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VIFF 2015 Interview: O, BRAZEN AGE director Alexander Carson

by Jason Whyte

"O, Brazen Age is, at heart, a film about a group of old friends who are both good and bad for each other after many years in each other's orbit. It's about poetry and photography, asking questions about the value of art and the pursuit of artistic practices, and it's about mythologies and faith in the 21st century. O, Brazen Age is an ensemble drama and a lyrical cine-essay at the same time--it's always changing shape, and that's what I love about it." Director Alexander Carson on O BRAZEN AGE which screens at the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival.

This is not your first time at VIFF that I take it?

This is our second time at VIFF. We came out last year with THE VALLEY BELOW, a feature that I produced for my North Country Cinema partner, filmmaker Kyle Thomas (read our interview with THE VALLEY BELOW link here). For O, BRAZEN AGE, Kyle and I switched hats: this time I'm writing and directing and he's producing (he also plays the role of Danny in the film). We had an amazing time at the festival last year and we're really excited to be back in Vancouver again with a new film for VIFF 2015. I'll definitely be in town to represent the film at both screenings, and a lot of our cast and crew are coming out too, so we'll be there en masse.

I'm originally from Ottawa, but I got started making films at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal. It was a very inspiring place to learn about movies, meet great people, and get a sense of how many different approaches to filmmaking are possible beyond the industrial paradigm we've inherited from Hollywood. I linked up with Kyle Thomas, Nicholas Martin (Harvey), and Evan Webber (Allen) during those years, and we've been friends and collaborators ever since. Actually a lot of the people who worked on the film, both on screen and off, were my friends and family. I've always taken the approach that my life and my filmmaking are deeply entwined, so it made sense to make a film about friendship with the people who are closest to me.

At the end of most shooting days we'd all go back to base camp to eat a good meal, have some drinks, and watch that day's rushes. It was really fun and inclusive and we'd usually stay up late laughing and talking about how the day had gone. It was a great way to make a movie. That camraderie was definitely what kept me going when the days were long and challenging.

I got that sense when I met Kyle with THE VALLEY BELOW. So with the roles switch, what was your process in getting the movie together?

O, BRAZEN AGE finally came together after several years of script development. I wrote four or five drafts, and we hosted a bunch of table readings with friends and colleagues from various tangents of Toronto's art world. During this time, I was still making short films that were starting to play bigger festivals like TIFF and San Francisco and win awards on an international scale. This enabled me to establish a resume that would qualify for long-format funding from various agencies here in Canada. After many script revisions, I was fortunate to secure production support from the Canada Council for the Arts, and Telefilm Canada's Micro-Budget Production Program. It was a long process, roughly five years from first draft to a finished movie, but I finally got to make the film I set out to make. I'm very grateful to be able to continue working in an art-cinema tradition here in Canada.

Tell me about the look and design of the movie, as I noticed a very unique and original vision with THE VALLEY BELOW. How did it carry over to this movie?

For O, BRAZEN AGE I worked with Mike McLaughlin as our director of photography. Mike's a good friend, and an avid celluloid enthusiast. One of the first things we talked about was employing a mixed-media approach, combining Super 16 with RED for much of the film to bring a hazy nostalgic poetry to the visual palette. When preparing for production we talked a lot about influences, and Mike watched a lot of films that were important to me in terms of tone or style. We leaned heavily on references to the history of cinema, including a lot of European new wave influences, and inspiration from the gritty, personal American filmmaking of the 1970s. In many ways, O, BRAZEN AGE is like a post-modern storm.

So what are you looking forward to with your return to VIFF with this movie?

One of the best things about our visit to VIFF last year was a mentorship session we led with the short filmmakers, talking mostly about the transition from shorts-to-features, but really covering a wide range of topics related to filmmaking in general. We'll be doing it again this year, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's very satisfying to share knowledge and talk about different ways to make movies. If I could offer one essential bit of advice to young filmmakers getting started, it would be to go see films at festivals: see what other people are doing with the medium so you can contextualize your work and knowledgeably throw your voice into conversation with what's happening in the contemporary film world.

In the end, what would you say is the best film that you have ever seen at a film festival?

Best film I've seen at a festival? That's tough. I saw Holy Motors in Cannes a couple of years ago, and it made a big impression on me. I'm not sure if I'd rank it amongst the "best" films I've seen, but it's definitely a film that takes chances, completely unafraid to bend or break conventions of narrative cinema. It was weird and fun and thoughtful and totally fresh. That's all I really want from a good festival film: a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Be sure to follow the progress of O, BRAZEN AGE from VIFF and beyond by following via the film's official website, on Twitter at @nccinema and on Facebook!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from Septembe 24th to October 9th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the VIFF app for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 09/25/15 05:26:31
last updated: 09/25/15 05:27:41
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