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March 31, 2017 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Ian MacAllister-McDonald knew from the start that his directorial debut, “Some Freaks,” would not be a typical Hollywood love story. He had no interest in writing “another young love movie wherein all the actors were beautiful and successful,” he explains. “I wanted to write something that felt more like my experiences.”
He drew from an eclectic collection of love stories for his inspiration, ranging from popular staples like “Say Anything” to less mainstream works like “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (1995) and “Fat Girl” (2001), films “about people who have a hard time navigating their preferred social waters and have to decide what they're willing to sacrifice to fit in.”
“A Woman Under the Influence” (1974), meanwhile, is the film that he calls his “cinematic North Star.”
“These are films where the love at the center of the film is deeply flawed,” he adds, “where the characters love each other despite not always liking one another, or vice versa.”
McDonald’s inspiration for just how deeply flawed the characters would be, however, came from some deeply personal moments. Diagnosed with vitiligo, a condition where the hair and skin develop white patches, he began thinking about how appearance, and deviations from “normal” appearance, impacted relationships–both his own, and those of his fictional characters. Later, while people-watching in a New York park, he became fascinated by a passing couple.
“The guy was tall and thin and gawky, and the girl was very curvy," he says. "And I just thought they were the most beautiful, unique-looking couple, and I felt myself wondering what their lives were like.”
From there, his “attempt to write a love story for the kinds of characters who normally don’t get love stories written about them,” was born.
His directorial debut was tougher than most, thanks to several unique challenges. Shooting in New England “during one of the worst winters of the last half century” forced him to change locations frequently to avoid snowstorms. His production also had to shut down for half a year, in the middle of the shoot, so that lead actress Lily Mae Harrington could lose 50 pounds to portray her character’s dramatic transformation. That, in particular, was “nerve-wracking by itself,” he admits.
“While Lily ended up losing the weight, we didn’t actually know that she could pull it off.” The filming hiatus also forced him to re-crew, because many original members of his production crew had moved on to other commitments in the interim.
McDonald started off connected to the horror genre, beginning with short films that he “shot with friends in my parents’ basement and backyard” when he was in his early teens. Astute observers may be able to spot a number of horror movie "Easter eggs" sprinkled throughout his directorial debut. He is returning to those roots with his next film, although he won’t say much about it other than that it’s a horror film “of the low-key, art house variety.”
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