• Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo - Be Here Nowish: Women in Film.
  • Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo - Be Here Nowish: Women in Film.
The writer-actress-director troupe, Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite.
A glimpse of `Be Here Nowish`.

    Interview; Women in Film - Natalia Leite & Alexandra Roxo

    06 September 2013

    By Hillary Sproul

    Be Here Nowish: Women in Film

    It’s everywhere. The writer-actress-director troupe and the people that regard it as a novelty that women in film have taken it into their own hands and begun creating work they actually want.

    And it was inevitable. For years, actresses spoke of the lack of female roles suited for an age range that seemed to cover anything from the teens to what was universally regarded as the easiest to book- the dreary middle. At a certain point, it became easy to ascertain that the problem was not only age. The problem was the gap itself. Men write roles for men and women write roles for women. That’s not necessarily purposeful. It may just be part of the psychology of the thing. Write what you know. But thank goodness for the new wave. The abundance of female-driven dramatic work has been plentiful… and with staying power. Brit Marlin, Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young, and now these two: Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo.

    I had the chance to sit down with these two hilarious and intelligent young women and chat about their beginnings as young filmmakers and the start of their new web series, Be Here Nowish.

    Hillary Sproul: So, I guess I’ll just ask you both what your backgrounds are and how you started as a team.

    Natalia Leite: Okay, so my background is- I grew up in Brazil, moved out here, went to art school, so I was doing- initially my work was more gallery-driven, making video and photography and also performing in some of it. Very much, like, geared toward the art world. Um, and then when I moved to New York, I realized that film was really my medium and started working for production companies and writing and directing my own work. And then we met a little over a year ago. We were, you know, both had been doing our own work. We started working together on a project that was a documentary that we did in Cuba that’s now being produced by Vice. And just very quickly realized that we worked very well together.

    Alexandra Roxo: So, I started by acting. I went to NYU Tisch for acting. But then after like the first year, I was like “Aw, I really want to make my own work. Um, and so, I did some photography and I got a job in the film department at NYU and I did some short films. Then I ended up interning for a female filmmaker and just really trying to learn a lot. I moved out West doing more experimental film and also photography.

    H.S.: To LA, “out west”?

    AR.: No, I lived in Portland and Seattle. Um, so those years of my life I was really forming my artistic vision and seeing what my aesthetic was. I felt it was really important to leave New York for a little bit, so that I could just be clear about what I saw my art as. So, that was cool because I did a lot of self-portraiture stuff and then I did some experimental films that screened in different places and it kind of took me back in and took me forward into narrative film.

    HS.: It married the two for you?

    AR.: Yeah. Exactly. I just felt like I needed to first learn to tell a story with pictures and then in short form. And, then I wrote a feature that I was trying to get made in Portland and it didn’t happen but eventually I moved back to New York and I made my first feature here. In Pennsylvania.

    HS.: Was it with the same script?

    AR.: No, different script actually. Because I was like “that one’s too complicated, it’s going to be just hard to make. So, why don’t I write something around one location that stars me and my friends and put it together.”

    HS.: How did you get the funding for that project?

    AR.: It was all friends and family. Little money. After that, I was like “okay, well, now I know this is what I really want to do”.

    HS.: But you didn’t study filmmaking really either?

    NL.: No, I kind of just starting learning by- well, I did after college. I did screenwriting classes and sort-of night classes and NYU and Columbia and stuff like that.

    HS.: Were they mostly centered on narrative or writing or acting?

    NL.: Mostly just straight-up screenwriting. I never did an acting class or anything like that. And the film classes: I did a directing workshop. I just sort-of supplemented. I didn’t want to go to a grad program at that point, you know. And I was already like, just working at a production company, working on set, and so it didn’t make sense.

    HS.: How did you meet specifically?

    NL.: We met just through mutual friends, um, like at a party.

    HS.: And you just immediately wanted to make stuff together?

    NL.: Actually, we first started becoming friends because we both had so many things in common. We wanted to make films, we were drawn to the same aesthetics, we both speak Portugese. We have that background. I mean, we kind of started working together by circumstance.

    AR.: Natalia had the opportunity to go to Cuba. Um, and she was like “Oh, man, this producer I’m working with is trying to send someone to go to Cuba and go on this trip with this artist. I can’t go because my Green Card’s not done.” And I was like “Well, dude, suggest me”. And then, being the businesswoman Natalia is, she’s like “Okay, I’m going to suggest you and we will co-direct it”.  So, we ended up talking on the phone back and forth when I was in Cuba, like, every day. Talking about this project we were working on. And I was in really extreme kind-of circumstances because it was hard to get water, hard to get food, So Natalia was kind of my support and anchor here in New York. And through that month, we kind of bonded because she also felt like sort of responsible for sending me into the trenches

    NL.: It was an interesting circumstance, because you know, the plane to Cuba was leaving in like less than a week and we had just, you know, we didn’t know each other that well, so we sort of had to take a week to be like, “okay, let’s make this project together”.

    AR.: And then when we came back, we already had this like project to work on and I had already- I was supposed to do this fashion film and, because I had left for Cuba, I was like “Oh, Natalia, can you help with this? Let’s co-direct it or whatever. I don’t even care.” I just needed to make sure I could still do this for this designer I had promised. So, then we worked on that together. And then, um, and then we just kind of kept moving forward.

    HS.: And how soon after you met did the web-show come together?

    NL.: I think two months. A couple months later, maybe.

    AR.: I remember sitting at your house, in the summer. I think maybe in August. Like, sitting on your couch and being like “Dude, let’s just like make a funny show”.

    NL.: Yeah, I think she had gotten back to Cuba, we had done this fashion film and then we were like, we both had features in the works, that just take so long, and so much money…

    HS.: And this wasn’t expensive?

    NL.: This was not, I mean we had to pay people’s cabs and feed them but we basically just had a community of friends and were like “Hey…”

    HS.: People were editing for free?

    NL.: Well, we hadn’t edited yet. We shot like four episodes with people just like wanting to work on it. And really excited. Um, and then now we have money to do the Kickstarter. And we’re paying an editor.

    HS.: And you didn’t have acting experience?

    NL.: I didn’t! No! And I was feel like “wow”.

    HS.: Did you feel comfortable doing it?

    NL.: I didn’t at first. I definitely felt like self-conscious.

    AR:. But now she’s a seasoned pro. We just did a music video for TV on the Radio that our company produced- that I produced and Natalia co-directed with one of the band members and also starred in it. And I just felt like a proud parent. I was watching her like, “Aw, look at her! Naked in the tree! She’s so comfortable now! Oh, look at her rolling in the mud! Good job!”

    A pro, she is. Both Natalia and Alexandra can be seen online here, in the trailer for Be Here Nowish.  They are currently working with Vice magazine on a pilot for a series.

    H.S.: Thanks for the interview.


    A new comedy web series about two down and out New York gals who go to LA in search of a spiritual awakening.
    SAM (Alexandra Roxo) and NINA (Natalia Leite) make their livings in New York City as a dating consultant and drug delivery gal, respectively, barely scraping by. Though Sam consults with guys about their dating skills, her own aren’t so hot.  Her boyfriend (Rocco Katastrophe) dumps her and she goes all Grey Gardens with her aunt who returns to the Brooklyn apartment where Sam has been housesitting.
    SAM (Alexandra Roxo) and NINA (Natalia Leite) make their livings in New York City as a dating consultant and drug delivery gal, respectively, barely scraping by. Though Sam consults with guys about their dating skills, her own aren’t so hot.  Her boyfriend (Rocco Katastrophe) dumps her and she goes all Grey Gardens with her aunt who returns to the Brooklyn apartment where Sam has been housesitting.
    When Nina tells Sam about her plans to meet this guru-shaman in LA, Sam desperately piggy backs on it in the hopes of also finding a life transformation. But in Los Angeles they are faced with a tug-of-war between their old selves, partying it up and sleeping with girls-boys-trans-queers, and the new spiritual circle they partake of. They undergo spiritual bootcamp, have their first plant medicine ceremony, and are forever changed and faced with a different future than they’d ever dreamed of.

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