Squirrel Still 2.jpg

Sundance Film Festival 2019
Interview

Alex Kavutskiy
Writer/Director 
Squirrel

A meager apology tests a woman's fortitude to forgive in this expertly deadpan comedy that wittily articulates the oft selfish objectives that belie performative remorse.

Hi Alex for talking to TNC, you all set for the festival?

 

I still have to buy some warm socks and a scarf but, other than that, I think I'm set. I just know deep in my stomach, I'm gonna get to Park City and realize I forgot something but I've been coming to terms with accepting that feeling.

 

What does it mean to you to be at Sundance with Squirrel?

 

It just straight up feels awesome. It's a small, fun short I made with my friends -- like nearly everything I've ever made -- so it feels extremely validating to have a big, respectable fest say "hey good job, we're gonna screen it for a bunch of fancy Hollywood folk". This is also my first project as a solo writer/director so it's even more validating to have my work welcomed at such a prestigious stage.

 

Are there any nerves ahead of a festival?

 

Yeah, there's a lot of nerves that come from the pure enormity of Sundance. I've never been and am a bit overwhelmed by all the evens and the schedule and how to get tickets and boring stuff like that. But as far as the screenings themselves go, I'm completely stoked. We premiered at Fantastic Fest, which was a complete blast, so I have less fears about an audience hating my short. Which they still might. But I'll worry about that fifteen minutes before my short block starts.

 

Squirrel is nominated for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize, does this add any extra pressure on you?

 

No. Most festivals have prizes and that's genuinely something I (and I think most other filmmakers) don't think about until we check our schedule and see it's time to go to the award ceremony and clap politely as we lose.

MV5BYjllOTk1NjUtN2Q1MC00ZGM4LTk2YjUtNWM3MDZiYmU2ZmFjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTczNjYxMjM_._V1_FMjpg

"The more you make, the more you watch with an audience, the quicker anything will happen."

Tell me a little bit about Squirrel, how did the film come about? 

 

The origin story is very not exciting. I had just worked with Andrea Rosen on an Adult Swim project and my friend Max Jenkins (who I'd been a huge fan of) was moving to LA, so I just wanted to write a simple short that would put them in a bunch of scenes together and force them to hang out with me more.

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Squirrel to life?

 

The hardest part was the writing. I locked into a premise early on that I loved but had a tough time formulating the story after the first scene. Once it was written thought and the cast put it on its feet, it was relatively easy and a total joy to make.

 

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

 

Yeah, my parents got a camcorder when I was a tiny person and all our home movies involve me yelling at my dad, telling him what to shoot and telling everyone else how to act. Wanting me to be a well-rounded person, my parents got me into all sorts of stuff -- chess, piano, karate, soccer, what have you -- but filmmaking was the only thing I didn't quit.

 

As a filmmaker how important is the collaborative process for you? 

 

It's very important. Some might even say that by definition filmmaking is a collaborative process. The more experience I get as a filmmaker, the easier it is to know when to let go of the reigns and let other people do their jobs, and that often leads to a better product. 

 

How much has your approach to your work changed since your debut film?

 

I think my approach has always been cling onto the first idea that excites me and try to service that. Any changes have come from the experience of making more things and just being able to think about all stages as one process -- rather than switching off between writing and directing and producing hats.

Squirrel Still 5.jpg

Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?

 

Obviously, there's millions of valuable nuts and bolts advice out there, but the only overall advice that I think is real is make stuff and watch it with an audience. The more you make, the more you watch with an audience, the quicker anything will happen.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

You know. Got some TV show projects brewing. Got a feature script brewing. After a lot of DIY filmmaking, I'm pretty ready to take the leap into getting money to make stuff. If you're reading this and have money, send it my way, thanks.

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?

 

Don't text and drive, you piece of shit.