Nothing in Los Angeles
Filmmaker Interview Co-Director/ Writer/ Actor: Alexander Tovar
by Amy Gillman
Nothing in LA features a unique sort of love triangle involving best friends, lovers, best friends, husbands and wives. What inspired you to tell this particular story?
My background is in music composition. I had pieces of music laying around and thought I could maybe use those pieces to encompass a story. Having been a huge Woody Allen fan, I thought I could take his film, “Manhattan,” and switch it, where the lead character, Quinn, was in love with an older woman and in love with the city of Los Angeles. I’ve always been interested in the not only flawed characters but characters who lack certainty in their personal lives and who are motivated by unconscious factors they’re not in control of.
How does the city of Los Angeles influence how and what you make and how do you think LA affects your work process?
Being from LA and having several jobs as a driver through college, I noticed how much beauty and charm the city has. It’s spread out, not like New York or Paris, so it’s harder to find the charm and gorgeous architecture, but it’s all there. I’ve never seen a movie where LA is glamorized immensely in a nostalgic, romantic way and used as a character.
Your soundtrack features an array of classic, old school instrumental variations. What inspired you to make this particular musical choice?
I’ve long been a fan of swing and jazz music and started writing music at a very young age. In college I had formal training in classical composition and after that, I returned to a more melodic style of writing. Most of the music was written prior to the movie. I formulated and structured the movie around these pieces of music, using musical motifs juxtaposed with cinematic motifs.
As a filmmaker, what failures of your own have you been able to learn from and how did this change your creative process?
I started off taking too much on from the get-go. Being in almost every single scene, I needed a person I trusted behind the camera. I hired my friend and NYU graduate, Rob Herring, as an assistant director and that position very quickly became a co-director. It was when Rob came in that I could relax more and be more confident of my acting. I have no acting experience and it was a risk putting myself in the film. But Rob’s guidance and direction with not only me but the rest of the cast made me feel more secure. I learned a lot about trusting people working on this film. One of my failures as a human being that I try working on is trusting people, creatively. In a movie, no matter how much control you as the writer/filmmaker want to hold on to, it’s impossible without collaboration. Being a composer, I’m not used to a lot of collaboration and finding not only Rob, but also our cinematographer Danny Belinkie, was invaluable. I could never have done this movie with not only the expertise of these two talented individuals, but also their tremendous support and trust in the script.
In your opinion, what attributes make a great filmmaker?
I think the best attribute is hiring people who are better than you. Allowing trust on the set and getting rid of all egos is a necessity to getting a film done. So many things fall apart when people’s egos get in the way. Compromise is also a heavy component. It’s easy envisioning everything in your head when you’re writing a script, alone in your room, but it’s harder when you actually get out with a group of people and start shooting it. Perhaps things go differently than you had in your mind and you have to go with it, not fight it. That doesn’t mean letting go of your overall artistic vision but letting things happen organically. I believe I hired the best people and the best cast that fortunately, didn’t make me look like a fool or a fraud. They saved me!
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