An interview with Jonathan Hammond, director of "EVIL ALAN"
an exclusive interview
by Oliver Carnay
Photo: (top) Q&A from cast and crew, San Diego local filmmakers and actors from all four films selected to participate in one of the featured programs. Photo: (Bottom right - L-R) Actors from "Evil Alan" Mark Rodriguez, Patrick Mayuyu, and Sidney Franklin.
EVIL ALAN was one of the four films included where local San Diego filmmakers are able to submit their short films to participate in one of the programs, a first, in this year’s 19th Annual FilmOut San Diego. The idea came from Program Director Michael McQuiggan. Director Jonathan Hammond was not able to attend the screening and Q&A after the four films selected had its World Premiere held on Sunday, June 11th. I was impressed with this brilliant movie so I got hold of him through one of its cast members, Mark Rodriguez. Please read on below ..
HOLLYWOODFLIP: First, I'd like to congratulate you on your film! Kudos to the writer -- Ryan Roach to a great funny well-written, intelligent script! I also liked the authenticity and acting delivery from the three actors .. editing was great as well! Over-all, it was very entertaining every bit of the scenes! I wonder how many festivals did you submit this one so many people can see this film .. I heard this short was from a play. If it is, can you talk a little bit about the play's background. Can you tell us what inspired you to bring it onscreen?
JH: Yes. Ryan Roach wrote a play for the NEW PLAY CAFE that is held down here in San Diego. He gave it for me to proofread and I gave him some notes. He then, taking absolutely none of my notes, revised it and made a smashing, brilliant short play. I loved the playful, snarky dialogue and felt that the characters were well drawn from the opposite sides of the same coin. It was funny and clever and, even though there is a direct plot homage to a well known science fiction dynasty, it was used in a refreshing and original way. Also, I have never seen these sorts of characters in this sort of world used in a gay context- so it was doubly refreshing. I immediately thought it was cinematic, as both the tone and the dialogue conjured up the films of Jim Jarmusch and The Coens. Jarmusch, as in there is one setting but inspired and oddball dialogue and the characters were very quirky and expressive like those in Coen Brothers films. In both instances, dialogue sort of becomes it's own character in a way and it informs the scene, how it is acted and edited and lit. That is the case obviously in every single film, but those guys can make a movie where a dinner table or taxi cab are as thrilling as any special effect. For me, this script had that quality.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: How was the casting process? How did the actors prepared for their role? What was the most difficult part shooting the film? To all three actors -- what was your favorite line in the film?
JH: I had known all three actors prior to varying degrees. Patrick (Mayuyu) is one of my best friends and I knew he could make being rude funny. As for Markuz (Rodriguez), well - I co-wrote a play called "Bedrooms and Boyfriends", which was basically three short plays set in a bedroom - an omnibus in the "California Suite"-style, and it did well at last year's San Diego Fringe and won a big award so we decided to give it a proper run. As the play was short, we needed to add a fourth play and I urged the producer to hire Ryan, which he did. Naturally, it was funny and the character who was essentially Ryan's stand-in was played by Markuz. He was brought in by a different director. I knew who he was but I barely knew him. Just like Alan, the character was the person who was doing the reacting, the "straight" man as it were, though Markuz made it just as hilarious as the comic foil was intended to be (which was hilarious.) Ryan was shocked at having lines that he thought of as beng "throw-aways," weaved into comic gems. Ryan pushed to have Markuz play the part and I couldn't have agreed more.
I didn't know Sidney (Franklin) all that way. We had met a Film Event and I saw someone post him playing "Sid" on Facebook, so I knew he was a natural comedian- Sid being the clownish nerd at the Sea World show. It was a like a completely different person from the reserved, tall cool kid I had met previously. It was also important for me to cast someone who was handsome, because why else would any reasonable person be sticking around even after one minute of this guy? Even with bad self-esteem. There had to be some allure. And having watched a short film he was in, playing the snarky dick, I knew he could deliver. And boy did he. They all did. I was thrilled to have them all.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: How many shooting days did you have and how many locations you shot? What was the most challenging part in creating this film?
JH: We had one day! 8-5! The most challenging part was my entire crew had to drop out a few days before filming. I ended up a little over my head. The sound guy wasn't really a sound guy and the recorder was rubbing against his belt, so the entire editing process for the movie was me trying to salvage what I could. I went into a G-Hole of editing. Trying to keep the rythm and tone while not having the right clips with the best dialogue was a nightmare. The sound issues remain evident but I have hired someone who can hopefully fix that up.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: I noticed about the long dialogues .. did the actors have to memorize all the lines and not improvise any lines?
JH: Yes. We did lots of table work. I was very specific about what I wanted. Once they understood the tone and peaks and valleys, they were really able to make it there own and watching them fly was such a pleasure. But I made them both memorize everything, in particular the monologues. And the dialogue is tough, especially those monologues. But they both had 90 percent of it down by our third rehearsal. I can't tell you how awesome they were.
I think they both wanted to change a couple of lines because it fit their natural cadence better, but I forbade it with the exception of maybe one line? I think it was one. It was Sidney's. He had to fight for it and it made sense so I let him. But there was zero improv on set. I love improv, but not when the dialogue is like this. BUT, the last line was mine. Ryan was afraid it would be cheap and corny, but I knew it practically necessary. I knew it was the right thing to say at the end and it would be funny. And the actors had my back. He fought me, but eventually confessed it was the right call.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: Are there any upcoming festivals readers can look forward to watching this short after FilmOut San Diego?
JH: I am submitting to the San Diego International Film Festival and next year's OutFest in LA (submissions are closed now.) AND....I am not totally sure where else I should!!! Perhaps you can suggest a few..... :)
HOLLYWOODFLIP: Can you give us details about the background of each of the actors? Any projects you want to promote, where we can see your work next?
JH: Sidney and I are talking about collaborating on another film, which will be much more dynamically visual. I am very excited. I just finished a movie with Patrick with him in the lead this time and he is, as usual, effin amazing. I also wrote a two plays since Evil Alan, one for The Old Globe and one at Diversionary Theatre that I gave Markuz the lead in. So, hopefully you will be seeing these guys very, very soon!
HOLLYWOODFLIP: Did you shoot this film with the intention of submitting to FilmOut San Diego? How was the feeling the first time you learned your short got included at this year's FilmOut San Diego?
JH: Yes. Absolutely. I made it just so I could see it in FilmOut. I mean, I wanted it to premiere there but hopefully have a shelf life after that. I go to FilmOut every year and am so inspired and I REALLY wanted to be one of those filmmakers who got to go up and present his film. I've had films in other festivals, but this one was personally meaningful to me. I mean, I think Michael McQuiggen is a hero. What he does for film- not just queer cinema- but cinema in general for this town is a feat. He needs an honorary Oscar. Anyway, I really wanted to be in this fest. Obviously, those in the audience are in my tribe, but they also seem to be slightly more supportive, ask slightly smarter questions. It's amazing to see and feel that energy just as an audience member, so I couldn't imagine as a filmmaker. So you could only imagine what I was going through when my mother called me to tell me her wedding date had been set for June 11. In the middle of Texas. Having something and working hard for it, but being pulled out from under you! Whatever joy I had about getting accepted, believe me, it was magnified much more significantly in the other direction after that phone call. I mean, I am elated for my mother, but of all the weekends to force me out of town! I guess I will just have to make an even better movie and pray they accept me next year!