Ever since cinema-going first became a popular pastime in the early 20th century, films have given their viewers a way to escape from the banalities and tribulations of everyday life. But, as our everyday lives move further and further away from reality (hello, makeover TV shows, social networking, and airbrushed everything), it’s often refreshing to see a movie that speaks to the real-life struggles and experiences of women in this very moment. Enter director Joshua Moore, actor Alexandra Clayton, and their feature film collaboration I Think It’s Raining. Alexandra plays Renata, a 20-something singer who returns to the Bay Area after a year of traveling to find herself dealing with problems most of us can identify with: the strangeness of returning to one’s childhood home, the insecurity that goes along with just existing as a young adult, and the tenuous beauty of navigating new relationships.
You can check out the trailer here, and if you’re in the NYC area, you can catch I Think It’s Raining on Saturday, June 16th on the Open Road Rooftop in the Lower East Side. Doors to the event open at 8, followed by a live music performance by Alexandra at 8:30 and the film at 9. You can buy tickets online here or at the door.
I got the chance to share coffee, stories, and laughs with the stunningly gorgeous and easy-going Alexandra this week to talk to her about acting, I Think It’s Raining, crafts, and lots more related to life as young women trying to take on the world.
Yasmin Boakye: So Joshua Moore’s a first time director, and I Think It’s Raining was also your first film? What was it like navigating that process together?
Alexandra Clayton: It was the first feature for both of us. We’ve both done shorter stuff, but never a feature-length film. It was pretty great. Pretty much our entire crew, we were all first-timers. We had all worked on other people’s projects, but it was nice to take [I Think It’s Raining] all on together because we got to kind of define our own rules and boundaries in the process.
YB: How exactly did you and Joshua come into contact with each other?
AC: Josh works for the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and my sister has a dear friend – I guess she’s my friend as well – who’s working with Josh, and he was casting for a short film. I was hanging out with her, and she was like ‘Oh, a guy I work with is casting for a short film, would you like me to submit your headshot and resume to him?’ And I said, ‘Hell yes,’ [laughs]. He sent me the script, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I need to get this part.’ I can play this really, really well – I know this girl. And we decided to meet at a coffee shop, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to dress up how I think this girl would dress up, and I’m going to show up and just totally let him know that I’m going to own this role and that I have strong opinions about her,’ and I did it. And at the end of our meeting, he was like, ‘You’re totally this character.’ And I was like, yes! And within a few months, it had just snowballed from a short into a feature length. The original script was just a middle section of it, and we both felt there was such complexity to this character and that not enough in film do you get to see multiple layers and sides of a person. We really wanted to give her that chance.
YB: So he’s also from the Bay Area, and you are as well.
AC: Yeah. [I Think It’s Raining] was filmed in San Francisco. Kind of all around the city. We mostly filmed in locations particularly dear to Joshua – his favorite neighborhood haunts and things he really felt represented San Francisco as he knew it, but aren’t generally seen in media portrayals of the city. He kind of wanted it to be this like insider’s view of the city, a little more nuanced than just the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf [laughs]. Stuff you’re used to seeing on sitcoms and other films.
YB: So what made you come to New York? It seems like you have really strong California roots.
AC: I do, I am a seventh-generation Californian, so my family is embedded there, and they love it, and I loved growing up there, and just have a really beautiful community back home. I don’t know. Well one, I came to school out here, but two, my dad brought me here when I was 14 years old and took me on this whirlwind tour of the city, and I think from that point on knew that I had to live here at some point, in the city that never sleeps, and just has more going on than you can ever get a handle on. And I think at this point, when I’m really still beginning my career, it’s really good for me to be in a really big pond of people, and have people way farther along and way more experienced who have way more than I could ever get on top of. I think it’s good for me at this point in life to be overwhelmed by possibilities and options and other people’s talents. I think I’ve grown a lot more, living in New York City, than if I had just stayed at home.
YB: So, thinking about the social value of theater, I think it’s so important for it to be seen as a vehicle for change and movement because there’s so much there– it’s not just about that little experience, it’s about so much more quite frequently.
AC: Right. I think film can have the same power, I totally agree, and I’m really interested in trying to do that with the work that I do. Like, what is something that is going to create dialogue or arouse questions or just reveals how complex it is to be human? I love Renata [the main character in I Think It’s Raining] in this movie because she’s very tricky to pin down. And you know, some people love her, and some people think she’s horribly selfish and really dislike her. But we really wanted to explore that. You judge people on a singular action, and it’s just, almost all the time, really inappropriate to do that, because there’s so much more going on. You don’t know why they’re acting in that way, in that particular moment, and how often they act that way. And I think we are pressured into [thinking] that ‘you need to be yourself,’ and that should be this singular self that presents the same way to everyone. And it’s like, how many people are actually that way? We all have like a million people inside of us.
YB: So how do you feel like the unique way the film was shot and the unique character who drives it came together to show something more about humanity?
AC: I mean, I think [it shows that] it’s hard to grow up, it’s hard to be young, it’s really confusing for everyone, and I think pretty much everyone has some crisis of identity – is this the right path, is this who I want to be? I don’t want to let myself down, I don’t want to disappoint my family, I don’t quite know how to merge these different versions of myself, or these different desires. You know, it’s when you’ve left the path of your parents’ house and before you’ve picked your ultimate path, and you’re just kind of spinning in circles, like what? And we don’t see a whole of that, we see, these kind of narrow archetypes of people and what it’s like to be young. And most of the time it’s just like, really fun. And we really wanted to make something that people could relate to the messiness of. It was such a key part of it. It’s just such a lie in our media. You don’t see flawed people. And everyone is flawed, so it’s really important to us to put up this obviously flawed character and give her the time of day, and still explore her.
YB: And even when they are flawed, it’s cute and quirky, or this one little flaw that’s makes it seem like everything else is perfect, besides this one little thing.
AC: Right. But Renata is just a big hot mess.
YB: So what creative women do you admire right now in any fields that you’re interested in – film, music, art?
AC: Oh my goodness. [laughs]
YB: List as many as you want!
AC: It’s something – I feel so grateful for it, and I really try to cultivate, because I think especially being a young female actress, you are kind of encouraged to tear each other down, pit yourselves against each other – we’re up for the same roles, we’re in competition, you know? Here I have a few wonderful girlfriends, my friend Casey and Sam Slater, I just worked on a short film that she produced and wrote and starred in, and I assistant directed her on it. And I know a really wonderful family friend, Andrea Hurley, who lives in Richmond, California, and she’s a singer-songwriter, and a teacher, and a mom, and is just exceptionally talented and involved in making awesome communities. My sixth grade teacher, Gina Thompson, is involved in this live storytelling group in the Bay Area.
YB: Can you explain live storytelling?
AC: So, a guest from the audience will come and share a story that recently happened to them, maybe spend like four minutes telling the audience about the story. And then the troupe will recreate the story, in improvised manner, in front of them, watching.
YB: That’s so cool.
AC: It’s SO cool. It’s really cool. And [Gina] is just like a total fireball and force of nature, and also a teacher. Do you want a celebrity name?
YB: Oh, no – whoever’s important to you.
AC: And my mom – my mom is a writer, she just finished her first novel, and it’s something she wanted to do forever. She’s in her late 50’s, and she finally did it. I’m so proud of her, and so excited for her! It’s over 500 pages, and I’m like, holy cow, mom!
YB: That’s amazing! Now for some fun questions – who’s your favorite BUST cover lady – Maya Rudolph, Sofia Coppola, Miranda July, or Helen Mirren?
AC: Oh boy – here you see my indecision. [laughs] I feel like I love these women all for such different things. I love Sofia Coppola because she’s a female film director; I love Miranda July because she wears many, many hats, which I also try to do. Maya Rudolph is absolutely hilarious – I love all the SNL ladies. And Helen Mirren is Helen Mirren. Isn’t she a dame? She’s pretty much royalty in the acting world. She is still doing such awesome work – she has such a long, fruitful, diverse career, which I think is what pretty much all of us dream of and few people actually get to have. So that must mean she’s really intelligent.
YB: What about your favorite BUST boy du jour – Diplo, Rivers Cuomo, or Anthony Bourdain?
AC: I don’t know the first two! Is that embarrassing? Well, because I don’t know the other two, I’ll go with Anthony Bourdain, because I love food, and I love that he explores the variety.
YB: So you’ve said you’re really into crafting, and BUST is really into crafting. Do you have any awesome crafts to share with our readers?
AC: This is actually why I first started reading BUST, when I first went to university and became really involved in this feminist club, and we had a subscription that would come, and we’d drink wine, and pass around a few magazines and talk about what we should be doing at the school. And then one of my best girlfriends from back home also loves magazines, and we would have crafting nights on and off for two years, and we’d bring our own magazines and be like, ‘Oh let’s make these paper birds, or this coffee table!’ Lately I’ve made these kind of altars, almost, out of old school desk drawers that I’ve turned and mounted on the wall. And then I’ve put postcards, or little cactuses in them. So they’re drawers, but they’re now these fun little homes to display my knickknacks in groups.
YB: Last question – it seems like good film should really evoke some sort of dialogue about how it connects to real life. What sort of dialogue do you hope two friends, or a couple, or any people who come to see your film would have after it’s over?
AC: I would hope they would talk about our tendencies to judge, and share their judgments on the character, but also in that realize that you never actually find out what has happened to Renata at all. And hopefully they’ll engage in this idea that you judge strangers around you all the time without really knowing much about them. I’m not expecting to change that pattern, but I hope we can make people a little more aware of that tendency, and that they will leave thinking about the complexities of people they see around them on an everyday basis, or judge themselves a little less harshly.
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