I had a chance to sit down with Dan Algrant when he was in Seattle a couple of weeks ago to talk about his just-released first feature, Naked in New York.
As we talked; I couldn’t help but think how Dan’s story sounds like it was concocted by “The Liar” in the old Saturday Night Live skit:
“So, Dan, how did you get started?”
“Well, I made some short films in school, and they were so good that, uh… next thing I know I get a call from, uh… Martin Scorsese! Yeah, that’s it. Scorsese himself. And he says ‘Hi, Dan? This is Marty. I’m thinking of producing some films. Got any you wanna do? Because I’m a big fan of yours and I wanna help you bring your vision to the world.’ Yeah, that’s what he said, all right. Algrant must have pinched himself raw when that phone call (or a reasonable facsimile of it) actually happened two years ago. He’d written a screenplay he liked a year earlier while in the film production program at Columbia University, where Martin Scorsese was one of his instructors. When the whole city of New York enlisted the master director’s help in reviving its ailing film industry, Algrant got The Call.”
Algrant maintains that the most difficult thing about getting this or any film made is writing the script.
“Shooting a movie is like the frosting, like the ice cream. Getting a good script done is the tough thing. If you have money you can bring in writers to buff and polish. It’s really something just to write a good line. Remember that line in Raging Bull– ‘When we were kids we used to steal things alphabetically. A car. A television. A boat…’ You have to hire writers to get lines like that.”
Algrant won’t say what Naked’s budget was, but does claim the 30-day project “could not have been done cheaper in New York. I’m sure of that.”
Much has been made of Algrant’s directorial style, which Eric Stoltz was quoted as saying is looser, more like the European school. Alornnt is a strong believer in giving the actors a lot of leeway during rehearsal.
Largely because Naked in New York was so well received at the Sundance Film Festival, directorial offers are pouring in. Unfortunately, says Algrant, who wants to expand his horizons, most of the scripts are romantic comedies about young people in love. MM