02 Dec Lex Halaby, Interview Part 1
Here’s the first part of my interview with good friend and talented filmmaker Lex Halaby [LH]. Once again…I’m [LG].
LG: So how do we know each other?
LH: That’s actually a funny question, cause I was talking about this with our friend Liz recently, cause I’m not actually sure when we first met. I think it was through the Writers’ Group, right?
LG: Yeah, that’s where we really got to know each other. So, tell me a little about the WG, what did we do there?
LH: Well I’d been talking with a lot of friends, most of which were directors about the various stuff they were writing and it seemed like everyone was having a hard time completing projects. So I thought it’d be good to get together every two weeks to read each other’s material and give feedback. Having the schedule of writers’ group would force you to write and you’d get good constructive feedback from people who’s opinions you trusted.
LG: Do you think we were successful in that?
LH: Yeah, I think that the WG helped a lot. And we all became friends through it. So it was nice to have a routine excuse to hang out, crack some beers, read each other’s stuff, and catch up.
LG: Yeah, I thought that was a really cool part of it. Cause I didn’t really know you guys very well before the group.
LG: Were there any writing projects you started writing in the group that you completed? Or projects you later went on to shoot?
LH: There’s no way I would have been able to write that 13 Episode Webseries, tentatively titled [laughs] “Blowers,” without the WG. Having the deadline really forced me to write.
And there’s other things that I wrote that I brought into the group and shot as well, short films and things like that. Sometimes music video concepts.
LG: Like the ‘Man Man’ one, right?
LH: Yeah, exactly. That came into the group a couple times to be refined. It was part short film, part music video and finding the right balance and working on that w/ Ryan, the singer as well. It was good for me to get outside feedback.
LG: He came into WG a couple times after that right, when you guys were working on that short film…
LH: Yeah on “Oh Joy.” We became friends after working on ‘Man Man’ and decided to make another project. Ryan came into the group and we wrote a short script together called “Oh Joy.”
LG: Any plans to work on another project with him?
LH: We’re talking about a few things and we’ll definitely work together on something in the future.
LG: That’s something I wanted to ask you more about, the collaboration process. Because often as a writer/director you’re taking your concept and vision all the way. So what was it like to collaborate with another writer on “Oh Joy?”
LH: It was sort of a new experience for me. Cause coming from a background of music videos: you get the music, you write the concept then you follow it all the way through the production and post.
But with this project, Ryan and I really wanted to collaborate.
First we bounced around ideas for the short film, then when we settled on an idea – we separately wrote our own versions. The tones ended up being very different.
We talked about it and said well “I kind of like this line from yours, but it doesn’t work that well with this section from mine.” So we got together and scrapped the two versions and then started totally fresh on a new one. We sat down in the same room and wrote it over the course of a few hours.
LG: That’s a really interesting way you guys ended up writing. Once you had the script, what was the division of labor? Because you didn’t shared director’s credit, right? Were you co-producers?
LH: My background is in production, so I handled the directing. But Ryan was definitely helping me produce it. He helped get the cast through Charlyne Yi, he got Paul Rust, Anne Gregory, and Martin Starr.
Then we shot it a day or two before he left for Philadelphia.
This is an example where having a deadline makes it all happen. One way or another the short film is happening. If you’re just like “when ever the time is right” you don’t end up shooting it.
LG: Yeah I agree, deadlines are important. How do you set them for yourself? What do you do to keep yourself motivated and inspired?
LH: I usually need external deadlines. I can set deadlines for myself, but the things that take priority are the ones with hard deadlines. Since I’m usually juggling a few projects at any given time, which ever one has a deadline first, get’s done first.
But I keep a fairly lengthy to-do list. I try to knock off more stuff than gets put on. It’s never been completely empty though. [both laugh] Cause there’s a few things on there that are hugely time consuming and I haven’t quite figured out how to do them between other things.
LG: Is this a digital list, a paper list? Where does it live?
LH: It’s a digital list. It’s in my iCal. So I keep my schedule open and the to-do list next to it. I have two monitors and the monitor on the left is just my to-do list and calendar and I work on the one to the right.
LG: That’s interesting, your calendar and to-do list are always up. Schedule is boring, but important for us creative types…so that we actually get things done.
LH: I need to work on more minute time management. Like really managing every hour of the day. But it’s tough cause on any given day my schedule is different. I could plan to spend a whole day writing, then midway thru, new notes come in from a label and I have to make a couple edit changes on something.
All of a sudden my plan to “just write” has be blown cause there is a fire to put out. You have to roll-with-the-punches, but if I have an open day I try to schedule it.
[End Part 1.]
Next week, we’ll learn more about Lex’s creative process and hear about his new videos, shorts, and other projects!
p.s. If there are questions you’d like me to ask people in the future, please let me know!