The struggle of pursuing dreams and its unexpected beauty
Interview with Director Dani Alvarado
Congratulations! Why are you making your film?
Like most actors starting off, I Dani, found myself bound to some less than glamorous side job to support my less than flourishing acting career. I recall telling Claire Bermingham, “I feel like I’m stuck in in the desert”. Despite my efforts, I had no money, no acting jobs, no auditions and no rep. I felt trapped in a dry season and had no idea when or if the rain would ever come. I used the desert setting as a metaphor for the waiting room of life: a dry arid place that is utterly uncomfortable. I wrote this piece as a release: a way to be honest with what I was feeling, and put down real experiences, real shitty jobs, clad in princes' costumes, and real conversations that took place.
Claire came up with the title “Lost Beneath the Stars”. I fought her on it at first and wanted something shorter like “The Desert” but now I very pleased she won that pitch: the title is so fitting. The characters are obviously lost in the literal sense but more acutely, so lost in their struggles that they almost are blinded to the beauty before them. Also, I love the Oscar Wilde quote “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” I feel like the title is reflective of this.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this movie?
You should watch this movie because it is fun. It’s relatable, and it has a sweet message. The costumes set against the beautiful desert terrain, paint a whimsical visual. There is something interesting and unique to look at in every frame of the film. The story is based on universal themes of struggle in the pursuit of your dreams. Everyone loves an underdog story because we’ve all at one point or another felt like the underdog. The film gives hope with a simple message, but you’ll have to watch it discover what that is.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
As I wrote, I realized that it wasn’t just me that was in a dry season. In one way or another, we are all waiting for something good to arrive. Whether it’s a job or a relationship, or healing from an illness, there is a point where we all feel stuck and helpless, convinced nothing’s going to change.
“Lost Beneath the Stars” is intended to help us relate to each another in this human experience of helplessness, but it’s also my intention to pose the question: what things in our lives are we obsessing over that’s preventing us from seeing the beauty of our world and the true nature of our design.
There are also the themes of misogyny and harassment in Hollywood. The opening scene’s dialogue is almost verbatim to a meeting I once had with a prolific director. This was important as it wasn’t just a Hollywood cliche but something real that did and should not happen. But this use of sex as power can also be found and perpetuated on the receiving end: the last scene of the film displays Jocelyn using her sexuality to get something out of Ted.
These themes are also apparent in Ted’s character, his outlook towards women and treatment of the girls.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
When I first wrote the short my life mirrored that of the film, so I didn’t have the intention of it being a comedy, rather it felt like a drama. As mentioned, many of the circumstances and dialogue were pulled from personal experiences that to me (on the receiving end) felt more painful than humorous.
However, after finally sharing the script, I was constantly faced with the reaction “Wow, this is really funny.” Michael Kofsky, our co-director, pushed that angle and really tried to tailor to the comedy. It is easier to find lightness in retrospect. Now removed from those events I see the humor and silliness to situations that previously felt so monstrous and overwhelming.
Also, my first draft of the script was shorter and much more simple in terms of plot. The character of Ted was bolstered with significance: his return and the subsequent reveal of him being the director’s son.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We have been accepted as Official Selection and in Short Film Competition at the 33rd Warsaw International Film festival (Academy Award qualifier) and our film was also part of the recent Cannes Film Festival, Short Film Corner.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
We were surprised by our acceptance into the competition at Warsaw. Of course, you want the best opportunities for your film, but as this was our first short. I was just pleased with our opportunity to create. It sounds cliché, but I didn’t anticipate us being accepted into any one festival. Making the film was such a fun, eye-opening and welcomed challenge; everything beyond that is an extra delight.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Having “Lost Beneath the Stars” visible on We Are Moving Stories would be wonderful in helping us to expand our reach to a wider audience of artistic individuals, especially women in film. It would be wonderful to connect with other artists directors, cinematographers, and design crew that share a similar artistic vision and viewpoint in order to collaborate together in the future and expands our mutual networks.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors and journalists
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We hope that the film is a sweet reminder to its viewers that we all feel disappointments, setbacks, and rejections but that there is still an omnipresence of beauty, and wonder as well.
We have had friends approach us after having watched the film, sharing how much they related to it and how much it moved them. Seeing someone struggle makes you feel less alone if the film is able to accomplish that for one viewer; I feel we’ve done our job.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Why is Chris smiling in the final shot of the film?
Would you like to add anything else?
A huge thank you to We Are Moving Stories for having us as part of their platform and also many thanks to all who helped make “Lost Beneath the Stars” possible!
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Four Leaf Films is currently developing a feature film in the thriller/horror genre again with a focus on women in film. Also, they partnered with King Louie Palomo, another producer of “Lost Beneath The Stars” to co-produce another short film titled “Nene,” which was filmed recently in the Philippines and now in post-production stage.
Interview: September 2017
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Lost Beneath The Stars
The struggle of pursuing dreams and its unexpected beauty.
Length: 16 minutes
Director: Michael Kofsky and Dani Alvarado
Producer: Dani Alvarado, Claire Bermingham, King Louie Palomo
Writer: Dani Alvarado and Claire Bermingham
About the writer, director, and producer:
Michael Kofsky (Director) - American director, filmmaker, and journalist, based in Southern California. He graduated from Boston University’s film program in 2009. After graduating, he quickly began making independent films while working on short-form news and feature documentaries for organizations such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Dani Alvarado (Co-Director, Co-Writer, Producer) - Canadian director and actress. She was awarded a scholarship to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She has since worked in various theatre, film and television productions. “Lost Beneath the Stars” is the first film she co-wrote and co-directed.
Claire Bermingham (Co-Writer, Producer) - Irish actress and writer/producer. She won a scholarship to the University of California, Irvine where she further developed her drama and theatre training and studies. She has since performed in theaters over the globe, and across her native Ireland, gracing stages in a host of European tours. She is now based in Los Angeles with a focus on her film and television career.
King Louie Palomo (Producer) – Canadian producer and filmmaker. He graduated from the Vancouver Film School’s film production program in 2014. With only a few years in the film business, he has produced almost seven short films and is continuously making one.
Key cast: Dani Alvarado, Claire Bermingham, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Gabe Greenspan, Farell Hastings, Julian Tucker
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors and journalists
Made in association with: Wild Horse Picture and the Union of B.C. Performers
Where can I see it in the next month?
33rd Warsaw International Film Festival for World Premiere