Filmmaker Alexander Poe Discusses His First Feature ‘Ex-Girlfriends’

Breaking up is hard to do. But breaking up another couple proves even harder in the new indie flick from up-and-coming filmmaker Alexander Poe. The 31-year-old’s debut feature, Ex-Girlfriends—a comedy that he wrote, directed, and starred in—tells the tale of a young Manhattanite navigating the tenuous territory of relationships in New York. Relationships not only with a significant other (of which he genuinely has none), but also with himself, friends, and, namely, ex-girlfriends; one who’s become a buddy, another, an object of his naïve and nostalgic affection. 

In addition to Poe’s leading man Graham, who is wry and witty and adorable, the two other key roles are played by Jennifer Carpenter as Kate and Kristen Connolly as Laura. Graham’s dated each at different times in the past, the former currently a close pal and the latter a chance encounter at a party that leads him to a fumbling fixation after being broken up with by someone else. The story is relatable and entertaining, the dialogue tight, the city scenes giddily familiar, and the laughs this 72-minute gem evoke abundant. 

Last week, a couple days following the Vikingfjord Vodka-sponsored GenArt premiere at TriBeCa Cinemas, we got the chance to speak to the man behind the festival favorite over straight whisky and G&Ts at West Village locale The Brooklyneer. Read on for more from the Columbia-educated distant relative to Edgar Allen—from the most memorable film school criticism he’s ever received to mistakes he’s made in the past with women. Then make sure to catch Ex-Girlfriends at Cinema Village or, if you live off island, watch it on iTunes or Video On Demand. 

How long did it take you to make this movie?
Between writing it while at Columbia, graduating from film school, finally getting it together to direct myself (instead of going the usual “getting backing” route), it was probably two years to now. If it hadn’t gone straight from festival to release, it’d be another year. I figured it’s worth more to me to have it out in the world. 

Were you prepared for this whirlwind of press and attention? It’s been getting a bunch of buzz…
Oh, I don’t know. I think when you’re making your little movie on, like, your laptop, you hope someday people will watch it on a big screen or iTunes or wherever, and it’s exciting that this actually happened. It’s fun to have something in a theater.  

I bet. I also love that interested individuals the globe-over can access it on VOD and, as you mentioned, iTunes.
For me, it’s just fun to share the movie. It’s tricky to figure out the space for independent films. Theatrical’s really hard. 

I can imagine. Did you write the script with yourself in mind to play the protagonist?
I did. I don’t know if I 100% knew I was going to play that role, but I knew I wanted to. And, I guess that was part of the decision to make it small. I knew if I was going to make it a larger film, I wouldn’t be able to do that. And, it would have a much different feel if it was someone else playing the part.

What’s it like seeing yourself on screen?
It’s tricky. In a way, the role is kind of poking fun at certain side of myself, so it’s not like I look at it so seriously. Maybe if I thought it was a genuine, dramatic role, but I think he’s a funny, naïve guy. This is certainly a version of myself pushed in the comic direction, towards more naïveté. You should always have a sense of humor about yourself and not take things too seriously.

Is this film based on your own experiences?
I’d say that’s accurate. Some experiences are shaped into a story that has more universal application, [pertaining] to when you’re trying to grow up, out of infatuation into “real relationship” mode. I definitely wanted to keep it honest in all those moments that are less pretty. I think everyone’s chased after someone who’s not quite right. I think people can identify with that. 

Have you ever had your heart broken?

Do you date hotties in real life, as the two women in this film suggest?
I have dated a variety of ladies. Does that sound creepy? I don’t have a type. I’m just attracted to people who are interesting. 

Similar to Graham, have you been that person who, when you break up with someone, you send an email to a previous ex?
I’ve done that. I’ve definitely done that. I’ve sent some emails I maybe regret. [Laughs] I think everyone goes through that. You send that email and you wish there was a recall button or an undo button. Or an app that blocks certain addresses from your phone or your computer between certain hours. 

For sure. What was the biggest challenge in making this film?
Working against the clock. Having no money is liberating, kind of, and really annoying. I knew when I graduated I was going to have to make it myself. No one was going to hand me a million-dollar check to go make my first feature. So, I wrote a script I knew I could accomplish and no one else could direct better than [I]. 

Shooting at Grand Central must have also posed a challenge…
Yes. Plus, people would recognize Jennifer and swarm her. Mostly packs of middle-age tourists who were just really excited to run into her in Grand Central. That’s her demographic, I guess. 

Any other location-related incidences?
I almost got evicted for shooting [at my own apartment]. [As for public places,] some were cool, some were rough. Some places I wanted to shoot in were really expensive. We just found people that would let us shoot for free.

Any funny stories from on set?
No major catastrophes. It was all pretty much by the book.

Lastly, do you have any dating tips?
Be yourself? Based on this movie, I’m the last person…

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