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Spirits boost up-and-coming directors

Trio vie for Someone to Watch Award

KYLE PATRICK ALVAREZ
“Easier With Practice”

He’d been in Los Angeles a year and was working as an assistant to Warren Beatty when Alvarez gave notice, knowing he wanted to focus on trying to get a film made independently. Shortly thereafter, in 2006, he read Davy Rothbart’s GQ article “What Are You Wearing?,” based on Rothbart’s real-life, long-term phone-sex relationship. “I instantly connected with it and set out to get the rights,” says Alvarez. “It was really difficult, because I didn’t have a lawyer or an agent at the time. So it took a while, but Davy was really supportive and encouraging. I wrote the script myself and then spent two years financing it.” It’s been a 3 1/2-year process, he says, but he has no complaints. “Here we are, nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards and having a theatrical release,” he says. “I couldn’t be more grateful or feel any luckier. I’m working on a few projects and hope to go into production on the next film later this year.”

TARIQ TAPA
“Zero Bridge”

Most indie helmers face obstacles, but they don’t usually include strikes, power failures, military curfews, road blocks, bomb blasts and extreme weather. And being independent usually doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. “I had financing, but it fell through right before our start date,” Tapa says of his debut film, about friendship and fate in Kashmir. “So I couldn’t hire any crew. There was no choice but to do it all myself, like a documentary.” The style fit, he says, but regardless of story or place, he’s obsessed with one unifying theme: “The weight of the past on present behavior. It can accommodate a variety of different stories and work on many levels simultaneously, but that is the secret theme of every story. And also of everyone’s life.” The New Yorker’s next projects will include a TV miniseries on J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and a crime drama set in the U.S.

ASIEL NORTON
“Redland”

The motivation behind the visually arresting “Redland” was Norton’s wish “to create a piece of what Alfred Hitchcock called ‘pure cinema,’ that is, cinema that reveals itself completely visually.” Narratively, Norton’s debut concerns a family’s struggle to survive in rural isolation during the Great Depression, but “cinema is the perfect projector of our dreams, and therefore I approached ‘Redland’ like a structured dream, as something full of mystery and ambiguity.” That his father died just before shooting, the USC grad says, affected the shooting immensely. “The film was a way for me to revisit my own life so far,” Norton says, “and my own relationships with my family. It was shot where I was born, and I was raised in a way not too different from my characters.” Next up: A Western about a Civil War veteran turned outlaw after his family dies of starvation, and a film called “Hear I Sing,” about a Jewish woman struggling to survive with her baby in the mountains during the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine.

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