Q&A with Alex Jones
Movable Type sat down with fourth year Alex Jones to discuss her soon-to-be released film, Flight of the Finch.
Discuss the project you’re working on – the general premise, how you came up with the idea, what motivated you to follow through with the production of it, what resources you used to make it happen.
I’m an Interdisciplinary Studies Distinguished Major (in technical terms), which (in basic terms) really means that I designed a curriculum around three departments instead of one, and I was given the opportunity to do a project and a thesis that articulates the importance of my interdisciplinary studies. My areas of concentration are Arts Administration, English (Creative Writing), and Media Studies (Film Studies). Second year, when I declared in October, I proposed that I would make a film, and that is what I’m now doing. I wrote the short story that I adapted into the screenplay in the spring of my second year and I’ve been working on it ever since. In short, Flight of the Finch is about a tumultuous relationship. On the surface, it’s about a man who kills his girlfriend. It would be twisted of me to say that the story keeps me motivated. Really, I think I’m still motivated because it’s fun and this is what I want to do. My favorite kind of movie is the psychological thriller and a number of my influences work in that genre (ie. Alfred Hitchcock). I’m really interested in the creation of three-dimensional villains and in films where the protagonist is also, unlikable, villanous, and/or the antagonist. Overall, Flight of the Finch is an exercise in character development and psychology as well as an experiment in time and storytelling using less-conventional filmic techniques to tell a story that explores dichotomies of good and evil through meshing the genres of romance and thriller. The intention is to focus on creating feeling and emotion through physical behaviors, movement and camera angles, finding new ways to explore feeling. It’s up to perception and interpretation to understand the significance of memory. This concept will be reflected in the narrative structure. The story of the relationship is told through flashbacks of specific moments. These moments and memories are another way to explore the main character’s humanity and his psychology, as both good an evil.
We’ve had to be resourceful. The budget is under $6,000, but it’s been hard to raise the funds. We did a successful indiegogo last spring. I’ve received funding help from the Leadership Department in McIntire (as I’m also a Leadership Minor). I’m a recipient of the University Award for Excellence in the Arts, and I’ve also received grant funding from UVA Arts and from College Council. I received a lot of assistance and resources from my mentor at Amoeba Films as well. We lost a day’s worth of footage to a faulty hard drive. This added an additional day to shooting, cost an additional $300 and elongated the shooting timeframe from 1.5 weeks – 3 weeks. It was incredibly stressful and put a dent in the budget, but it allowed us to take the time to reallocate and reevaluate and I think we are in a better position to more forward now.
What phase is your film in right now?
Who do you intend its audience to be/where will it be shown?
The film is in post-production now (finally!), which means I will start editing as soon as the Virginia Film Festival is over. I would like to have a screening somewhere on Grounds or in Charlottesville to involved the university community even more in the project, but I also hope that it gets submitted (and accepted) to festivals, so I hope the audience is wider than Charlottesville.
What has been the most challenging part of making this film come to life?
I’m a producer, not a director, I’ve learned the hard way. I’m passionate about the creative producing process–facilitating bringing a story to life and sharing it with others. What really stresses me out is making sure I get every single shot and making sure I get every single shot right. I was the director and the cinematographer on this project, and I feel I’m weaker in those areas. The duration and the challenges we faced weighed down on me, but I’m really proud of what we created and I’m really proud of how the team banded together.
How have your studies of films influenced your own production? What films would you say have been influential to you?
I’ve taken a number of fiction writing workshops at UVA. The short story that was adapted into my screenplay came out of one of those classes. I took a class on the films of Hitchcock and Sirk that has profoundly influenced my work in so many ways. Some influential films for this project in particular were: Psycho, American Psycho, American Beauty, Fight Club, Memento, Blue Valentine, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Primal Fear, and Gone Girl.
Where do you see yourself after graduation? Are you looking to pursue film production/directing as a career path?
All I want is to immediately get a job as a Creative Director at an independent film production company that develops interesting and provocative stories, not work as an assistant or in a mail room… Maybe one day. Regardless of the entry level job, I want to be in film.
What has been the most inspiring part of your project (maybe another film that was influential, a professor, a peer that has already completed similar goals)?
My team inspires. I couldn’t do this without them, I would be useless. They’re all from different areas of the university, but they all bring so much to the table. Their commitment to this project blows me away. Working with them and seeing how much they care about what I created, and now we are creating, is the most fulfilling part of this project.
What do you see as the role of short films in the larger scheme of media? Do you think their value lies in entertainment or educating people or something else?
I see short films the same way I see feature films — the possibilities are endless. I think film is an exceptional medium because it communicates in a way that anyone can understand, through storytelling. I think anyone and everyone could utilize film for their own agenda, to tell their own story. For me, I want to make people feel. I think the ability to create emotion is powerful and exciting. I think there’s value in any role, be it education, entertainment, arthouse, or anything else. People like to draw distinctions between art and entertainment like it’s black and white. I don’t think they necessarily have to be all that separate.