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Interview: Alex Holdridge on “In Search of a Midnight Kiss”

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08052008_midnightkiss1.jpgBy Stephen Saito

It wasn’t the most romantic situation when Alex Holdridge found himself standing by the side of the road, en route to a city he hated. At a time when Holdridge recalls having “no margin for error,” there he was with his car flipped upside down and little recourse, except for a primal instinct. “As soon as I crashed the car, I found a camera and I knelt down and took that photo. I always knew that so long as that photo comes out, I could use it somewhere.”

When a character in Holdridge’s third film, “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” describes being involved in a car accident, there’s something poetic about the small poof of smoke and the clutter of the car’s undercarriage set against the open road, particularly illuminated by the film’s monochromatic palette. Most of the amusing and poignant moments in “Midnight Kiss” came from the professional and personal setbacks that beset the writer/director as he made his way from Austin to Los Angeles a few years back. After going through a breakup with his girlfriend, it was Holdridge’s foray into internet dating that became the inspiration for a script about two lonely Angelenos (Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds) who spend the hours leading up to New Year’s Eve together, strolling through the city after meeting each other through Craigslist. Holdridge talked to me about his latest film, his uneasy embrace of L.A. and the rocky road in real life that led there.

While “Midnight Kiss” takes great advantage of Los Angeles in many aspects, it also has a feel similar to the naturalistic type of films that come out of Austin — was this a film you had to get out of Austin to make?

It’s funny because it’s two-fold — it is a movie that we’d make in Austin, and that was something we kept talking about. It’s like everyone in L.A. is sitting around waiting for somebody to give them the opportunity to make a movie, and since we’d been on the streets and made movies from nothing with very little money, stealing locations, we knew that if push came to shove, we could make a little one and make it look pretty good. We just hadn’t done it. Then these HD cameras started to come into play that were small and discreet and yet looked great, and so the idea was that we could shoot a little one like [Holdridge’s first film, 2001’s] “Wrong Numbers,” but with more experience.

The physical environment of L.A. is fucking awesome. It’s gorgeous. It’s a mess. There’s sprawling crap and shit strip malls endlessly, but there’s also architecture that outshines anything in New York and there’s hills. Whatever you see behind your camera, it’s like getting a chance to see the city and how cool it is and then bring that independent spirit here.

08052008_midnightkiss2.jpgI understand your affection for L.A. grew during filming, and I don’t know if that was only for the geography.

No, no, culturally, geographically, every way. I hated it when I was here. Hated it! Austin’s like a cocoon of love — beautiful, smart people who are engaged in the world and have a sense of social consciousness and love movies. You come out here and you feel like people make movies, they don’t even watch them.

Over time, you find your niche. You find your group that’s as obsessed with films as you are. [As far as being a filmmaker,] the vast general majority are just trying to survive. The worst thing to say is that you’re working on a screenplay in L.A., because even though you may really be or you may have directed three or four films, there’s 300,000 other people saying that exact same line.

You came out to Los Angeles because “Wrong Numbers,” about a pair of high school seniors going out on a beer run on the eve of graduation, was set to be remade by a major studio, but it didn’t happen. How did that experience lead into “In Search of a Midnight Kiss”?

I crashed my car on the drive out here. That was a real photo of my car upside-down. Everything fell apart. My girlfriend and I broke up. My laptop was stolen. I’d finished a draft [of the “Wrong Numbers” remake] and called my agent and said, “we’ll give it to you on Friday.” This is a Wednesday night. I had just gone to dinner with my sister and somebody biked by and took the laptop right out of my [nephew’s] stroller, just like it was in the movie. So it was one of these things where all this shit kept going awry and I couldn’t get a job to save my life.

But I stuck it out. I finally got into the rhythm, moved into this little room, started internet dating to get my confidence back. It took a year and a half to finish that draft, because I had to get an old floppy disk from my ex-girlfriend’s mother and dig back in from page one to rewrite the whole [“Wrong Numbers”] script from scratch. Two or three months into that process, I read about “Superbad” and it just defeated the entire purpose of making that movie anymore. I was completely devastated. My friend Robert Murphy, who’d shot “Wrong Numbers” with me, called me up and said “Hey, I have an HD camera, you want to shoot something?” And I said yes.

Were you looking forward to remaking your own movie?

08052008_midnightkiss3.jpgI certainly burnt out on it. It took me four years to make it the first time. I liked “Wrong Numbers” a lot — I knew that the idea was strong and that it didn’t have to be just a tiny little movie. To me, it was like wow, if we do this right, it could be “American Graffiti.” I feel like they took our idea and just didn’t do it as well, which was really sad, because I loved the movie more than anything.

Was “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” a reaction to that experience?

I’d been conceiving of this New Year’s Eve in L.A. movie for about two years. I hadn’t put pen to paper and I kept like running into my actors and thinking, man, we’ve got to do another one where we’re on the streets and we don’t have to answer to anyone and we’re not waiting. We’re just picking up the camera and going. When [Murphy] called and said you want to shoot something, two weeks later when he arrived, I’d written the whole script and called up everybody I knew that I’d worked with before. I don’t even remember the writing process. All of a sudden, we had a 130-page script out of nowhere. We started shooting and it was just like we knew this is something special.

[Photos: Sara Simmonds and Scoot McNairy; Simmonds; director Alex Holdridge – “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” IFC Films, 2008]

“In Search of a Midnight Kiss” is now open in New York; opens in Los Angeles on August 22nd.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.