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From Girls to No-Budget Filmmaking: Alex Karpovsky's Red Flag Is Sparse, Brilliant

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Alex Karpovsky is all over the place. Whether you know him by name or not, if you've been following independent film for the past several years, you know his face. He has starred in Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture, Brian Poyser's Lovers of Hate, Andrew Bujalski's Beeswax and too many other features to count. He is currently on HBO's Girls as Ray, the barista who stole Shoshanna's virginity. Karpovsky is also an accomplished writer/director with multiple features under his belt. I recently had the chance to check out his latest, Red Flag, and I loved it. The film is a dark comedy about a narcissistic filmmaker (named Alex Karpovsky) who tours the South with a microbudget feature (Karpovsky's actual second feature, Woodpecker) while dealing with a break-up, existential issues and his own neurosis. Red Flag was produced on a shoestring budget though feels like anything but. I became so curious about what went into the production, I had to flag down Mr. Karpovsky to get the details.

In real life, Karpovsky was given the opportunity to tour six or seven states in the South (with a rental car and per diem) and show Woodpecker at various art house theaters. Though the idea sounded incredibly lonesome to him, he didn't want to turn down the financial opportunity. Naturally, the solution was to build a film around the tour dealing with the theme of loneliness. Inspired by Curb Your Enthusiasm, Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, and Going Places with Gerard Depardieu, Karpovsky wrote a 30- to 35-page outline without dialogue. The shoot itself took 12 days, and the story beats did not change while shooting. There was a lot of flexibility with shooting locations, though, as most of the time Karpovsky and crew didn't know where they'd be next.

Depending on how you look at it, the film's crew size was either one or two people. Adam Ginsberg operated the camera (a Canon 7D), ran audio (wireless lavs) and also edited the film. Robin Salant served as production manager, and along with lead actress Jennifer Prediger, helped interact with locals and lock down locations sans permits. Just about every actor other than the leads was a non-actor selected at random.

I really could not recommend this film more highly, especially for independent filmmakers working on miniscule budgets. Red Flag is a clinic on how to create an interesting story with whatever means you can access. Check out the trailer below, and "Like" the film on Facebook to find out where and when you'll be able to check it out.