‘Alter Egos’ Interview: Writer-Director Jordan Galland Does Superheroes on a Budget

How is it for you dealing with things like that as writer, director and producer? In most situations you can just sit back and have someone else take care of issues like that, but here, it’s kind of your responsibility.

“There’s three other producers and when we’re filming, I definitely put sh*t on them. I’m just like, ‘I can’t, I don’t have time, you’re here for a reason,’ and they’re very supportive. They’re there and I have no complaints about that, but they definitely have to respect my boundaries as a writer-director and that I’m dealing with enough stuff. I’d say where it bleeds over is the fact that as a director I want the actors to be happy and as a producer I want the actors to be happy, and the conditions we were working in were very very stressful. I slept on a couch. I gave somebody my bed and they were like, ‘No! You’re the director. You should have the bed,’ and I was like, ‘I can handle it. I’d rather you wake up rested. I’m exhausted no matter what. A bed is not going to help me right now.’ I always tell myself I don’t want to produce, but I feel like when you write and direct, if it’s indie stuff, inherently you’re drawing in so much of your own resources, favors and friends that [you should] honor that and take the responsibility upon yourself. I don’t really wanna produce though. I play with the idea that it’d be fun to produce somebody else’s movie. Like, if I liked a script, but I couldn’t work on it, but I felt like I think the movie should get made anyway would be kind of cool.”

You mentioned you had two weeks for pre-production. How much time did you have to shoot?

“It was divided into two different things because I designed it, so we filmed the whole movie in Long Island and then you come back to New York to shoot the flashback stuff. We filmed all of the dialogue scenes in 12 days, wrapped sound, there was no sound for the rest of it so that we didn’t have to worry about it, so we could move through everything without worrying about sound and filmed everything. People were pissed off, too, because there were moments where maybe sound would have been cool, but I knew I was doing the sound design myself so I knew what I was gonna need.”

Did you edit yourself?

“I edited myself, too, although I didn’t mean to. I had arranged an editor, Dan Schechter, who’s also a writer and director, but he’s also an amazing editor and he’d done both of my trailers. Basically, he ended up filming a movie called 'Supporting Characters' as I was wrapping 'Alter Egos,' which was fine. He was like, ‘Look, I don’t know. I’ll edit what I can, but I’m gonna be editing my movie.’ And then he was like, ‘Well, actually I could edit more for you if we can work out an arrangement,’ so I scored his film for him. It evened out. He only gave me ten days of editing in the middle of a four-month period of editing, but it worked out because it was in the middle so I did an assembly, he came in, did his sh*t, we did a bunch of test screenings and then I came in and did a third edit. I learned a lot from him. He’s a great filmmaker.”

How does it feel that after all this, the film is finally hitting theaters, VOD and DVD?

“It’s wonderful. I’m really happy about that. When you work with people that you really respect and you feel like you’ve gotten this tremendous gift of their talent, and I feel that way about almost everybody that I worked with on 'Alter Egos,' there’s a sense of relief. I can turn back to them and be like, ‘Look, the movie that we worked so hard on that you sacrificed for, that you didn’t get paid for, is coming out,” and it’s moving to be able to say that to somebody.

There’s also that element of hopefully they like it. The actors saw an early early edit. Maybe that wasn’t a great idea, but I cared about it and I wanted their input. They had given me input on the script. I didn’t want to just let the whole process go by and be like, ‘Here, it’s finished. You can’t tell me anything.’ We had a three-hour discussion on the phone, they were in LA, and they gave me a lot of notes. It was tough, so to have it get distributed in a wide platform and they can be proud of it, they can share it with their family, friends, fan base, it feels really good. And then there’s the other level of like, I can’t watch it anymore. I can’t enjoy it. I am totally freaked out by it. [Laughs] I just can’t believe anyone would watch it and like it.”

Alter Egos on a Marquee

How do you feel about where superhero movies are today? Obviously we’ve got all of these massive blockbuster ones coming out and then there’s the more indie average-person-becomes-a-superhero type.

“With 'Alter Egos,' it’s not that kind of movie. I don’t like the average person dressing up, trying to be a superhero because I’m more of 'The Avengers' type of a fan. I love the Batman stuff, too. I enjoyed when tThe Joker was the villain the most because it was the most imaginative to me. I have mixed feelings about the big-budget superhero stuff, though, because I feel kind of desensitized. There’s nothing they can show me that’s gonna wow me. When I think about 'The Hobbit' coming out for instance, I’m excited to see Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman. I love those actors. I’m not thinking, ‘Well, what kind of amazing, magical visual effects are they gonna show me now,’ because 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, how you gonna beat that? Maybe it’ll look a little more real now, but really, who cares? It’s the emotional impact and that comes from the actors and the writing, hopefully.

These days I get more excited when somebody I like, like Joss Whedon - I’m a 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' fan, I love 'Dollhouse,' I love all the stuff Joss Whedon does - so I was excited about 'The Avengers' and I was impressed by the way his voice came across, but I still felt like there were boring action scenes where I was like, I want more snappy, fun dialogue and acting. I think a lot is lost with the green screen. It’d be cool for a movie to be made now in the style that 'Star Wars' was made or 'Empire Strikes Back' where they’re in the freezing cold and the actors clearly aren’t happy and that’s good because the characters aren’t happy.”

Now what are the odds they take that route with Episode VII?

“They’re not going to, but they should because how cool would it be? There’s a featurette going around now for 'Les Misérables,' the featurette where they talk about how they record live. I was like, ‘Yes!’ I was just like, finally they took a chance, they’re doing something in a kind of old-school way, or it feels like it is. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I got really emotional about it. Because no matter what, 'Les Misérables' is gonna do as well as 'Phantom of the Opera'. They don’t need to do it that way, but they made that choice and it’s definitely more difficult in post-production. Anyway, I feel like it would be cool to have somebody do that with 'Star Wars.' [Laughs] Not a musical, but just to make the smarter decision of let’s try something, let’s go back to an older way of doing it.”

What about the government element of your film? That felt like a really original concept, and an original concept that opens doors to a bigger world and made another Alter Egos movies.

“I would love that. I won’t lie, it’s not really a secret, but we are pitching a TV show to some TV producers. But yeah, part of making a small movie is implying the big stuff. And then I guess I was inspired because I was reading an interview with the guy that directed 'Monsters' and he was saying, 'I wanted to make a movie where Spielberg’s monster movie is happening on the other side of the mountain and you’re in this very real world,' and I was like, OK, I’ll make a superhero movie where the A-list superheroes are somewhere else fighting monsters and our guys are in this rinky-dink hotel and they’re not as cool, and they’re not as flashy, and they’re totally neurotic and f*cked up. And then from that idea grew the government aspect and at the time I was writing it, all those documentaries had just been completed. I’d just seen 'Inside Job' so there’s all these feelings of like, god, the government’s totally corrupt, no one’s getting punished, there is no justice, the rich only get richer, and we’re all so aware of it, it’s not even a secret! How would superheroes play into this? And I got to vent some of my frustration and feelings about that with them.”

What else do you have in the works?

“I have two things in development. One’s my own take on an exorcist, demon possession film. It’s about a girl who’s recovering from demonic possession, so it starts where demon films end. It starts with an exorcism and she’s better. And I want it to be a throwback to that kind of Mia Farrow R-movie like Rosemary’s Baby or The Haunting. And the other one is also kind of a horror movie. I was very inspired by the idea of combining Psycho and Misery, and kind of have almost a reverse Misery where the writer takes the fans hostage. So I’ve been working on that. It’s in development as well, but I don’t know when they’re gonna get filmed. Hopefully 2013.”


Alter Egos is currently in theaters and will be available on VOD on November 20, 2012.

Follow me on Twitter on @PNemiroff.

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