The content from the original website has been restored and archived here as supplemental reading material for the film department's courses Independent Film I - VI offered by Dr. Brenda Dean and Dr. SR Wilson. The complete reading list is available from the instructors' webpages and in print from the course catalog. The Film Archive Project provided a grant supplemented by efforts from the sponsor TNG/Earthling, Inc. TNG/E's Bob Sakayama provided tech support and development resources. Tad Jones handled research and rignts acquisition.
This was the official website for the 2013 comedy film, RED FLAG.
Content is from the site's 2013 archived pages and other relevant sources.
"An utterly hilarious ode to the modern struggles of the microbudget American filmmaker" - Indiewire
narrative feature/84 minutes/USA
In this close-to-the-bone existential ‘meta-comedy’, Alex Karpovsky plays an indie filmmaker named Alex Karpovsky. Dumped by a longtime girlfriend fed up with his refusal to marry, Alex takes to the road with an old pal for a misbegotten tour that will screen his film at college campuses and art house theaters. Pursued by an overly ardent groupie and his own demons, Alex sinks into a twisting constellation of fear, deception, and uncompromised humiliation. Unfurling across six southern states, RED FLAG is an observant, dry, self-effacing, and painfully funny meditation on commitment and the human ability (or inability) to change.
Red Flag Official Release Trailer (2013) - Alex Karpovsky Movie
ALEX KARPOVSKY director/writer/producer/lead actor
Alex's directorial feature debut, The Hole Story, was completed in 2006. The critically acclaimed dark comedy screened at over 50 festivals, garnered numerous awards, and Filmmaker Magazine named Alex as one of its 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Karpovsky’s follow-up features, Woodpecker and Trust Us, This Is All Made Up, premiered at the 2008 and 2009 South by Southwest Film Festivals, respectively. His most recent feature, Rubberneck, a psychosexual thriller he wrote, directed and stars in, premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. As an actor, Karpovsky played the male lead in Beeswax, which premiered at the 2009 Berlinale (Forum); the voices of several Russian gangsters in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV; Mean Man Mike in Harmony and Me, which premiered at the 2009 New Directors/New Films Seriess, Paul Lucas in Lovers of Hate which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival; Vlad in Bass Ackwards, which also premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival; Jed in Tiny Furniture, which premiered at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival; Paul in The Grownups, which screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival; Rookie Agent in Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival; Wally Combs in Wuss, which premiered at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival; Sasha in Almost in Love, which premiered at the 2011 Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Ian Gilmore in Sleepwalk with Me, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival; Peter in Gayby, which premiered at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival; and Nick Berg in Supporting Characters, which will premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. In April, Alex will play the role of Marty Green in Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest film by Joel and Ethan Coen, as well as the character of Ray Ploshansky in the new HBO comedy series Girls, produced by Lena Dunham & Judd Apatow. For more information, please visit www.alexkarpovsky.com
ONUR TUKEL actor
Onur Tukel is a filmmaker, painter, illustrator and motion designer. He has written and directed five feature films, including Ding-a-ling-LESS and Richard's Wedding. He co-wrote the story for Michael Tully's Septien, as well as played the part of Amos Rawlings. He also painted 65 paintings for the film. His first children's book Little Friends is being published by Marshall Cavendish in April of 2012.
JENNIFER PREDIGER actor
As a writer, video journalist and director, Jennifer uses a balance of research and humor to communicate big ideas to diverse audiences. Jennifer has reported from locales as far-flung as Burkina Faso, Denmark and Iceland. She has interviewed Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Tom Hanks, Tom Friedman and many interesting people without the name Tom. She has produced videos on Newsweek, Nerve, Babble, Current TV, Onion News Network, the Washington Post and Barely Political. Her videos have been featured on The Huffington Post, NY1, The Onion A.V. Club, Yahoo, MySpace, YouTube, Pitchfork, KIAH-TV in Houston, Texas and NY1. She's appeared as a commentator on The Today Show and NPR's All Things Considered. Jennifer is the creator and face of Grist.org's popular video advice series "Ask Umbra." As an actress, Jennifer plays a leading role in the feature film Uncle Kent directed by Joe Swanberg, which premiered at Sundance 2011.
CAROLINE WHITE actor
Caroline is an actress and Twitter comedian with 81 followers. She stars in Joe Swanberg's critically acclaimed Marriage Material as well as Kentucker Audley's upcoming Open Five 2.
KEITH POULSON actor
Keith is a New York City-based musician, actor and filmmaker. He has spent several years working behind the scenes in the sound, casting and camera departments for independent filmmakers such as Andrew Bujalski, Joe Swanberg and Alex Ross Perry. As an actor, he played the lead role in Somebody Up There Likes Me(2012 SXSW), co-starring Nick Offerman and Jess Weixler. Poulson is also a touring multi-instrumentalist for the New York-based bands Bishop Allen and Air Waves.
DUSTIN GUY DEFA actor
Dustin’s feature Bad Fever premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and received glowing reviews during its Spring 2012 theatrical run. Distributed by Factory 25, the film will be released on DVD and VOD in September 2012. His short film Family Nightmare is in the middle of its festival run, recently playing at Sundance, SXSW, Dallas and Sarasota. As an actor, Dustin also plays a supporting role in Onur Tukel's Richard’s Wedding, opening in New York this summer.
"Utterly hilarious... the meta quality of RED FLAG is entirely irrelevant to its low key charm and persistent irreverence -- anchored, as always, by Karpovsky's loopy screen presence."
"From GIRLS to No-Budget Filmmaking, Alex Karpovsky's Red Flag Is Sparse, Brilliant."
Film Slate Magazine
"Agonizingly painful and hilarious... truly original, succeeds on all levels."
"GIRLS star Alex Karpovsky's RED FLAG is a hilarious meta dark comedy that showcases some promising talent."
"Meta Movie Making at its finest... perfect indie filmmaking."
The Moveable Feast
"writer/director [Karpovsky] has never been in finer form... its confidence matches the filmmaker’s onscreen persona and it feels like a breakthrough in that regard,"
Film School Rejects
"RED FLAG spotlights the wry, dry Alex Karpovsky we’ve come to expect (and love)... bruisingly amsuing."
"The authenticity and the humor and pathos stemming from it are what makes RED FLAG worth watching."
"Meta movie making at its finest"
Smells Like Teen Spirit
"Karpovsky proves himself to be an adroit filmmaker, as he wrestles with concepts of truth and fiction on multiple levels."
Los Angeles Film Festival (World Premiere)
(July 15, Los Angeles, CA)
Traverse City Film Festival
(July 31-5, Traverse City, MI)
Minneapolis Underground Film Festival
(Aug 17-19, Minneapolis, MN)
Sidewalk Film Festival
(Aug 24-26, Birmingham, AL)
Hamptons International Film Festival
(Oct 6-7, East Hampton, NY)
Flyway Film Festival
(Oct 18-21, Pepin, WI)
Friars Club Film Festival
(Oct 27, New York, NY)
Indie Memphis(WINNER - Best Narrative Feature)
(Nov 1-4, Memphis, TN)
Cucalorus Film Festival
(Nov 8-11, Wilmingon, NC)
Museum of Modern Art (Gotham Awards)
(Nov 16 & 18, New York, NY)
Alex Karpovsky on Filmmaking, Authenticity, & His Favorite ‘Girl’
February 21, 2013 By Fiona Duncan
“I might call you Ray,” is how I open my interview with Alex Karpovsky, referring to his character on Lena Dunham’s Girls. Did I rehearse that line? Maybe. Yes. But it came out so naturally, didn’t it? And it was true. “You can call me whatever you want,” he replied. Good. I was told that Ray, I mean, Alex was a flirt.
On Girls, Alex Karpovsky plays Ray Ploshansky, a thirty-three year old grumpy manager of a Greenpoint cafe called Grumpy’s, and the love interest of everyone’s favorite good girl, Shoshanna. Off Dunham’s screen, Karpovsky is a successful indie filmmaker, with five writer/director credits under his belt, plus countless acting credits, including roles in Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me, Daniel Schechter’sSupporting Characters, and Joel and Ethan Coen’s upcoming Inside Llewyn Davis.
Alex Karpovsky has two auteur films coming out simultaneously this week through Tribeca Film. One, Red Flag, is a realistic road-trip comedy à la Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip. In it, Karpovsky plays a facsimile of himself: a newly single filmmaker named Alex Karpovksy on a publicity tour for his latest movie, Woodpecker, which Karpovsky released in 2008. The other movie, Rubberneck, is an anxiety inducing psychosexual thriller starring Karpovsky again, but here almost unrecognizable, as a Boston research scientist who becomes unhealthily obsessed with an attractive co-worker after a weekend fling. Both deal with heartbreak, obsession, and unrequited desire, with isolation, suicide, and off-center America. Both prominently feature Alex’s handsome, hangdog face. And yet they couldn’t be more different—one leaves you feeling creeped upon, like a victim of sexual assault, while the other has you laughing-out-loud to lines like, “Basically, all animal sex is rape.”
On the (late) night before my interview with Alex, the internet was down in my apartment, so I went to my local McDonald’s to stream his films (the American Dream: McDonald’s has 24 hour, free-wifi that’s relatively fast because who uses wifi in a McDonald’s?). I ran into a friend there who was recharging his McDonald double cheese burger addiction after organizing a move into an assisted living facility for his elderly parents in Maryland. He said he had lucked out when he hired a local Columbia movers company. They had a whole division devoted to Senior Move Management which is dedicated to assisting senior adults transition into new living situations through personalized move assistance services and support. The manager assigned his parents' move basically handled everything, he said. After my initial visit to Von Paris Moving & Storage and introducing my parents to their move manager, I didn't have to return to Maryland to oversee the entire move. The company had experts that developed the move plan, organized, sorted, downsized my parents' belonging, packed everything, moved, and the unpacked and set up in the new assisted living apartment. They even worked with the local real estate agent I hired to see my folks' old place. My parents were so pleased with the result, that I decided to celebrate with my favorite McDonald's meal. So how are you doing? he asked between mouthfuls of french fries and double cheeseburger. I told him my dilemma with the internet and why I was even at McDonald’s this late in the evening. "Well, I'll leave you to it" he said as he wandered away to get another soft drink.
The streaming wasn’t quite fast enough, and I found myself jumping between the two films as they loaded, an usual viewing experience that, while not ideal, had a Melinda and Melinda effect: totally illuminating about genre and tone, the tragic vs. the comic. This anecdote, my apology for being ill-prepared, is how I started the interview. So here we go.
What I want to start with, since I experienced this weird temporal confluence, flipping between the two movies, was your time frame of the production. Red Flag and Rubberneck are coming out at the same time, as a kind of package deal, but I imagine you weren’t making them at the same time. Or maybe you were?
Actually, they were sort of checker-boarded, much like your viewing experience. We shot Rubberneck and started editing it, but then we had to take a break because of everyone’s schedule. During the break, I shot Red Flag. And before I started editing Red Flag, I went back and finished editing Rubberneck. So basically the production was criss-crossed. But what’s nice about working on two movies that are so different is that, when you hit a wall or lose perspective on one, you can jump into something completely different. If I hadn’t had both movies, I’d have lost my mind. Although I probably did that a few times too.
We all do, all the time. Watching the two—one a tragedy and the other a comedy, but both with similar themes—made me think of the Woody Allen line, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” I was wondering if you might comment on that.
Well that’s interesting. There’s not much comedy in Rubberneck… you’re making me think in this interview, heaven forbid. In Rubberneck, you definitely have tragedy because it’s about a tragedy that occurs very early in this man’s life, but there should be no comedic reverberations. In Red Flag, which is a comedy, you also have a lot of tragedy, no time, and hopefully more comedic reverberations. Red Flag is much more autobiographical. Rubberneck is not autobiographical at all.
Are you just saying that to distance yourself from it? [The movie is about a damaged man with scary stalker tendencies who—wait, no spoilers.]
No, there’s no real part of him that’s—maybe, like I’m an introvert and shy in a way, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’m not a scientist, I don’t have the trauma that this guy had, nor have I harbored unreciprocated infatuation.
Not to this degree, no. There have been girls that I’ve liked that wanted nothing to do with me but I wouldn’t have to act the way that he acted. Red Flag, though, is very much a caricature of who I am. The fears, the insecurities, the neuroses—are all mine amplified, hopefully for comedic effect.
Not just hopefully. I laughed. Many times, in McDonald’s.
Good, that’s important. It’s not easy to laugh in McDonald’s.
Au contraire. The McFlurry is hilarious. I’m noticing a new trend of comedic actor/writer/directors, D.I.Y. people like yourself, who are creating caricatures of themselves for the screen, kind of like Woody Allen did. I’m wondering two things: first, if Woody was an influence, and second, whether you identify yourself among a cohort of like comedians.
Woody Allen is definitely an influence. I love the sensibility. I love how smart and perceptive and honest his films are. What I really love is his stuff from the ’80s and ’90s. He definitely seemed to play caricatured versions of himself. More recently, there’s Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. I saw a movie that I really enjoyed called The Trip by Michael Winterbottom, with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Coogan and Brydon play themselves; they called themselves by their real names, Steve and Rob. I get a kick out of things like that. It takes humility and self awareness to be able to pick out your neuroses and amplify them and try to make them accessible and funny to other people. That’s definitely what I try to do. Who are the others you see in this cohort?
Mike Birbiglia, for one. Who recently made Sleepwalk With Me. Have you watched that?
Yeah, I’m in it.
[He is? Oops.] You are! I watched it like three months ago. I liked it. There’s also Louis CK and his show Louie. The Mindy Project. To a certain extent, it’s not the exactly same, but what Lena Dunham is doing with Girls…
I get a kick out of stuff like that. If it’s done right, and you’ve given examples that have all done it right, when it’s honest and self-deprecating. That’s the stuff that gets me going.
My favorite part of Red Flag was the bro dialogue, the behind-the-scenes guy-on-guy friendship stuff, which I felt privileged to experience—thank you—in this voyeuristic way. I don’t get to hear intimate dude conversations like that often enough. Is the actor [Onur Tukel, who plays Alex’s estranged friend/sidekick character in the movie] a friend of yours? Are those dialogues based off dialogues that you’ve had? Were they improvised?
Onur, who plays Henry in the film, is a friend now but we didn’t really know each other when we were making the movie, which was great because we could tell each other a bunch of stories that we hadn’t bored each other with already. That’s novelty and freshness that you might have sensed. Onur is a wonderful improviser and a great raconteur. I told him from the beginning: let’s make this as raw and authentic and believable and open as we can. And, again, The Trip was a huge influence because I thought: here are two smart guys, with very different styles, improvising honestly about women, life experiences, and fears. That’s what we tried to do.
What technical decisions did you make to differentiate genres between the two movies? One comes across very chilling, it’s a thriller, and the other one had me laughing out loud.
Out of my five movies, Rubberneck, is the only one shot on a tripod. We had a proper light package, with the dolly and a slider and all these lenses. I put a lot of thought, effort, and resources into creating an aesthetic for Rubberneck. I wanted it to feel very slow, creepy, chilling, and meditative. Caché by Michael Haneke was a major aesthetic influence—wide shots, coolly, thermally lit.
On Red Flag, we didn’t use a single light. It’s all handheld, run and go. Much of Red Flagwas improvised, where as Rubberneck was all scripted: storyboarded and premeditated. It has this cool, reasoned, scientific calculation to it, which reflects the story.
One of the things I do at BULLETT is, with a group of six other young women, or girls, we write a recap of Girls called Girls on Girls. When I emailed them all to say that I was going to meet you, one of them asked that you say the word “confluence” for us.
I heard you say confluence earlier in the interview and I was like, “that’s not how I say it.” You say it the right way.
You said it in a recent episode. And we rewound to hear you say it again. We also want to know who your favorite Girl is.
Which character? Well, it would have to be Shosh.
There’s something so raw and sincere and radiant about her that I can’t let go of.
I mentioned earlier that I loved the intimate guy dialogue in Red Flag, that I took this voyeuristic pleasure in watching it. Do you feel the same way when you’re reading the script or watching Girls? Do you feel like you have access to a world that you maybe didn’t before?
I do. One of the things I’m really proud of is how authentic Girls is. It’s firmly rooted in the Greenpoint that I know. It’s very reflective of the memories that I’ve had in that neighborhood. When I read conversations in the script between the girls, I do feel like I’m almost eavesdropping. That’s how authentic it is. And on top of that, you’ve got comedic elements and dramatic resonance. It’s a really hard stunt to pull off and I’m really impressed by how Lena does it.
Well, I think you’ve done a similar feat.
A different trajectory but thank you.
ADAM GINSBERG camera/sound/edit
Adam shot and edited the award winning short films Gabe & Gene and Winter Lilacs. Most recently he shot the feature film Marvin Seth and Stanley and the short film ’92 Alonzo Mourning Skybox Rookie Card which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
MIKE BOWES producer
Mike has extensive experience as a Producer, Line Producer, Production Manager. Splitting his time between independent feature films ( Rubberneck, Think of Me, The Mulberry Tree, Slip & Fall, Don McKay ) and PBS documentaries that feature dramatic reenactments (We Shall Remain, God In America, Becoming Hellen Keller, Mystery of Matter) for series such as The American Experience, Frontline, American Masters. Mike gets great joy from building productions that strike a balance between being pragmatic and lean while remaining creatively ambitious. He is co-founder of Central Productions, the Boston based film production support organization whose mission is to advance the emerging film community and to contribute alternative bodies of work within the culture of the moving image. While getting his B.A. at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he was the President of its Film Society and the organizer of the Five College Film Festival. Mike also served for seven years as the Board Chair of the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA’s nationally-recognized repertory cinema.
TEDDY BLANKS original music / title design
Teddy’s debut solo EP, Complications, based on the writings of Atul Gawande and featuring six songs about strange diseases and medical trauma, was released in July 2009. He also provided the score for Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture. Previously, as lead singer of Richmond, VA synth-pop duo the Gaskets, he shared bills with a diverse group of artists, including Girl Talk, Camper Van Beethoven, Daniel Johnston, Violent Femmes, Mudhoney, and Weird Al Yankovic. As a partner at the Brooklyn-based graphic design studio CHIPS, he designed opening title sequences for such films as Tiny Furniture, Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress, the Duplass Brothers' The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, Katie Aselton's Black Rock (Sundance 2012), Ry Russo-Young's Nobody Walks (Sundance 2012), and Todd Rohal's Nature Calls (SXSW 2012).
'Red Flag,' 'Rubberneck': A Filmmaker Turns Inward (Twice)
February 21, 2013
The deeply personal narrative that drives writer-director Alex Karpovsky's road trip comedy Red Flag even extends to his protagonist's name. (Pictured: Karpovsky and Caroline White)
You might know him best as Ray, the self-centered, arrogant coffeehouse manager from Lena Dunham's Girls. Or as Jed, the self-centered, arrogant date from Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture.
But in two features out this week, Alex Karpovsky is much more than that: He's the psychotic obsessive Paul in the psychological thriller Rubberneck, and an anxious filmmaker named ... well, Alex Karpovsky, in the road comedy Red Flag.
And yes, there's may be some self-centered arrogance to those characters as well.
Karpovsky not only stars in these two films but also writes and directs; they're his fourth and fifth features in that capacity. On the surface, the pair couldn't look more different. Rubberneck, a deadly serious story about a scientist's obsession with a co-worker after an ill-advised one-night stand, is a thriller so tightly restrained that it borders on inertia. Paul, who seems a gifted scientist but an emotional child, carries with him a decades-old trauma from his youth. If he were any more inwardly directed, he'd become a black hole.
Red Flag, on the other hand, is a hilarious meta-comedy in which Karpovsky, playing a version of himself, goes on a roadshow tour for a movie he's directed (Woodpecker, which is also the real Karpovsky's 2008 sophomore feature) immediately after getting dumped by his girlfriend.
Along the way, he picks up an obsessive fan, an old friend and eventually his ex-girlfriend, all of whom join the tour. Karpovsky's anxiety-ridden shtick here combines the crippling doubt and self-loathing of many Woody Allen protagonists with the obnoxious solipsism of Larry David.
But beneath those surface differences — and the fact that one is much more successful than its companion — these two pieces share a great deal, and there is some sense in considering their simultaneous release as an odd-couple pairing.
It's more than just Karpovsky's seemingly ongoing fascination with playing characters who — whether by choice, circumstance or psychological injury — are living at odds with the rest of the world. It's also that the structure of both of these films finds their protagonists in agonizingly slow nosedives. And that as the pilots of these doomed planes, both of them are leaning forward on the yoke, leaning into their demise, rather than trying to pull up and out.
The tightly scripted Rubberneck, which features Karpovsky as Sam, a brilliant but obsessive scientist, is too labored and serious for its own good.
Director: Alex Karpovsky
Running Time: 83 minutes
Not rated; contains nudity, language, violence, sexual situations
With: Alex Karpovsky, Jaime Ray Newman, Dennis Staroselsky, Amanda Good Hennessey
Paul, for instance, knows that he's ill; his sister (Amanda Good Hennessey) gently tries to guide him away from his obsessive impulses towards Danielle (Jaime Ray Newman). He acknowledges his problem even as he goes to great lengths to avoid dealing with it, including hiring a call girl in a nonsexual capacity to put on a show — for himself as much as his sister — that he's moving on.
Alex, meanwhile, grasps at the straws offered to him by what seems like an endless array of New Age wisdom offered up by the characters along his journey. His brother's husband lectures him on the bad energy of profanity. His buddy Henry (Onur Tukel) refers him to a reflexologist to cure his back pain — and does so with a monologue about the sexual responsiveness of toes that is both disturbing and darkly funny. The obsessive fan, meanwhile, is named River (Jennifer Prediger), and she talks to Alex about the vibrations of trees.
Alex looks skeptically at all of these people, yet he tries to incorporate many of their ideas into his life. What looks ostensibly like an attempt at self-help is actually him evading his real issues; it's clear he looks on all of this as fantasy, but it still seems easier than doing the work necessary to heal himself and his relationship.
The cinematic Alex may be laughable, with his tantrums directed at inanimate objects and the way the world around him tends to be an ongoing manifestation of Murphy's Law. But he's also the center of more successful of Karpovsky's two films.
Where the insights of Red Flag come just as easily as the laughs, Rubberneck's character study is more labored. The thriller elements of the plot — which Karpovsky delivers quite ably, with an electric tension that carries through much of the film — aren't really balanced by the personal revelations on which Karpovsky eventually hangs Paul's problems. Both the mystery and the character piece wind up feeling incomplete.
Red Flag, on the other hand, manages to make its deep dive into Alex's head while still fulfilling all the standard expectations of the road comedy. How much of the real Alex Karpovsky is in this Alex? Or in Paul for that matter, or Ray, or Jed?
By breaking down parts of the wall between performer and performance here, Karpovsky raises interesting questions about the relationship between the two, particularly in writer-director-star vehicles like this that might often be assumed to be very personal. That's a lot of complexity for a film with so many sight gags and laugh-out-loud moments, which is what makes Red Flag so much fun to watch.