Like many great filmmakers of our time, Alan King didn't originally set out to make films. Much like our Jorodowsky's and David Lynch's, Alan's approached making his latest feature Vincent less like a traditional film production and more like a fine art piece—and it's all the better for it.

Vincent follows a writer struggling with brutal alcoholism, wavering from writing a renowned literature to children's books, partying deep in the woods with his signature eye patch to finding sobriety through a televangelist pyramid scheme. Oh, and fishing hangs with his pal Gunther (Bill Evans). We all love Gunther.

I was delighted to catch the world premiere at Cinequest and absolutely love this film. The perfect blend of pitch black dark comedy and emotional character exploration, Vincent is an unconventionally structured gem that had me laughing uproariously and tearing up in equal measure. Not tot mention the additional flourishes of horror and absurdity, as well as a supporting cast of unforgettable side characters. We'd be so lucky to get more movies like this.

Below, writer/director/producer/editor/sound designer/lead performer Alan King chats with No Film School about his unique approach to film, creatively making your movie bigger with a micro budget, and some sound advice for filmmakers everywhere.

Alan King On Transitioning From Fine Art to Experimental Film

"I started as a professional actor for 25, 30 years, and I started painting and developed that skill and went to night school and became interested in fine arts. I went to fine art school full time and did a Bachelor of Fine art at the Victorian College of the Arts, and thought that I was going to pursue painting and got out of fine art school, kept painting for some reason, I dunno how it came about me and a mate made a short film and I produced and wrote it, and he directed it. And I really got into it. And then I decided to direct one, and I sort of started discovering that instead of the painting sort of igniting my sort of fire, it was the filmmaking.

I found out that [making films] is an amalgamation of the acting and the fine art together so I could amalgamate the skills I'd learned in fine art with the skills I'd learned in acting. It was almost like the perfect coming together of both those skill sets. So it was the perfect storm for me.

So I just kept making shorts really experimental using all the skills I'd learned at fine art school. So I was always very experimental with my fine art and sort of testing new boundaries and trying to do stuff that's really individual and true to myself, and not trying to copy any formulas, but being inspired by different filmmakers, but always trying to do something that I suppose challenged me and that made me feel like I was doing something that really drove me or I was passionate about. So yeah, my films have been sort of, you could say very unconventional. They're not using a model of collaboration. A lot of times they're probably very autonomous, a bit more like a painter where a painter works very autonomously by themselves. My filmmaking model has been quite similar. A lot of my films have been shot solo. My last film, "Wild Will" was shot completely solo and my kitchen 50 bucks.

"Wild Will" was a short, that did really well played at over 80 festivals, won a whole bunch of awards. But I think using those sort of restrictions, you really discover a lot of shit that you wouldn't have discovered if you were maybe working in a more conventional model.

So I shot "Wild Will," and all you hear is just the soundscape of what's happening around him, and then he leaves frame and you hear more soundscape of what's happening. It's like a guy that sort of turns into this werewolf and just attacks these police officers who are interviewing him. So I wouldn't have discovered that sort of way of working if I'd had full access to crew and budget and everything like that.

I find that restriction really breeds creativity. So I really like working a bit with one hand type behind my back. I think if you make things difficult for yourself, you often find the best ideas. It's uncomfortable, but you've sort of got to push through that a bit.You can't afford it. Don't show it. It's my theory.

I wanted that to be very ambiguous, so I didn't want to be definitive about whether it was there or not. I always liked films that are not definitive, leave something to the audience to maybe have their own interpretation of that. I think if you're definitive about anything with your art, it can be a bit of a bummer because it doesn't leave the audience anything to go away and mull over, I think."

How 'Vincent' Was Made With An Extremely Small Crew  

How 'Vincent' Finds Dark Comedy in Fine Art


Courtesy of Alan King

"Our amazing DOP, Michael Shoell, was like Superman. He did all the gaffing, all the lights. His son Samadhi helped. So he was assistant camera. He'd worked as a bushman before on a show called, what was it called? Bushwhack something in Australia. And so he knew how to handle himself in the bush with snakes and shit like.

He was right on his feet at these big hike boots and he's like a mountain man. So he knew how to DOP in the bush and he was really mobile, set up all the lights. He was like a one man team. It's such an incredible job.

I edited it myself just on Final Cut. That's just a software that I'm comfortable with using. I don't have a high-end editing suite. I have a pretty basic setup. It's nothing fancy. I think you just work with what you know. It's just Final Cut Pro on a Mac. That's it. Simple.

I did my own sound design on this, but I had some guys help me with the sound mix. So I've called in some others for the sound mix, whether I'd go that way again on another feature. I dunno, I'm just trying to, I suppose, enjoy Vincent now and not be thinking too much about anything else.

My wife and me always joke for a guy that has had so many battles with ear disease, which I had, and I'm essentially deaf in my right ear. I have a knack for sound and my sound seems to be my strength, my feel for sound. So it's bizarre. It's like the dude's half deaf are my strength. I love doing sound. It's one of my passions.

"Wild Will" was sort of doing that same thing. It was just audio telling the story. And I think it has the capacity and the power to get in audiences in backdoor into their subconscious. So used to seeing things visually, we come a bit too sensitize to it, but when we hear things in an audio level and we don't see them, it's still a way to get into the audience's back door into their mind."

Alan on Crafting Dark Comedy Naturally 

Dark Comedy small Crew


Courtesy of Alan King

"I've always loved comedy, so it sort of does have a habit of finding its way in. Whether I like it or not, if I sit down and say, "oh, I'm going to do a horror," comedy just seems to creep in anyway, just naturally. Naturally I like to have a laugh. So it doesn't necessarily always start off as comedic, but it finds its way there.

But I actually really appreciate that because I was actually really fucking freaked out when we got programmed as a horror and a thriller."

Don't Get Bogged Down by Traditional Structure 

How 'Vincent' Finds Dark Comedy in Fine Art


Courtesy of Alan King

"Lack of structure, no, but it does have its own structure. And I sort of did that on purpose too. I don't know, maybe I'm being offensive, but I get really sick of, "Okay, do this, this structure, this structure, go over here, go be there, go this."

Maybe that's just the fine art training with the painting, we were sort of trained to just break out of that. And I was always more into the modern art and just being experimental and I think that's just carried through and it's just like, no, we don't do that. We do whatever we want, basically.

Which is fine, but it's funny. The funny thing is Grant, that in film this exists, this sort of unwritten rule that you've got this thing, but in fine art it doesn't. Like in fine art, there is no thing this is what you've got to do. You can pretty much do whatever you want. It's crazy. But in film, there's like this sort of unwritten set of rules that you've got to do this thing. It's like, I don't understand why that art form has it.

This art form does.'

Advice From Alan On The Art of Filmmaking 

How 'Vincent' Finds Dark Comedy in Fine Art

Alan King and Bill Evans on stage at Cinequest

"The hardest core advice is not mine, but it's from someone else that I'll just pass on: just never give up, never stop.

It's really simple.You just always have to keep going. Always. There's days where you've just got everything and nothing that is going, and then they can turn into weeks and months sometimes for me, and I've heard other people say that. So that's just the soul piece of advice is to just keep going, keep going, keep trying, and don't stop.

Don't ever stop"

Check out the Trailer For 'Vincent' 

Vincent premiered at Cinequest and is seeking distribution. Someone buy this movie!

Related Articles Around the Web