We were lucky to get the chance to speak to Allie Loukas on her funny, and witty debut film “Kathryn Upside Down” which we reviewed here. In our interview, Allie discusses the process of shooting on a low-budget, overcoming challenges with sexist crew members and how the films of John Hughes inspired her.
Hi Allie, thank you for joining us today. You are the first official person we are interviewing for the site.
A: I’m so honored! Thank you.
We are the ones who are honored, we always want to do our best to promote independent filmmakers, especially female filmmakers. And, we really enjoyed your film “Kathryn Upside Down”, so we want to do our best to showcase it and bring it the attention it deserves.
A: It’s hard for any female to make a movie, but the hardest part is getting your movie out there as there’s so much content. And, I think films by female filmmakers tend to get lost in the shuffle more. It’s a weird phenomenon, if you put a woman on a poster, people will tend to back away from it.
Well, unless that woman is in a bikini or is someone like Megan Fox!
A: Right, or someone like Angelina Jolie or someone so well known…it’s tough.
What drove you to direct your own film? And as well as being the director, you also starred in it, wrote it and produced the film…Hats off to you, that’s an amazing accomplishment.
A: I started out wanting to do acting and then I realized that unless you’re from a Hollywood family or have lots of ties within the industry, it’s very difficult to make your break unless you start off from a very young age. In the film, there’s a young girl who plays the younger version of my character, and even her mother was saying that the girl has started off in the industry too old. We’re talking about a seven-year-old kid here! I realized that acting was going to be hard, but I still wanted to pursue it.
I had written a play in college which had a very similar plotline to “Kathryn Upside Down”, so I thought maybe I would try my hand at writing a screenplay. So I ended up doing that and tried to pitch it around to get funding when I lived in L.A. but nothing was happening. Long Story Short, I ended up getting sick due to a chronic sinus infection and coming back home (to Chicago) to have surgery and my parents just encouraged me to make the film myself.
Oh wow, that’s great to hear that you have such supportive parents. You mentioned that the film was based off a play you wrote in college, what was the transitional progress from the page to the big screen?
A: I don’t even know, people have asked me that before, I just remember that I just had that concept of the father and daughter comedy dynamic and wanting to tell Kathryn’s story. I have always been a fan of the 90s/80s comedy films from directors like John Hughes, I love all of the nostalgic comedies which I find don’t get made today. In terms of inspiration, I was in L.A. parking lot with my ex-boyfriend, and we couldn’t find my car and just remember driving around in a golf cart to find the car…and I just thought it would be funny if there was a scene where there was a father and a daughter sat in a car together and they just didn’t know each other and that’s where the removal truck scene came from.
Comedy is such a hard genre to master. People seem to think it’s really easy to write a comedy screenplay, but it’s such a huge task to undertake. Comedy is really something that can’t be taught and a joke can fall flat. You come across as a naturally funny person, did you face any challenges writing a comedy screenplay?
A: It’s kind of like what you said, you can have a joke go from being so hilarious and laugh-out-loud funny and then the next one quickly falling flat. That’s the challenge, to be consistently funny enough to fill up 93 minutes of runtime. In every scene, there has to be something funny happening in it. As we were shooting we allowed for improv as some of the jokes written in the script weren’t working out, so I just started making stuff up and then a lot of the other actors were quite good at piggybacking off of that. With comedy, I think you have to be willing to go off the book.
We’re having such a great time recently with female-led comedies, this year we have had the likes of “Booksmart”, “Late Night” and “Brittany Runs a Marathon” for example. I’m just wondering whether there were any female-led comedies that inspired you?
A: In terms of Kathryn (my character), she was really inspired by Samantha from “Sixteen Candles” as she’s my favourite fictional film character. I think she’s such a funny, sarcastic character who have the right marriage of emotions.
If we’re talking about more contemporary films, I love “Bridesmaids”, I just love Kristen Wigg and Melissa McCarthy and admire their work. Also, Tina Fey does such amazing comedy and her work is brilliant. I think everybody loves “Mean Girls”, right? I just wish there was more, there are just too few and far between. I feel like female-led comedies get so slammed on the internet by people that it makes it so hard for them to get the attraction.
What was it like to not only be the director but also the main lead?
A: It was very difficult, sometimes I’ll say that I don’t even remember how I managed to do it. There was so much going on that I just had to power through it. The main thing I was thinking in my head was to under-do it because this character doesn’t care about anything, she doesn’t care about how she looks to other people, she doesn’t care what people think of her so I just had to keep it in my head to under-do everything and stay as the character. I hope that comes through in my performance.
Can you tell me about how you found the rest of the film’s cast?
A: We held auditions in my friend’s apartment, and the apartment is actually one of the settings in the film (the party scene takes place). The auditions took place over a couple of months, and it was hard to find actors who were willing to work on a lower budget. We had to find the right people who were committed to the project. I didn’t have a casting director so I was in charge of auditioning people for the roles. The characters are all so specific down to the way they talk, so it was hard to find the right actors for certain roles.
Who was the hardest character to cast?
A: Surprisingly enough it was the Mother, Elizabeth. I went through hundreds of people, I don’t even remember the exact number. I wanted that character to look like a cross between Kristin Davis and Tina Fey, and just couldn’t find anyone. After what felt like the 180th person, in walked Angela who ended up playing the role. I thought casting Elizabeth would have been the easiest role to fill but it ended up being the hardest!
Another character that was hard to cast was Raymundo who Carlton G. McBeth ended up playing. Originally we wanted a Latino actor in this role but we couldn’t find anyone suitable. And, then I remember Carlton from the auditions and I remember how distinctive he looked and how well he auditioned. So we had to rewrite the script slightly a week before we started shooting in order to fit Carlton and how he looked. He’s so funny, and I am really glad that he ended up playing that role.
What’s the biggest take away for you from this film?
A: I think I let the DP have too many liberties in bringing in the crew and they ended up being pretty unproductive and it was very difficult in that respect. I think I really should have been more involved in making that decision. The DP kinda wanted to do his own thing, and when it came to editing we were noticing that a lot of the shots weren’t lining up properly, and we had to reframe a lot of shots, and there were issues with how certain scenes were lit. I think I should have overseen that a little more because it really made editing so much more of a challenge. There was a great colourist in Chicago, and he would call me up to inform me when I could come to his studio and we would do the colour work on the film. I don’t know how I could have done it without his help.
Your experience reminds me of a lot of what Anna Biller (the director of “The Love Witch”) also experienced in terms of the male crew on her film. And they were quite sexist towards her.
A: This happened to me too, I encountered sexism as well.
It’s a real issue that so many female directors face, and I don’t think enough people are talking about it, and this is something that needs to be brought to people’s attention.
A: The crews do tend to be mostly male, there aren’t that many female cinematographers, or sound mixers or boom mic operators. And these male crews do have this ‘bro’ culture which you don’t fit into. You do feel like you’re being excluded from your own project that I’m paying for. And the issue is with indie film productions is that you can’t replace them. Women just get taken advantage of, there’s a lack of respect on film sets and it’s like you said, people aren’t aware that there is an issue.
Hearing about all the challenges you faced just makes the end product all that better. The film is so funny, fresh and original, but also taps into that nostalgic and comforting atmosphere of a John Hughes movie.
A: Right, his films had that comforting quality to them. I’m actually from the same town that he was from, so we shot the film there. I feel that the comforting nostalgic feeling of John Hughes’ films is something that’s missing from comedy films since he’s passed away.
The character in his films always went on a journey of self-discovery in a way, and they grew as people. Do you think you’ve been on a similar journey with “Kathryn Upside Down”?
A: I do honestly! It’s as you were saying you go through all these challenges and if I had seen the future when I first started then I wouldn’t have done it! So, thankfully I didn’t know what the future had in store. It does make you grow. If you had seen the whole journey that lay ahead for you beforehand then it would have been too much, but you just take it as it comes. So, it does make you a different person and you do grow from the experience.
What is next for you? Will you stick with comedy, and what about continuing not only to act in films but direct films as well?
A: I have another script that I wrote and it’s going into the romantic comedy/fantasy genre so I did stick with the comedy genre. But I would love to go into another genre may be veering into drama. I would say that out of all the jobs, I do want to stick with directing. I think in terms of romantic comedies, I think the genre is making a comeback. People miss romantic comedies. I’m happy to see some romantic comedies trickling back into mainstream cinema.
Are there any films which you’ve recently come across that you want to bring attention to?
A: There was a film called “Hunter” that was recently released by the same distribution company (Random Media). It takes place in Chicago too, and a lot of the film is shot in the underground of the city which doesn’t really get seen that much. It’s a film that follows a boxer who becomes homeless. The cinematography in this film is really beautiful. So, that’s one I really recommend people seeking out.
And, lastly, where can our readers find you?
A: You can find me on Twitter and Instagram at @AllieLoukas and feel free to add me as a friend on FaceBook.
You can find the trailer to “Kathryn Upside Down” here. We would like to thank Allie for taking the time to talk to us and wish her all the best with her next project!