Jay Alvarez


by Alex Plant

Jay Alvarez descended upon London for Raindance 2018 where his new movie Dizzy Pursuit is playing on Wednesday Oct 3rd and Thursday October 4th. Each screening is followed by a Q&A with the director and star. Jay’s first film, I Play with the Phrase Each Other, won him the attention of filmmaking titans Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Arrested Development) who jumped at the opportunity to executive produce Jay’s next feature. They even set up an IndieGoGo campaign for Dizzy Pursuit, offering backers a chance to visit the set of the then-in-production Avengers: Infinity War. Jay sat down with us to discuss the film, working with the Russos and how the production made the movie’s producer homeless.

What’s it like to be back at Raindance?

It’s very thrilling for me, especially to be in England. It’s almost fetishistic, ‘cus I’m a tea drinking anglophile. Also Raindance itself has been very supportive to me, especially with the first feature.

What’s it like to have had the Russo Brothers executive produce your movie?

It’s been really great and romantic for me. I’m really enchanted by how far the commercial spectrum stretches for their support. They’re just endlessly helpful and truly friendly people.

Were you a fan of their work?

Yeah, Arrested Development has always had a very special place, the original series. I have a really fond memory and association with reuniting with my mom who’d been absent from my life for a while and we mutually discovered that series together. So it’s always been associated with that sort of mending of a wound.

How much of the film is based on real life?

Y’know, I would say that the most important aspects of substantial art are always autobiographical in some way. I think that sometimes that question seems to be synonymous with how thoroughly do you know the subject about which you wrote. And personally as a viewer, as a reader, as a listener, if the creators answer to that is “not at all”, I don’t know how closely I’m listening at that point.

Dizzy Pursuit reminds me a lot of the sort of independent movie you used to see a lot in the 90s, such as Clerks, In the Soup and Living in Oblivion. It feels a bit like a love letter to Indie film. Is that actually the case?

I don’t know if what attracts me in film is a categorisation like “indie film”. I do think there’s a vitality found in very small budgets, but my taste doesn’t seem to be informed primarily by that categorisation. I think that there are plenty of very uninspired, tired productions made for no money, just as there are by studios. I’m not a classic cinephile. I think a good example of a classic cinephile are the Russo brothers who have a really great sensitivity to a very large spectrum of film types and I admire that. It’s a like a real foodie who loves the esoteric and also the pedestrian. Real foodies like caviar and they also like American cheese. But I’m more of a pompous asshole, y’know? There’s a disappointing particularity with what I respond enthusiastically to.

It’s pretty common with independent films for there to be an interesting story behind the making of the film, and Dizzy Pursuit is no exception. It’s particularly fascinating how that carried on into the post production. Did that give you any fuel for future projects or even a sequel?

Definitely. I think that there’s a graduation of desperation that I need to adjust to. Before the post-production on Dizzy Pursuit, dire straits for me had meant a very squalid apartment, but now that doesn’t seem to be enough. I think in the future my fictional filmmakers may be without a house entirely. Or at least, or at the very most, depending how you perceive it, would be living in cars. It’s a tender subject that inspires a certain amount of guilt because certain people adapted less gracefully to quasi-homlessness than others.

You’re referring to producer Alexander Fraser?

Yes, but it does help to be ingratiatingly photogenic. Theres a softness in the reception of the world when you have Alexander’s looks. So I don’t want to omit the fact that he was going into homelessness with a very convenient crutch.

How is he now?

I think that forgiveness, or moderate amnesia is assisting our relationship. He’s a person who is capable of transcending severe discomfort.

The film is a real family affair, starring both you and your partner Megan Kopp, as well as her brother Andrew. Is that important to you?

I think so. Just to prove that I don’t find the tag of “indie film” pejorative, I think one thing that’s so exciting about small films that are made by what people refer to as auteurs is that everything seems charged with a personal significance. In a lot of large scale, large budget films, if you see a protagonist walking down a street there isn’t a nostalgic or a fondness from the creator that selected that street or location. I think it’s the same with cast members. Initially when I began to make movies, it was a certain ambition not to reuse individuals because I didn’t want to stain new narratives with a familiarity associated with previous stories. But now I’m relating to great directors’ patterns of using the same people over and over again. I understand how important that can become.

Where does the scene with Homeless Laser Pointering come from?

Wow! (Laughs) It’s a pleasure for me to hear that conjugated by you! Hopefully that enters a common vernacular. I think I seem to be very appalled by vulgarity and very endeared by obscenity. So for me that seemed to be an example of palatable obscenity that I’d at least want to see on screen and maybe secretly endorse. One thing that’s interesting for me is that the characters are very poor and that even in extreme poverty they seem to be demonstrating a callousness to the lowest rung. That distinction is fascinating to me.

What’s next for you?

I’m in development on a feature film about a young couple in the online era who have discovered particular ways with which to betray each other. And a mini series about a young man who navigates the internet desperately searching for the last dealer of an elusive drug.

If you could describe Dizzy Pursuit in one word what would it be?

I think that runs counter to an appalling verbosity, but….if I had two words I’d probably say “Not Over”.

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