Alex Taylor: Directing Through Expansive Worlds
Alex Taylor directed his first feature this year and allowed the world to see it at SXSW 2016. A film that bounces between reality and fantasy, Spaceship delivers a fresh look on everyday life while highlighting a group on the outside of normal. For a film that questions normality and truth, Taylor exceeded any first filmmaker’s goal and created a film of truth through his script.
“For me the film is a personal world, and you are exploring it with the actors and crew—the script is just a suggested pathway through it,” Taylor says.
The script is all over the place, jumping from one story to the next, yet connecting them in a beautiful way. Nothing was out of place, even if the visuals didn’t quite match up. When writing a visually complicated script, it’s hard to imagine just anyone directing the film. Luckily for Taylor, that was never an option, he always envisioned himself as a writer-director.
“Life is all over the place, it’s never a straightforward narrative, and I wanted the film to feel alive like that. For me writing the script is just an organic part of making the film, I don’t see it as separate so I wouldn’t think about giving it to someone else,” Taylor explains. “I get blissfully lost in my own ideas and I’m obsessed with exploring the worlds that keep appearing inside me, I don’t think another director would understand how to make this film because it’s very personal.”
Working on a personal story allows the writer to drop all boundaries, to break through vulnerability with the words on the paper. The stories expressed in the film, as mentioned, are intertwined and conformed even if the connection is not immediately detectable. Keeping the stories linear were as much as the result of Taylor’s writing as it was his editor’s brilliant work. She was able to find an unambiguous path down a bewildering road.
“I just let the film grow as it wanted to. That it all fits together is testament to our wonderful editor, Carmela Iandoli. Mostly I had no idea how some of these scenes would fit together, but they all felt a part of the world we were creating, so I knew they would find a home,” Taylor says. “We spent months trying different combinations until we got to a place where we felt they were firing off each other in the right way. The world speaks to you while you’re filming, all you have to do is listen.”
The script, the editing, and the direction are huge parts of bringing a story to life, however, there is still an area that solidifies everything. The cast allows the story to emerge from the page into existence. Taylor was very particular about who he casted, and the results are breathless. The actors, especially Alexa Davies (Lucidia) and Talulah Rose Haddon (Alice), were so natural in their characters it was almost as if they weren’t acting.
“I didn't want any names because I didn’t want any egos or recognizable faces on set, just real people. I tried to cast personalities rather than actors. I hate the idea of ‘characters’…I love people,” Taylor says.
Spaceship also takes an in-depth look at an outside world of reality. It’s a genre, a personality type, that may seem bizarre to some, but to others is the way to freedom. It’s not a lifestyle type that sees screen time much in films, and thankfully Taylor expresses this world with respect. It’s films like these that let the stranger become the ordinary.
“I was always an outsider. My first job was in a Games Workshop, I played Dungeons and Dragons, and I was bullied at school for a few years,” Taylor says. “The power of film is that you can decide who is the center of your universe, and here I wanted outsiders to be on the inside—to be the center of attention. Basically, it’s all about revenge!”
With a world so eccentric and free, it’s easy to believe that this world might have been a challenge to translate to film. But with Taylor’s freedom in his directing style, it coordinated perfectly with this lifestyle. This community was brought to life in the way it lives, through freedom to create.
“This genre is alive and kicking, these people don’t usually get to express themselves on film or to an audience, so its like shooting fish in a barrel, just put them in front of the camera and magic would ooze out,” Taylor adds. “But the start wasn’t easy-–the powers that be tried to shut us down because I tried to change the approved shooting script so much, but once they saw the improvisation we used on the first day they let us do what we wanted—it was amazing—I cut scenes and wrote new ones, I think they trusted us for which I’m eternally grateful.”
Spaceship is an eccentric story about freedom and life that could have only been told through Taylor’s expert lenses. You still have a chance to see the film before the festival is over, a chance to experience the colorful humanity.
For screenings, check out Spaceship’s SXSW page.
Written by Lisa Mejia