Originally posted on our Essence Films site in April of 2009: Coming off of almost two years since “Sugar” wrapped production, we caught up with Writer/Director Alex Beh to discuss his directorial debut in retrospect:
Where did the idea for “Sugar” come about?
Sugar was called “She Broke it Off” before, but the theme of sugar being a catalyst for fantasy was there from the get go (it used to be about a beautiful neighbor girl coming to the door and asking a lonely apartment dweller for some sugar, happens all the time right?). The idea came about when I was talking to a girl with the hopes that she would break up with her current boyfriend. Why not right? We all have hopes and dreams, sometimes our hopes involve relational situations, like girls breaking up with their boyfriends or getting out of that miserable job. When I lived in Chicago I waited tables and had to do odd jobs to get by, pay for rent and for classes at Second City or Improv Olympic. The perfect world situation for me would be to get paid to do what I love, thus, “Sugar” is a film about a catalyst (sugar) that allows one to realize their dreams, in the case of the story in the film, people at the restaurant ask for sugar, and well, nothing short of magic ensues.
How long did it take to get “Sugar” into production?
Sugar went into production April 29th 2007, I wrote it in Sept ‘05, and our friend Brett Hays said he wanted to make it in October of ‘06. So it took around a year and a half to get this puppy made, but really it took four hard working months, thousands of emails, and exorbitant cell-phone bills.
What were some of the obstacles to getting the film made?
There weren’t a lot really, to be honest, the only obstacle was me, and thinking that I couldn’t make a film. When Brett said; ‘lets make this film,’ the process started. When I was going around looking for a director, a friend of mine said; ‘why don’t you just direct it?’ So, I directed it. Finding a good cinematographer was tough until I decided to get in touch with the best DP in town; Pete Biagi. Sometimes, mostly, it seems, the hardest people to get in touch with are only the hardest to get in touch with people everybody thinks they are unapproachable, it only takes a phone call, an email, a letter, or a knock on the door, and you’ve found yourself one more step closer to your goal.
How did you go about casting your actors?
I did a Sears commercial that David O’Connor cast in 2006, I never knew he’d be interested in casting a film for me until I asked him. He cast a film Nate Brown and I produced for Brian Billow in 2006 called “Bodega,” turns out he was happy to work for us again a year later. So David cast Sugar, he brought in a few essential people, namlely Hanie Lynch, the beautiful girl, he brought in Paul Perroni, who I had met the night before, and they both absolutely nailed the roles. The rest of the cast I had met through the comedy or auditioning scene in Chicago; Brian Petsos, Brian King, Brad Morris, Chris Sullivan, Greg Hollimon, TJ Miller, Alyson Lyon and the rest, all good friends, and the shoot was a blast.
What was the experience like writing, acting, directing and producing all at the same time?
It was great, I had a blast, I came prepared, and most most most importantly, I was surrounded by GREAT and VERY TALENTED people. Rachel Reichard who learned producing so fast, and got the job done. Santino Stoner, Pete Biagi an insanely talented cinematographer, and of course Matt Corrado my first AD who met with Pete and I multiple times before the shoot to make sure we were all on the same page with our shot list.
To me all of those roles work together, and compliment each other if done the right way. I wrote the script, I produced it with my team of producers, I knew the role inside and out, with the shoot dates nearing, I just organized the shots I had in my mind during meetings with Matt and Pete, so the film was produced, and directed before the camera starts rolling.
Was the finished product much different than your original vision? If so, how? And did it meet or exceed your expectations?
Exceeded, but it was not different than my original vision, does that make sense guy? I knew with the team we had around this project, the cast, the crew, the producers, the entire post team, and the overal energy about the project was just so positive that we could not go wrong. Graham Metzger did a fantastic job on the edit, John Michaels on the titles, the Color from Ken Wald, all of them are ridiculously talented. When you have a great team, and a positive atitude around a project, you can’t fail, thank God.
Who or What are some of your inspirations in the world of film?
My mom is a drama teacher, I grew up watching movies, going to theater, and really not partaking, but observing the whole ball game, it wasn’t until college that I really started acting, and then after school that I knew I wanted to make films. My other influences are my sister and bro, Cassie and Chase, my friends, improv, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Woody Allen, Chris Farley, John Hughes, Coppola, Spielberg, The Graduate, Good Will Hunting, The Blues Brothers, Bob Dylan, and my Dad.
What’s next for Alex Beh?
I’m making my feature script into a motion picture, acting in a movie this fall, and continuing to keep my head down and keep pounding it.