we were younger. And so he had the script and so I said if you are available obviously I'd love for you to do this music and film again. And he was very excited about it. Heís a big fan of the genre. And so to get to do a Superhero movie was a challenge that was like a fun follow up to my vampire movie."
"He's just a super-talented guy. He's very charming, very funny and so I've always wanted to put him in a movie. So, it was kinda half and half, I guess. Like, I knew he was going to do the music and I wanted to give him a cameo - and maybe even a bigger part next time."
"And the music ... I'm just so lucky to have worked with him on it again. We really worked hard on this and he really came through. He gave me like 12 pieces of music beforehand, but it was my fault. I'd given him the wrong direction and it just didn't work. And those might be on his new record actually, so you can still hear them. He's releasing an album of music from the movie, that werenít right for the film. We did like 17 pieces of music in four days because we didnít have that much time. So I'm very happy with the music as it just fell into place perfectly. It was a lot of work and a lot of thinking about what's right, and what the movie made each piece."
You mentioned earlier that for these three major roles you had these very same actors in mind - and you got them all! "The thing is I worked with all of them on 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead' and met them on the set of that movie. I didn't write them their parts for that one. And so working with them was a tremendous pleasure. And so being that this new one was going to be a very low budget film, I was lucky enough that I could approach these guys now having worked with them before."
"And I'm not saying that they'd do anything for me. I mean, they're working actors so they have to get paid, But I did think that maybe they would do me the favor. And they were doing me a favor as nobody got paid that much. But at least it wasn't nothing and they were compensated a little bit for their discomfort of having to wear suits and stuff! And you want to work with people that are fast and reliable. And those guys all are."
Did you pull a "Hitchcock" and include yourself in the movie, perhaps? "Well, the funny thing is, and this has happened twice now, I haven't - but I have an audio! I'm the voice of "Captain Amazingness"," he laughs. "It's just weird. I was just this voice in 'Rosencrantz' on an instructional DVD that gets played. So it's happened both times now. And I promise I did not intend to do it. But I'm working in the editing room and as I also do sound design stuff; because I have a background in music, I just inevitably thought I could make his voice sound cool by doing a performance on it. So that it's there for the rough edit. I tried to get other actors and I had other actors in mind, but especially with the voice over thing it's not hard to get a big actor. But at the end of the day we ended up keeping my voice. But I don't know if that will happen a third time."
Lastly, you thanked a LOT of people in the end credits, including Jonathan Galland, your brother! What did he do? "Jonathan Galland Yeah, he's my brother. He was tremendously supportive. I gave him a script, he gave me notes and he even let me use his bedroom to do costumes in and to have some of the actors in. Yeah, that's kinda why he's at the top of the list."
"Here's the thing though. You look at other movies sometimes and they have three columns with that type of a thing that goes by faster. But I kinda kept it on that long because I wanted the whole song to play. The 'My Hero' song. So I tried it out a bunch of ways, but I found out that if I left it as one column the whole song plays through the end."
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED (and personally dedicated-to-you) 'Alter Egos' poster - one that was created and printed out by Sean Lennon himself - just answer this question about the film (which yes, means you have had to pay to watch it by now!): What is the name of the motel that Claudel (Brooke Nevin) runs that "Fridge" finds his way to in search of "C-Thru"?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win an AUTOGRAPHED (and personally dedicated-to-you) 'Alter Egos' poster! Just send us an e:mail here before May 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: ALTER EGOS SIGNED POSTERs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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