Alex Greenlee is an award winning filmmaker who graduated from Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in May 2020 magna cum laude with a BFA in film production and a minor in advertising. Alex has been working with On Native Ground for many years. His films “Dead Wall”, “Cybolica” “Unheard Voices” and “Out of This World” have received numerous awards from film festivals such as Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Atlanta Horror Film Festival, Freak Show Horror Film Festival, Russian International Film Festival, Big Apple Horror Film Festival, Holly Shorts Film Festival, NOLA Film Festival, Horrorhound Film Festival, Sacramento Horror Film Festival, Zed Film Festival, Sacramento Film and Music Festival, Terror on the Plains, NFFTY and have screened at TCL. For the years of 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 Alex was recognized as a “Best Director” at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. His passion is to tell stories about the Native experience with Native American actors.
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?
I would not want to live in the world of CYBOLICA but unfortunately, to some extent, we live in that world today. I worked with the Sacramento County Child Protective Services and Probation Department to produce the docudrama “Unheard Voices” and Cybolica is actually a metaphor for the way many youth are treated in our current juvenile justice system. Society condemns mistakes, is unforgiving and takes the most vulnerable and incarcerates them which leads to a difficult life treadmill; youth are confined but forced to become hardened in order to survive. Our system treats them like monsters, not asking how or why they got there. Inside juvenile hall, there is no free will and no trust. This is especially true for youth of color and represented by Cybolica’s main character, Damien. The series I am developing explores what happens to someone in the darkest circumstances in the fight for survival. On a lighter note, I would like to live in the world of Guardians of the Galaxy because of the freedom the characters have to move around in the universe, quite the opposite of the characters I have created.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
Malcolm in Jurassic Park. I like pushing the boundaries but when we play God, it usually backfires (but also creates great cinema!) I would not want to identify spiritually with this creature, but the Xenomorph is fascinating to me and inspired me to fall in love with both the sci-fi and horror genres as a child. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t know what “chest-burster” means.
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?
Foe. I am aware of attempts at this that have been unsuccessful thus far. I can’t see that model ever working because AI (as of now) is devoid of human emotion so the films would be cold and lifeless. All subtlety would be lost.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
My Tune Squad would be composed of Lt. Ripley in James Cameron’s Aliens, the Mimics in Edge of Tomorrow, both Mother and Father in Raised by Wolves, Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy and Alligator Loki (just because!) I would be well-protected with brains and brawn and have some comic relief!
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?
There are no really bad ideas, just bad execution. The bad ideas disappear; the good ones stick with you.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
Yes, I identify with a genre blending of sci-fi/horror with a social justice element. I think a good film/series can entertain and inform (subtly). Creating is an isolating experience as you submerge yourself into another world. It’s both thrilling and exhausting at the same time but always something to look forward to.
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?
There is always a solid place for analog but I would answer digital just for the ease and less expensive option for an indie filmmaker.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I love this part of filmmaking because for sci/fi, production design is so important. A good place to start is with video games because you can enter a world and move around and use your imagination in a 3D setting. I am inspired by paintings and texture, looking to complement my theme and physical world of my characters. I also listen to music unique in tone to the world I am imagining. With Cybolica, we found an old animal hospital that had actually been used to euthanize dogs and cats (sadly) and the dark tone was apparent. We took an empty room which had been used for operating and could imagine a subterranean space where inmates could be temporarily housed (thus the gurney ready to be moved at a moment’s notice.) The idea of repurposing is part of the theme. Working with my production designer, we actually created a story for every blood splatter. I could give you details of several inmates who died at Cybolica from the blood used on the set. Everything had to be based in reality in order to gain the respect for the journey the main characters would take and for all of the lives shattered and lost.
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 Wars. Philip K. Dick. Practical. Dystopia. Post Apocalypse.