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An Interviw with Nick Alonzo, Director of Shitcago

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2015

Films directed by Nick Alonzo on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Shitcago - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Shitcago is a film that doesnít really have a traditional plotline but instead, it has a very minimal one. It follows a seemingly mundane day in the life of a young loner living in Chicago as he wanders around the city and encounters many idiosyncratic characters.

 

From what I know, quite a bit of Shitcago is based on personal experiences - care to elaborate, and what inspired you to turn these experiences into a movie?

 

I like to describe the film as a ďquasi-autobiographyĒ because many of the characters and situations in the film are loosely based on real life experiences I had while living in the city all of my life.

When I thought of the concept a few years back, I knew the film was going to evolve into something that was personal to me so I thought it would make sense to take all of the odd but interesting things that happened to me and incorporate them in the film.

 

To what extent can you actually identify with the lead character, the Loner, of your movie?

 

I would say The Loner is very similar to an older version of myself. I really wanted to make this character to be very uninterested in life and quiet because I felt thatís how I was years ago after high school during the summer. I wasnít working or in school, and I actually didnít have a lot of friends to hang out with during that time, so I would just sit around the house, watch television, eat junk food, and then when I got bored of doing that, I would go downtown and wander around the city for hours doing absolutely nothing just like the character.

 

For Shitcago you have chosen not to follow a linear narrative but go with an episodic structure instead - would you like to elaborate on your narrative approach?

 

There were many ways of approaching the idea and I did attempt to write out an actual script that had more of a linear structure to it but it just wasnít working out. So one of the approaches was to not have a linear plot at all and sort of jump from scene to scene, I thought it was an interesting idea to do but I didnít have complete faith I could do it that way and succeed.

I then decided to do some research on films that didnít really have a coherent plot and I ended up watching two films that would then be huge inspirations for Shitcago. The films were Jim Jarmuschís Permanent Vacation and Richard Linklaterís Itís Impossible to Learn To Plow By Reading Books. Both of these movies are viusally interesting and they donít have an actual plot going on, it just goes from scene to scene throughout and thatís what I wanted to do with my film, and I think for the most part it worked.

 

What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

My approach was very straight forward and somewhat specific. Whenever I directed someone, I would tell them what I exactly wanted but keep everything simple as well, I didnít want to complicate things. I would tell them what kind of character they were going to play, give them vague details about the character, and then feed them a few lines here and there.

 

You also play a character in Shitcago - what can you tell us about your character then, why did you choose exactly him, and seriously, how much fun was it to play him?

 

Originally the role was going to be for a friend of mine but when we were about to shoot the scene one night, he was unavailable. I really didnít want to do the scene just because Iím incredibly camera shy, but I did want to have a cameo in the film so I did it.

It was really fun to play the character and Iím glad I did it because a lot of people who have seen the film really enjoyed that particular part and that really means a lot to me.

 

What can you tell us about the rest of your key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

The entire cast was mainly made up of non-professional actors and actresses but more specifically, every person in the film is either a family member or close friend of mine. The reason why I chose these people was because none of them were camera shy and werenít really afraid to improvise in front of the camera. I also wanted to work with these people because they knew my sense of humor and they were comfortable with everything I was doing.

 

Did you actually have permits for everywhere you shot or did you shoot guerrilla style? And what can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

I shot everything guerilla style. At first I thought about calling people to secure locations and all, but it was pointless. Filming permits in Chicago are incredibly expensive and I made this film on a shoestring budget so I decided to shoot wherever the hell I wanted and whenever someone asked us to stop, we would just move to a different location and shoot it there.

Nothing really disastrous happened while filming but there were at least two times we were asked to stop shooting. The first time it happened was when we shot the Art Museum scene, it was originally shot in an actual exhibit and everything was looking great until one of the security guards told us to leave despite the fact that I asked another security guard if it was okay to film in the exhibit and he said it was fine. I didnít want to argue about it so I just asked one of the security managers if I could just film the scene on a blank wall near an entrance and they were fine with that. The second time was when we were shoot a scene on a train platform and were stopped by a cop because we didnít have ďpermission from the CTAĒ, which is basically the main public transportation company here in Chicago.

 

A few words about audience and critical reception of your movie so far, and of course, when and where will it be released onto the general public?

 

The overall reception for the film has been positive. There has been a few mixed responses but thatís something to be expected. I donít believe Shitcago is for everyone, but if someone was to absolutely hate it then they probably either hate art and cinema or just hate me.

Right now, Shitcago is currently in a film festival submission circuit and Iím just waiting for responses. I submitted to quite a few festival and Iím hoping I get into at least one of them. I am also contacting small local theaters who are interested in showcasing the film which would be great because I want to get this film out there as much as possible.

I am also in discussion about distributing the film with the help of an Illinois-based distribution company, they are very interested in the film but itís going to take some time to get this deal off the ground since I want it to screen at a few festivals first. I am hoping the film is available to the general public by early next year.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

I am working on a few small projects, but nothing incredibly huge right now. I do plan on doing a thirty something minute documentary about a few musicians I know in Chicago, so that will be fun to make and I hope I can start on that as soon as possible.

However, I do have an idea of what my next feature film will be, but I probably wonít be able to start on that until next summer or so, not entirely sure right now. It is going to be something different though because Iím planning to shoot most of it in a forest preserve and some parts back in the city.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I got into filmmaking at a late age. I was a freshman in high school and I ended up watching Sam Raimiís The Evil Dead for the first time ever. Iíve seen a lot of movies before this but what really grabbed my attention with The Evil Dead was the fact that the director made it with some friends and on a small budget.

From that moment, I decided I wanted to make film for a living so I basically started to do a bunch of research on filmmaking and what films to watch which then led me to go to the public libraries and rent a bunch of films. I would spend hours watching these films and just analyze them to their core. As years went on, I realized that I didnít really want to go to film school or any kind of art school because I felt that it was more important to spend money on the actual projects Iím going to pursue rather than spend money to sit in a class and listen to someone else telling me how to make a film, it didnít make any sense to me. I decided that I wanted to learn things on my own by just making films and learn from my mistakes.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Shitcago?

 

I made only two short films prior to Shitcago. One of them is actually available to watch on Vimeo and its titled Cut, itís basically a short black and white silent comedy about an office employee who gets a paper cut and bleeds to death. I shot the film on a $30 budget with a good friend of mine and edited by myself within two weeks. The short was then submitted and selected to play at the CineYouth Film Festival.

The second short film I made was called Gun with the Wind. To be completely honest though, itís one of the weakest projects Iíve ever made. I shot it in one day, didnít write any kind of script or outline, and it was just bad. The lame title speaks for itself.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

As a director, I would say Iím very ambitious and passionate about my work. I can get really obsessive with my work and I can also be a hard ass too, but I think those are normal traits for a filmmaker. I try to make sure that I am 100% dedicated to whatever project Iím working on and I try my best to make sure that everyone involved with the project is on the same boat as me.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Well as I mentioned before, Iím a fan of Jim Jarmusch & Richard Linklater, but Iím also a big fan of Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Harmony Korine, Andy Warhol and John Waters.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my favorite films of all time, I can watch it over and over and it never gets old for me. Itís a masterpiece.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

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I really donít like anything by Tyler Perry. I donít understand how that guy keeps on making movies, theyíre just awful and I actually donít know anyone who enjoys watching them.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

Be sure to like Shitcago on Facebook (http://facebook.com/shitcagomovie) for updates, screening info, and other important stuff. You can also check out the website on Tumblr at http://shitcagomovie.tumblr.com

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

I edited Shitcago 24/7 in my basement on an old Dell laptop while in my underwear and drinking 2-3 Red Bulls daily. Iím really proud that I finished the film and that Iím still alive as well.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

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