First time Producer Alexander Cooper has passionately stomped his feet into the world of independent cinema with erotic thriller Parallel. So, we caught up with him to talk about his filmmaking journey so far and the challenges of producing a self-financed indie film.
How did you become a producer and what made you want to produce Parallel?
I’ve always had an interest in film since a young age. And I’ve always wondered what it would take to make a film, although I hadn’t had any formal training in it. I had been working in a totally different sphere for quite a long time, I’d been working in law in the city, totally different. There were big changes in my life, work had dried up and my father had passed away. It was around 2014 when all these changes were going on.
So I started looking around for a script, because I wanted a strong concept for the film. I went on one of these websites called StarNow.com, and I put an ad out there looking for an unproduced screenplay. I happened to meet a guy called David Magowan, who had written a script called Parallel, and he said he’d been trying to get it produced, and I watched the other short films he had done, but obviously lower budget stuff than Parallel. Basically I read the script and I thought what an amazing idea it was, what an interesting concept, and I thought this really has potential.
Ultimately, we found that in order to make Parallel I would have to take it on myself, and we didn’t have any backing as such. But I believed in it and I thought, you know, no one’s going to give you exactly what you want to do it, we’ll just go ahead and try to make it the best way we can right now.
Looking at your IMDb page you’ve been in some major Hollywood blockbusters. Did that acting experience make you want to jump into the role of producer?
That’s a good question! The things I’ve got on IMDb have usually been as a supporting artist and the roles have been often uncredited. It was good to get the experience on the set and occasionally meet a director. But ultimately, it wasn’t my baby, and I did have a hankering to take on a project.
How was it working with David? He’s the leading man and the screenwriter of Parallel.
We got on pretty well, David and I, he’s quite a talented writer and very easy to work with, and we’re still in touch now. In fact all of the cast where great, I really had no issues with the cast. With the crew we did have some difficulties and the dynamic was not the best, it wasn’t the easiest of shoots.
David was staying at my flat and at the end of the shooting day we would go back and talk about how things were going, and bounce ideas off one another. Usually we would see eye to eye on what we wanted to do with things. It wasn’t us not agreeing on stuff, it was more of other crew members who had their own ideas…
How did you go about getting your cast together?
Really we’d had a different approach to the casting. We did various methods, like I say we used StarNow.com, and obviously in this day and age we used the internet a lot. We even went out for drinks, I remember we were out in Victoria, in a Wetherspoon’s pub having a casting. We met one of the cast in the pub, it can be pretty random how these things come together. We had a great cast!
And did anyone in the cast have any problems with the more explicit scenes in the film?
Well, Faye Sewell, who played Neil’s girlfriend, she was good to work with. But David’s original idea was they were going to be quiet raunchy as a couple. But we found that she wasn’t prepared to have implied sex or anything of that nature. That wasn’t a problem, it just meant we had to change the emphasis of things, which to me wasn’t a bad thing. Both sides of the story were going to be erotic. It just changed really because of that casting decision.
Were there any filmmakers that shaped your creative vision for the film?
Myself and David are fans of Paul Verhoeven, and when David wrote the script to Parallel he was heavily influenced by David Lynch. I was also a fan of Lynch although for me not as much as I was of Verhoeven’s movies. David and I, both think that the 90’s was a great time for the erotic thriller, he is a big fan of Basic Instinct.
Mainstream cinema today seems a lot more conservative in comparison with the 90’s heyday of films like Basic Instinct, Jade, etc?
That’s very true. There aren’t a lot of these kinds of films being made now, I don’t think, I’m not aware of them. I think with ours we just wanted to tell our story. It was a script I believed in and I went for it!
For most indie filmmakers big name festivals and streaming platforms are key in helping their film reach an audience. How have you found the festival circuit, and Vimeo and Amazon, etc?
Very good question! It’s challenging I will say that. It’s very challenging and I’ve put a lot of effort into promotion. I’ve put entries into film festivals, you get a lot of rejection and some acceptances too. The film’s been in some online festivals and accepted into a few festivals in other countries, and a few of the smaller ones in LA. But no big groundbreaking festivals wanted us to be part of their programming. I was disappointed, but I’m very happy with the film, and other people might not like it and that’s totally fine as well.
The film was until recently on Vimeo, and the reception was a little bit… Well on Vimeo they don’t promote you, unless you’re selected for a staff pick or something, and then I think they can give you a bump. Vimeo really don’t do that much and I don’t think they have a big viewer base. What they do is fine and they host your content fine. But you’ve still got to convince people your film is still worth watching. The success for me on Vimeo has been limited.
But I see potential from Amazon as a platform, they have a bigger user base, and people use the prime membership to watch things that they wouldn’t otherwise take a chance on. I’ve been in touch with various other streaming platforms like Hulu in America, and trying to get them on-board, really just saying we’ve been on Vimeo and Amazon, and seeing if we can get on there too. I’m not really holding my breath, it’s not always easy to get on these platforms.
What have your streaming numbers been like on Amazon so far?
Well, you have an idea in terms of minutes of streaming and this can fluctuate a lot depending on the time of the year. Earlier on in the year, it had gone to 40,000 minutes, and then it was going down, at the moment Parallel is less visible for now. It’s very up and down for us it’s really like a rollercoaster in terms of the views. You don’t know where it’s going, and it’s impossible for me to predict to be fair.
Yes, it must be hard with so much competition out there?
I’m just dealing with it at a very realistic level and moving on. Yes, Parallel is online only at this time, and it hasn’t had any cinema screenings. I’ve been in touch with various cinemas, but the only ones that would give us a little bit of time were the indie cinemas. It has been a little bit difficult on that front. I can totally sympathise with indie filmmakers trying to get their film screened.
Finally, I’d just like to ask you about your next film project inspired by Sandow the “father of modern bodybuilding”, which you’re producing, directing and starring in?
Yes, I don’t play Sandow. I play his protege Elliot, it’s a totally fictionalised thing. But it’s inspired by these real people, Sandow was a huge celebrity at the time. There’s a documentary on YouTube that’s really interesting about the real guy. This is a totally different kettle of fish to Parallel. It’s closer to a PG, and it has got some cheeky stuff in it, but it doesn’t have the eroticism of Parallel, it’s a very, very different thing. It’s a sports drama essentially inspired by some of the films I watched when I was young like Rocky and Chariots Of Fire.
You’ve shot the film?
Yes, the film’s been shot, it has been in the can since last summer. We don’t have any distributors on-board for this. The plan of action again will probably be an online release. It would be nice if that were different, but I don’t see it as a likely thing that we will get a theatrical release at this stage.
And you’ve self-financed the project?
Yes, a hundred percent. It is very much a passion project, and it’s one I believe in a hundred percent. I’ve always dreamed of making the Sandow film for many years!
Parallel is available to watch on Amazon Prime.