Alex Lykos on self-distributing his indie ‘Me & My Left Brain’
‘Me & My Left Brain’.
Used to the quick turnaround of theatre production, Alex Lykos purposely crafted comedy Me & My Left Brain, released in cinemas today, as a low budget film that could be financed and produced quickly.
That was in part due to his frustration with the fact it took more than six years for his previous film, Alex & Eve – which he wrote based on his stageplay of the same name – to get to screen.
“The process was so slow, long and filled with so many setbacks. I went away, and thought for me – someone who has ADHD – I need to find a model to tell a story on film that could be a little bit more efficient,” Lykos tells IF.
Me & My Left Brain is also based on a Lykos stageplay – ‘The Long Night’; he wrote the screen adaptation, moved into the director’s chair for the first time, produced and stars as the lead.
The Woody Allen-inspired comedy follows Arthur (Lykos), a man who has a job interview in the morning but can’t sleep because he’s obsessing about whether Helen (Chantelle Barry) is interested in him. Arthur is then visited by the personification of his critical left brain (Mal Kannard), and they bicker. It also stars Rachael Beck and Laura Dundovic.
The finance was raised privately, through sponsors and regulars to Lykos’ theatre shows. The budget was kept down via the small cast, limited locations, and a short shoot schedule – filming was completed in just 13 days.
“We learned a lot of lessons in the making of Alex & Eve and I thought I’d put those lessons to good use for this one on a lower budget, always with the view that if the script is solid and does it job, then it’s lower budget won’t hurt as much as one might think.”
When it came to his casting choices, Lykos says as a first-time director and lead actor, he tried to cast other actors who were more experienced. He had met Beck when she came to one of his stage shows, sent her the script and she agreed to join the film. He connected to Kennard via his agent and they hit off immediately; it was also Kennard then encouraged Lykos to direct the film. He asked Barry, who is based in LA, to audition and says she gave “the stoicism that I was looking for immediately.”
The film has an all jazz score, crafted by veteran composer Cezary Skubiszewski (Bran Nue Dae, The Sapphires, Picnic At Hanging Rock). Lykos has always felt jazz works well with comedy, and had admired a jazz piece that Skubiszewski wrote for Two Hands. He approached the composer after putting together a rough cut he and editor Miriana Marusic were happy with, and was chuffed when he said yes.
“It was just one of the most thrilling experiences seeing the music recorded live by musicians; it just came to life,” he says.
When Lykos worked on Alex & Eve, he was naïve about the theatrical distribution process; he was unaware of how box office was split between exhibitors and distributors, and how slowly money returns to a films’ producers.
This motivated him to self-distribute Me & My Left Brain, forming company Panoramic Pictures, hopeful in the fact that through his theatre company, he has built up a “solid little audience” that he can market to directly.
“I’ve been doing theatre for 12 years now and we work our butts off to get people to come watch our theatre shows. We know what the process is. You put your artwork together, or in the case of a film, your trailer together, and you hustle… We’ve got the infrastructure there; we’ve got our database we’ve built up over the years. We’ve got media contacts that we’ve built up throughout the years via our theatre shows.”
While he concedes forming relationships with exhibitors was a challenge, but he was selective about sites, choosing those close to where he knows his theatre audience lives. It will play on less than 10 screens. “We specifically didn’t want too many cinemas, as we want to try and secure a good solid screen average; comedies work better when there’s an audience watching them.”
He admits there is stiff competition in cinemas at the moment, such as Avengers: Endgame, and that the federal election may impact tickets sales. However, he is hopeful his audience will turn out, and would consider a total BO of $50,000 a good result.
Bonsai Films will handle ancillary sales. “Bonsai have been great looking after our ancillaries. We know there that we just don’t have the relationships with the networks, the airlines or the streaming services. But we do have relationship with audience, so that’s why we though, let’s attack the cinema release.”