Interview: Writer/Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (EASIER WITH PRACTICE)

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
February 24th, 2010

Back in June, the Grand Jury at the 11th Annual Cinevegas Film Festival (and our very own James Wallace) fell in love with a first-time feature from writer and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez. The deceptively simple plotline of the film ("while on a road trip to promote his unpublished novel, Davy Mitchell finds himself falling for a mysterious phone sex caller") belied what was lurking within this very moving love story that ultimately proved to be one of my personal favorites for the entire year.

Alvarez's debut went on to win the Grand Jury Award at Cinevegas, the Best New International Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and the Special Jury Prize at the Memphis Indie Film Festival. Alvarez was also recently nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards - Best First Feature and the Someone to Watch Award. Despite the film's steady success and the kudos Alvarez has received for his first feature, he remains nothing short of exceedingly humble, passionate, and proud of his work.

After the jump, check out my interview with Alvarez, wherein we discuss the MPAA's thoughts on the film, the casting of Brian Geraghty, the film's awesome soundtrack, and what's next for someone who is definitely Someone to Watch.

Though any discussion about EASIER WITH PRACTICE would be utterly incomplete without mentioning phone sex, it’s really not a “phone sex movie.” In fact, at its heart, EASIER struck me as a deeply personal and specific love story that still manages to address what it’s like to fall in love in a general sense. Davy and Nicole’s story may be entirely unique, but the on-screen portrayal of it makes it feel surprisingly universal.

When it comes to achieving that rare balance, Alvarez gives credit to the guy it actually happened to: “I got to give [it to] Davy Rothbart, who wrote the original article…it was his approach that got me so invested in the story. This idea that you could take what most people either exploit for humor or obscenity, and instead try to turn it into something really personal and universal. I think I tried to make that conceit inform every decision I made in the film.” When it comes to those decisions, Alvarez hit the nail precisely on the head.

Anyone familiar with the film probably had a good chuckle with the recent news that EASIER, though technically unrated, is considered to be NC17 by the MPAA. Alvarez clarifies the matter, “For the record, we are an unrated film, but if the MPAA were to have rated it, that would be our official rating. That's the political answer I'm supposed to give. We are only the second film…to be given this rating based solely on language, so I guess in and of itself that's an achievement!”

Despite the fact that the story of EASIER finds its roots in sex of the telephonic variety, it’s by no means a dirty film, and as Alvarez says, “I never set out to make a lurid film and I certainly don't think the final film is deserving of the rating, but at the same time it's out of my hands. It's only even given that rating for one specific scene...I try to take it as a compliment, [be]cause I wanted the language in that scene to be real and leave people feeling uncomfortable, so if they consider that explicit, I'll take it!”

So much of EASIER WITH PRACTICE rests on the shoulders of its lead actor, Brian Geraghty (who is currently probably most recognizable for his work in another of this year’s best films, THE HURT LOCKER). Geraghty appears in nearly every scene of the film, and it’s his nuanced portrayal of Davy that pushes the film to the most honest and emotional of levels. While the character of Davy Mitchell is based on a real person – writer Rothbart, who wrote the original article in GQ that inspired Alvarez to adapt the story into a film – it’s impossible to imagine anyone else being Davy.

Alvarez himself commented on Geraghty’s place in the film, “I can't imagine anyone else either! Brian really just took on the film and committed to it. I'm really proud of the work he's done in it and I think it's a really difficult character to play and make accessible, but I feel Brian did just that.”

When it came to casting the young actor, Geraghty was always at the forefront of Alvarez’s mind: “the casting process was pretty traditional, but I had a list of names and Brian was one of the first 2 or 3 I wrote down. We saw like 200 guys for the part and Brian came in late in the process, I just had the right feeling about him and it was confirmed when he came in and read. As soon as we met and got along so well, I knew it'd work. Work ethic goes a long way in my opinion, and Brian has that in spades, he was incredible to work with.”

When it comes to the film and Alvarez’s various recognitions from film festivals in general and the Independent Spirit Awards specifically, Alvarez is nothing but grateful. For EASIER, “the Spirit Nominations have been essential…it completely changed the course of things, because beforehand we weren't sure if we were going to be able to pull off a theatrical run, but as soon as we got the nomination it gave us the fuel to be able to put together the release. I could've never imagined getting those nominations, so I'm just incredibly grateful and overwhelmed by it.”

As a young filmmaker, the film festival track has proven key to spreading the word of EASIER, and Alvarez acknowledges that “the festival experience has been pretty incredible. We will have played almost 35 film festivals by this summer. It's meant so much because it gave us an opportunity to show the film to people in theaters and not just in their homes on DVD.”

Fans of indie music are also in for a real treat with EASIER WITH PRACTICE, as the soundtrack includes songs from Deer Tick, the Harlem Shakes, and Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene. Alvarez, a huge music fan, had a few songs picked out from the beginning. In fact, Alvarez says “there’s a Rock Plaza Central song in the movie that I was listening to when I wrote the scene it ended up scoring in the film, that's an incredibly satisfying thing to happen. It was also a dream to get a Grizzly Bear song in there... admittedly a very expensive dream, but it's such an amazing song I'm thrilled it's in the movie.” The EASIER team also had “a great music supervisor, Maggie Phillips” who helped Alvarez “find the right stuff to fit the tone. Some of it is simple trial and error, but I did make a conscious effort to try and get a strong collection of music together for it.”

For fans of Alvarez, it’s hard not to agree with the Independent Spirit Awards that he is Someone to Watch – but just what should we be watching for? Alvarez assures us that he’s “working hard to hopefully be going into production on something this year. I'm days away from being able to announce my next project, but the final legal stuff is still working out. I'm incredibly excited about what it is though and can't wait to tell people about it!” Whatever Alvarez has up his sleeve next, I can’t wait to see it.

For more information on the film, be sure to check out EASIER WITH PRACTICE's very cool website HERE.

EASIER WITH PRACTICE opens this Friday in New York at Quad Cinemas and Los Angeles at the Sunset 5.

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