Alec Cohen is a comedy director who grew up on the beaches on Long Island, NY. He studied filmmaking in Portland, Oregon where he co-founded a production studio that grew into a small advertising agency before winding down in 2012. Upon returning to New York, Alec immersed himself in the world of sketch comedy and has collaborated with channels like Comedy Central, Adult Swim and Above Average. Alec’s work has screened and won awards at festivals including Slamdance, Frameline, NYTVF, Stareable and SeriesFest.
Early to Rise
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
No, I would hate to live in ETR’s world. We definitely tried to imagine a not-too-distant, corporate-dystopian future for these characters. Even though the crappy society they live in isn’t necessarily foregrounded I think it’s revealed here and there through the dialogue and details. I’d buy a one way ticket to The Last Question - Isaac Asimov. My ideal state would be pure consciousness traveling between galaxies.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level?
The title character from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - which may be more of a fantasy story - but her initiation into the harsh world outside her home, and the way she navigated it by leading with her heart really resonates with me.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
I absolutely support advanced humanoid AI and especially all art generated by new forms of intelligence. Totally fascinating to have an alternative to human-made artwork. I try not to mentally divide human activity from the “natural world” since we are part of the natural world. In that way, anything we do as a species is an expression of nature, which would make AI a natural phenomenon to be cherished.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I mostly do comedy and I once wrote a sketch about a person getting relentlessly teased by some bullies about needing medicine for their butt. The bullies went on these long, insane tirades about how the butt doctor bills were crushing their family and stuff. I thought it was very funny but the performers and the audience just ended up getting bummed out by it. I don’t really think there are bad ideas when it comes to storytelling, unless you’re doing harm to other people with the stories you’re creating. It’s mostly about being willing to “fail” in front of other people until you get better at not failing.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
I am a very digital person and also think the internet has done more harm to humans than good. I definitely romanticize how people lived in the past, even if I lack the conviction to put those ideas into practice. I bet I’d be my happiest if I was working with my hands and eating only fresh fish and vegetables and living in a small, agrarian community. Or, like I said earlier, an ethereal being drifting the cosmos.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Trek. Pass. CGI but only if it’s Cool 3d World. Utopia. Post Apocalypse.