Catching Up With... In Search of a Midnight Kiss' Alex Holdridge

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A few years ago, director Alex Holdridge broke up with his girlfriend, crashed his car and found himself jobless in a strange town. And things went from bad to, well, superbad when he discovered that premise of his 2001 debut film, Wrong Numbers-- which he'd relocated from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles to pitch to studios-- was eerily similar to a certain Judd Apatow-produced 2007 hit. But now the 29-year-old is rebounding with an autobiographical film about, well, rebounding: the smart, sexy, black-and-white gem In Search of a Midnight Kiss, released Aug. 1 by IFC.

Paste recently talked with the obsessively chatty Holdridge, for whom memoir includes flipped cars, Craigslist, the forlorn architecture of downtown L.A., and a fundamentally romantic heart.

Paste : You made your first bunch of films in Austin. How'd you end up making an L.A. movie?
Alex Holdridge: When I moved to L.A., to do my due diligence, everything just fell apart. My girlfriend and I break up and I crash my car on the way out there. The picture [of the wrecked car] that's in Midnight Kiss is my real drive to California, and I crash in the middle of the desert. My car's just upside down. Fuck, there's a like a poster of my first movie in the foreground just sitting there, and weeds. And then my laptop got stolen with the finished [Wrong Numbers] script, my jump drive, my hard drive, my hard copies. I couldn't get a job to save my life. I'm not just talking in the film industry-- I couldn't even wait tables. So, I was dumbfounded and had no car and I was just walking up and down these streets in Los Feliz. I was honestly considering suicide. I didn't have the energy to start over from scratch... [But] we stuck it out.

I finally found a waiting job and my friend and I finally finished up the script and we were happy with it. And it takes forever because these agents, they give you notes and it's back and forth and you’re not top of the list and they take two weeks to give you notes. By the end, though, we’re done with script-- we’re very, very happy with it. We think it’s hilarious. And then I read about Superbad in the trades and it was like, "That’s our fucking movie!" The [Wrong Numbers] pitch is the last night of school, they set out to forget their girlfriend troubles, one’s going to university, one's going to community college. They run into these girls who ask them to buy them a keg for their party, they wanna hook up with girls and forget their other troubles and they end up having this all-night misadventure with their friends who they don’t really wanna hang out with, but they can hook 'em up, but ultimately turn on each other. So, it was absolutely devastating when I read about that. The whole process had been strung out so long and eventually someone just came along and made a movie so similar that it just defeated our purpose.

So, I was at rock bottom and my friend [cinematographer Robert Murphy] called and said, “I just bought an HD camera, you wanna shoot something?” And I was like, “Fuck yes!” I'd been conceiving this L.A. movie, as well as to get my old team back together, and just do it [low budget] like we did it before. So, because I had no car, Sara [Simmonds, Midnight Kiss star] and I walked all over downtown and found all these great locations and dilapidated post-apocalyptic theaters and the bank district. I had that photo of my car upside down and I wanted to do something about New Year's Eve and loneliness. I was a video store clerk and on New Year's Eve it was a really interesting and lonely night. I realized how many other people just wanted to watch movies and say, “Fuck this night.” I wanted to do something about just being forced to get out there and I was, like, totally internet dating and doing all that shit and I wanted to just capture the flavor of that.

We shot it on the streets with no permits and no money. It came together instantaneously. When [Robert] called, it was December 26th. We started shooting on January 8th and I just wrote the script in between. So, it went from nothing to a 130-page script in two weeks. Called up everyone I knew. Everyone just dropped what they were doing and we started shooting. It was just magic from the very second we started shooting. Just like, “Holy shit, we’re on to something!” And we shot through two-thirds of the script in eight days.  

Paste: In Los Angeles Plays Itself, the director Thom Anderson says that though L.A. is the most photographed city in the world, it's also the least photogenic.
Holdridge: That guy's crazy for saying that! I had the exact opposite impression. I was like, "This city's fucking awesome to shoot in!” The hills alone, the geography. If a city's hilly, you’re in better shape. Then your shots are blocked off at the end. It's not just gray sky. The depth of your shot is always going to be interesting. It's either gonna be hills or buildings, interesting frames with backgrounds. The architecture's fantastic. The theater district downtown, although it's completely dilapidated and unused and gone into complete decline, way outshines Broadway in New York-- if L.A. had taken a different turn in its social dynamic, if it hadn't spread out and become so car cultured. The physical structures are astounding. And there are so many different types and so many different neighborhoods. The way it's always portrayed, it's so annoying. There's no reflection in how L.A. is portrayed of how it really is.

Paste: What are your feelings on romantic comedies?
Holdridge: “Romantic comedy” is, like, a dirty word for most. Myself included. It normally means incredibly cheesy, one-dimensional characters, guy meets girl, sees her once and is infatuated with her for no reason. No reason to care why they’re together. Problem happens that needs to be resolved and typically they end up together. That’s such a sticky and awful formula and just uninteresting. However, when it's done well, it's my favorite movies. Annie Hall or Broadway Danny Rose in terms of Woody Allen's movies. Or Before Sunset, you know, which is a very beautiful movie and so touching. The whole development of the movie feels so real and weighted, especially given the 10 years that have past and you see the lines on their faces and the ending just not just floors you, you’re in love with that movie.  You don’t wanna leave your seat. You just wanna be washed over with the emotion of what you experienced. Romantic comedies can be the best movies, to me, that are made.  The vast majority are awful. If you call your own movie a romantic comedy, you have to do what you can to make people realize that you're not like other romantic comedies. It's like, “I'm a frat guy, but I'm not like the other frat guys.”

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