The first film adaptation of David Sedaris's work, C.O.G. (based on a short story from Sedaris' book Naked), comes to NFF18. C.O.G. is about a cocky young man fresh out of Yale (Boss and Glee's Jonathan Groff) who travels across the country to work on an Oregon apple farm. Out of his element, he finds his lifestyle picked apart by the eccentric locals who cross his path. With nowhere else to go, he must swallow his pride and create a place for himself. Also featuring performances by Corey Stoll (House of Cards), Denis O'Hare (True Blood), and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings), don't miss this funny, awkward, moving story about the complications of finding your place in the world.
NFF spoke with filmmaker Kyle Patrick Alvarez who will participate in Q&As for his film at the screenings on Thursday, June 27 at 12:00pm and Friday, June 28 at 1pm. Read more below and join us at C.O.G.!
NFF: We read that it took awhile to get to David for his approval of this material. Ultimately, how involved was he with the film?
Alvarez: It took a long time just to be able to reach him and find the way to approach him, however once we were in touch he couldn't have been more gracious and giving. Part of our agreement was that he wanted me to go make my film the way I wanted to make it. My aim was always to approach this specific story as opposed to trying to make a 'David Sedaris' movie. So David was certainly there for me, and a great resource, but the final film and the actual process of making that film was entirely left up to me.
NFF: What speaks to you about David's work and why did you think it would be film-worthy?
Alvarez: I don't know if all of David's work is meant to be adapted, but I always just felt so sure about this story in particular. There was something dark and human and relatable underneath all the humor. I felt it really had something unique to say about the complex intersection of religion and sexuality. It had scope and such a wide variety of characters that I just always felt it was particularly cinematic.
NFF: Although this is David's source material, how did you make this film feel like "your own"?
Alvarez: I took David's trust in me to heart and just trusted my instincts on it through and through. I didn't try to hard to concern myself on what a Sedaris movie should feel like, I just tried to do what I thought would make the best movie. I think there is a lot of me in this film, a lot of what I put myself into. I hope it's the kind of thing that stands on its own, but that his fans still appreciate it.
NFF: What was the most challenging moment for you on set?
Alvarez: There were many! We were on a very limited budget, so time was always working against us. One of the hardest days was working in the apple factory, cause we were trying to shoot scenes in front of this giant machine that would keep on breaking. Most of those scenes edited themselves, cause if the cut went on even just a frame longer, you'd see the apples just stop coming around!
NFF: What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
Alvarez: The movie is ambigiuos about its intentions by design. I never want a movie I make to tell an audience how they should feel, but hopefully invoke enough of an emotion to create a dialogue of what it may (or may not) have been about. In this case, I hope people first find it to be enjoyable and entertaining, but second to ask themselves about what kind of transformation the character goes through, is it a religious one or a sexual one? Can those be the same thing or should they not? Also, I just hope they find it funny.