Filmmaker, Writer and Composer Alexis Karl on “The Apartment”

Alexis Karl. Director, Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Composer.

NY Elite: Congratulations on being an ISC finalist. What does it mean for your work to be selected at the International Screenwriting Competition in New York? 

Alexis Karl: It is so exciting to have The Apartment chosen as a finalist for this marvelous competition, which has applicants in the thousands! From what I understand, the ISC chooses amidst a very high caliber of scripts, so The Apartment, which I co- wrote with author Justin Decarlo, is in great company!

NY Elite: Can you tell us about the work that you participated with at ISC? What is the story about? 

Alexis Karl: The Apartment is a script based on the short story of the same name by my co-writer Justin Decarlo. The script is set in one Brooklyn neighborhood where Arman, a taciturn, small-time gambler always evading a disgruntled landlord, is seen with a handful of lotto scratch offs at his local bodega, in basement gambling clubs, or in in his old studio apartment with 1930’s jazz as the ever-present soundtrack. One evening Arman spills water on old floorboards in front of his door while evading his landlord’s call for late rent, and when he wakes the next morning from a particularly violent dream, he finds a ring of mushrooms have sprouted. As the script follows Arman through unsuccessful bets and meeting a host of Brooklyn characters in his neighborhood, his apartment is increasingly overtaken by a forest. Eventually, Arman retreats to the apartment, sealing himself off from his urban world. The film explores the fragility of reality, and concepts of solitude in the proverbial concrete jungle.

NY Elite: Can you tell us yourself and your artistic talents?

Alexis Karl: I am a film director, cinematographer, screenwriter, editor and composer. 

NY Elite: What scripts have you written so far? 

Alexis Karl: I have written The White Boar, which is my feature film currently in post-production, that centers on an Italian con man of fallen nobility , The Duke, who, haunted by visions, begins to lose his sense of time- the one thing ultimately important to his well- planned cons. Waking in strange places, parks and cities, we see him become The White Boar ( Symbolized by his ever present white trench coat, change in his personality, and named for his noble family’s crest ) wandering alone, searching his reflection for clues to his quickly fading persona. The script contemplates the duality of this character while exploring his ultimate isolation within the often-frenetic urban landscape.

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?

Alexis Karl: “The White Boar”, my feature film starring Alberto Gimignani which I wrote, directed, filmed, edited and composed much of the music for.

“METAMORPH”, a short experimental film that I directed, filmed, edited and composed the music 

Alexis Karl: “Vizədənt”, a short experimental film that I co-directed, co filmed and co-edited with filmmaker Adam Torkel.

NY Elite: What type of scripts do you want to write in your career?

Alexis Karl: I love the blending of urban realism with fantastical realism, and often find my work veering into that realm. I also adore a good con man, hit man, or gambler down on his luck story. A story that explores one main character and presents a sort of portrait is interesting to me. I love urban dystopian themes and like to embrace a gritty tale.

NY Elite: As a writer, what is the most important aspect of building a character? 

Alexis Karl: For me it is the dialogue. I find that dialogue dictates the character- and directs their actions. I absolutely adore writing dialogue, as it is a way for me to taste the character, to try on their personalities as well as a way of driving the story forward. I am always surprised that I can easily access the voice of my characters- from a mob boss to a hit man, to a godlike immortal to a teenage punk…somehow the dialogue finds its way into the script fluidly, and then that charts the course of the tale I want to tell.

NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?

Alexis Karl: I am currently working on quite a few scripts: “Ghost Girl” is a love story between two teenage girls, one of whom is a ghost from the 80’s, set in a small upstate NY town, and inspired by photographer Jorge Colombo’s dystopian imagery shot at night in that same town. Another is “Shadow”, about matriarchal magic in Brooklyn’s Little Caribbean- which shifts from cinema verité to fantastical realism, and yet another, “Immortals”, is a script set in Puerto Rico’s abandoned factories and deserted town squares inhabited by immortals: vampires, demons, and cult leaders. Yet another script is a dramatic short about a hit man in Brooklyn, who meets the sister of one of his victims who happens to be a substitute night nurse for his ailing mother.

I am in post-production for my feature film at the moment as well as a handful of experimental dystopian dance and music shorts which I have directed or have co-directed with filmmakers Adam Torkel and  Khurram Azim. I am just beginning a documentary project which is devoted to creating portraits of my NYC subjects in their daily lives.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

Alexis Karl: Yes! I have a performing troupe called LEX and THE CULT OF SPIRITS. I am the main singer and composer and collaborate on composing and performing with other brilliant musicians, dancers and actors- who also are often featured in my films. Our latest live album is entitled “Soundtracks for Vampires”, and available on Bandcamp through LEX and The CULT OF SPIRITS page.

I am writing a sci fi- cyberpunk-high fantasy novel at the moment, and am a multidisciplinary artist exhibiting my installations and films with Stephen Romano Gallery, and art films with Leo Kuelbs Collection in Berlin with projections on the Manhattan Bridge in NYC. I also am a martial artist, which is probably why I love writing violent fight scenes! 

Lastly, I am a professor of multidisciplinary art at Pratt Institute. Guiding students in the creative process inevitably influences and inspires my own creativity.

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking/writing?

Alexis Karl: My advice is to dive in! Someone recently asked how I begin writing a script and I answered: I just start. No matter if it is not perfect, that’s what editing is for. Get those words on the page, and the story will unfold.  I feel that way with anything in film. If you have the desire to write a script, or direct a film, you have to dive in with great tenacity and make it happen. Many people have brilliant ideas but will not follow-through. So, the way to battle this, is to begin and complete the project, no matter how much time it takes, no matter the difficulties that will inevitably arise. Money is so often a proverbial roadblock in independent filmmaking, but films can be made with micro budgets. If you have an idea- write it and complete it. If you want to film, borrow a camera- film on your phone (I did this for my feature), and make it happen, because great ideas should never go to waste. There is room for all of us here, and there are so many stories just waiting to be told, so many films waiting to come to life on the screen.

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