Love and music can sometimes be so intertwined that a bad breakup can ruin an entire iTunes library. If my chat with Mauricio Alexander is any indication, things for him may be even more complicated. Just check out the trailer for his short film Departure, screening with the New York International Latino Film Festival’s “Music is My Weapon” shorts program:
You wear many hats. Which form of expression was your first love? Which one do you feel most drawn to now? Any new experiments?
Mauricio Alexander: Definitely Music. My father was a jazz drummer when he was young, and so I grew up listening to everything from Big Band to Be-Bop and that really had an influence on my tastes and my love of music. My parents enrolled me in piano classes at age five and from there I learned how to sing and play saxophone and guitar. And I loved performing live, so when I discovered acting In high school it was always a competition between the two forms of expression. So, I still think I’m drawn more to music than film, but that’s what this project, Departure, was about for me. I created a vehicle where I could experiment with using music as a story telling tool with the visual in the foreground, so a hybrid of film narrative and music video formats. I want to continue playing with that, that is, make movies that can tell a story through dialogue in some part, but the true voice of the film is it’s music and lyrics. I love music videos that can do that, ones that are more like a short film than a ‘music video’.
Departure is shot all over Brooklyn. What role does Brooklyn play in the film?
I just fell in love with Brooklyn (well, Fort Greene primarily) the moment I saw pictures of the neighborhood. I had basically just graduated from college, went on a six month musical tour that ended up out west and realized I didn’t want to move back home to DC, but go straight to New York and work as an actor. I called up a close friend about helping me find an apartment to move into the moment I got back to the east coast, and she sent me a stack of pics she took of her friend’s apartment and neighborhood, which happened to be Fort Greene. I used some of those pictures for storyboarding the film.
And Departure wasn’t exactly shot ALL OVER Brooklyn! (lol) We shot in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Dumbo, but they all played an important role in the film. I chose most of the exterior shots because they were either the block I’ve lived on once (I’ve lived in six different places in the area) or one where I spent a lot of time, at a bar or a restaurant or taking a walk. In the film Alex (played my me) is retracing the parts of Brooklyn that he and his ex Ana (played by Chelsea Gregory) had built their relationship around. I saw that as painful for him, but realized that he needed to walk those neighborhoods alone to understand the reality of his break-up.
Departure experiments with the music video as narrative-medium rather than a more conventional, straightforward style. What attracted you about telling the story in this way?
I know I already mentioned music video as narrative-medium than conventional before, but I could talk about it forever! Well, the [NYILFF’s] opening screening was a film called Chico & Rita, and it’s exactly the kind of film I would want to make next. The use of music in that film creates its own story, it adds this very rich layer to the film, so I could actually close my eyes and just listen, without dialogue, but understand what this movie is about.
So, with Departure,I wanted to have a soundtrack communicate the essence of the film first. If I can tell a story visually about a self-invented singer-songwriter, why not add that extra element to balance the audience’s visual references with perhaps an even stronger aural reference.
I mean, on the other hand, I wanted to make a comedy, I just wanted to laugh at myself and all of us who have ever been through a break up or hard financial times. We have to laugh at our misery sometimes, it’s very theraputic. So, I wrote dialogue and sketches that allow the audience to laugh in between the moments where you might just feel bad about Alex’s situation.
What’s in store for your other project, East Willy B?
East Willy B is inspirational in so many ways, and I can’t wait to work with this family again! For now, I think shooting schedules are on hold while the production builds relationships with new sponsors and talent to return with a “Machetazo” like season 1! I am working on developing both a TV-sitcom for the characters of Departure called Kings County and have a feature script version of Departure that focuses on Alex and Mina’s (played by Tracy Perez) journey where the short ended. Plus, after attending the Latin Alternative Music Conference last month, I continue to write and record as Infinite I Am, my emcee moniker… if any Latino’s want to produce and collaborate, you can find me at mauricioalexander.com, infiniteiam.com and of course, departurethemovie.com.
Friday August 19th at 12pm
CLEARVIEW CINEMA CINEMA SCREEN 8
260 West 23rd Street, NYC
Saturday, August 20th at 12pm
AMC Empire Screen 14
234 West 42nd Street, NYC