Alexander Freeman hasn’t even graduated from Emerson College yet, and it’s been a year since he debuted his first full-length feature, ‘The Last Taboo,’ a documentary that explores the politics of disability and sexuality.
Alexander has lived with cerebral palsy his entire life, and he talked with mtvU about how filmmaking has helped him find a voice and tell the stories of others.
How did you get started in film?
I was 15 at the time, but when I actually got into film, when it all came about, the feeling I had in mind was how I almost didn’t make it. When I was born, they didn’t know if I was going to make it, so when I got into film that really was the thing that I kept thinking of. When I actually got into film, it was really, really amazing because before I got into film… I was really struggling to be heard – my intelligence, passion, to have a voice. I always feel like I have to prove something… I had this amazing chance to prove myself, and also tell the stories I always wanted to tell.
What kind of issues do you like to explore in your film work?
I found a lot of issues in college that I really care about, and some of those include sharing our disabilities… The other topic I like to focus on – stories advocating LGBTQ issues… I guess like to really go after the real hard topics… I feel it’s my responsibility as a filmmaker to help say what we’re about instead of recycling the same stories we see over and over again.
How do you make your work stand out among so many college filmmakers at your school?
‘The Last Taboo’ was interesting… When I originally told people what my idea was, they said, “Oh, how are you going to do that? You can’t just ask people questions about their sex lives,” and I said, “How am I going to do it? I’m just going to ask and see what I get.” …Everything about my film is me, and very planned out, and I think about each shot, each line, each cut, but I think what really makes my work stand out is that I’m not showing off. That’s important. Quality is actually important. It has to be good quality. It has to look good. It has to sound good. What really makes you stand out is the content, the story itself — the fact that I focus on really difficult concepts that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable going near. And the fact is, I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway.
How has studying film in college helped you grow?
It has helped me become a better screenwriter. It has helped me become a better director, because of the techniques… I think one of the things that really is so great about Emerson: the opportunities that I’ve had. They don’t look at me as a student so much. They look at me as a fellow director. And I love that, and I’m so in love with how the other students are helpful in class. If I don’t know something, they’ll teach me and not once have I felt like they’re thinking about my disability. That really feels wonderful.
You’re a senior now. What advice would you give freshmen film students just starting out?
My advice is don’t over think, or don’t go for complex. Go for simple, and make it count. Think of something in your own life that you want to focus on… Don’t recycle ideas. Be original, or at least, take a story and make it yours.
Check out the trailer for ‘The Last Taboo:’
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