Making Waves: Spotlight on Film Director Alex Cherney
Producer, Writer, and Director Alex Cherney’s primary genres are comedy, drama, and thriller. He also commonly infuses real people and scenarios into his work. His short film Pick Me Up! Has won several awards on the festival circuit, and his latest feature The Have Not is currently set to begin its festival journey.
Tammy Reese of Cultured Focus Magazine obtained an exclusive interview with Alex to discuss his latest film, The Have Not.
Hi Alex! At Cultured Focus Magazine, we enjoy interviewing film experts like yourself. Please tell us what being a filmmaker means to you and what are some of the projects you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
Alex: Hi Cultured Focus! Thank you for interviewing me this is exciting. To me, being a filmmaker is all about discovering humanity on screen. Creating an artificial world and exploring it with your film family, to come out the other side with a heightened perspective. It’s experiencing life under imaginary circumstances, and it also is following through on an initial idea and nurturing it through to distribution and beyond. I definitely have an obsession with making films, I’ve made 6 micro-budget feature films in the last 9 years lol. There’s just nothing quite like it. I am actually most proud of my current film The Have Not.
We’re excited to chat about “The Have Not” film which is heading to the film festival circuit soon. How would you describe this film?
Alex: The Have Not fuses fiction with reality. It started as an actor-director exercise between the talented Duke Williams and myself. I approached him with this idea where we basically lived as that character, him acting and me with a camera, and allowed the film to find us through that experience. We would talk to real people in a documentary fashion. I was inspired by slice-of-life films, particularly Sean Baker’s work. And also a lot by Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Inherent Vice.
One of my favorite parts about the film-watching experience is when the movie ends and you still feel like you are living in that world. And the very successful films create such strong worlds that you can’t help but return to them. Inherent Vice and The Florida Project had that for me. It’s just an energy that feels relatable to me. So that was also a goal of The Have Not — to create that deep world to hopefully allow viewers to think about the film long after the fact.
What do you hope audiences take away from watching the movie?
Alex: It’s hard to say because I really love when films don’t push a moral but rather open your mind to new ideas. To allow viewers to almost see what they need to see in it. There are some obvious themes and messages, like having empathy towards people who are struggling, but if the film is successful it will open up a whole train of thought in individual viewers’ minds and allow for great discussion.
What do you think are the best characteristics that make a great filmmaker?
Alex: A very strong understanding of the story you are trying to tell. This way you can accept all input and run it through your vision lens confidently, incorporating the ideas that strengthen the story without letting the ego get in the way. I’ve fallen victim to this in my earlier films (and I’m sure even still) where I just didn’t really know what story I was trying to tell, and without that clarity, it makes it hard to collaborate and let your guard down. Also, you need to be a chameleon and be able to interact with many different personalities one after the other, and know the best way to communicate with each other. For example with actors- I like to use a combination of very experienced actors and people who have never acted in their life, but have a natural ability to be themselves on camera. It’s important to know how to give direction to both of those groups, and everyone in between. A director, in my opinion, also needs to be very empathetic, and dedicate their life when making a film to being there for the cast and crew in any way they need to be.
Let’s talk about “The Have Not” project a bit further. Without giving too much away, what do you think audiences will love about some of the characters?
Alex: Duke and JB (Jessica-Brittany Smith, the lead actress in the film) really did an amazing job of creating such deep characters. The majority of the film is improvised, and the characters they were playing mirror lots of their experience. This believability really allows you to understand them. I’m sure everyone will know people like both of these characters, and I think their imperfections (particularly Ricky’s) are lovable. Their performances are beyond captivating and I can’t wait for everyone to experience their on-screen chemistry.
Can you share which film festivals we will be able to see the film at and when will it be available to the general public?
Alex: We are still waiting to secure our world premiere, so it’s hard for me to say, but the goal was always Cannes. Shoot for the stars right? The film will be available to the public most likely in mid to late 2023.
What else are you currently working on?
Alex: Like I said I’m kind of a serial filmmaker, I already shot my next feature. Just wrapped production on it actually! ‘Dog Fugitive’, a road trip comedy starring my dog Beauxette. The film features a massive ensemble cast and like The Have Not features Long Island in all its glory.
How can we follow all things “The Have Not”?
Alex: Instagram! @thehavenotmovie. We will be posting clips from the film, stills, and some production anecdotes to hold you over until you can see the full film.