Interview with Kevin & Leslie Alejandro, Directors of ADULT NIGHT

Kevin and Leslie Alejandro’s Adult Night begins with a marriage in crisis; in a bold attempt to “live colorfully”, a couple’s (Lucifer co-stars Kevin Alejandro and Lesley-Ann Brandt) decision to attend a swinger’s party leads them to locking themselves in a bathroom, struggling to understand how they got to this position in life – and how to get out of it.

In a difficult year where festival owners and those who contribute to them have been forced to adapt to a post-COVID landscape of digital distribution and social-distancing film sets, the playful chamber piece Adult Night has provided an optimistic alternative in this year’s virtual film festivals; recent appearances have included the 2020 editions of the LA Asian Pacific and the San Antonio Film Festivals. Arriving in-between the massive success of Netflix’s Lucifer Season 5 split, fans of the supernatural procedural will discover a whole new side – much like their respective characters – to two of the show’s biggest actors in this charming and tender-hearted blend of domestic interplay and rapid-fire dialogue.

Before the film’s latest presentation at the Hollyshorts Film Festival, I had the chance to talk to the film’s married co-directors, Kevin and Leslie Alejandro, about the creation of Adult Night, how their production company Alejandro Films, has handled the COVID-19 crisis, and the creative methods they’ve employed to advertise the short’s release.

Alex Lines for Film Inquiry: How did Adult Night begin as a new project for the two of you?

Leslie Alejandro: Well, it actually started off as an idea that Kevin had while we were in Vancouver. He was getting the itch to direct again, while he was still filming Lucifer, and they were still shooting out in Vancouver, but he knew that with the amount of time that he was working, he just wanted to make it really simple. Him and Lesley-Ann Brandt had wanted to shoot something together. So, he actually reached out to our buddy Derek Ray and said, “I’d like to have a script that is set in one location with two people, and go.” So, Derek had written this actually a couple of years prior to us actually filming it. Then, as things sometimes go, we didn’t have a chance to actually film it while we were in Vancouver.

So, last summer after Lucifer Season Five went on hiatus, I had already started doing some directing as well. We were like, “You know what, why don’t we do this? I think we can do it over a one day shoot, and let’s do this together.” So, we called up Derek again and he said, “Let’s go ahead and do it,” and that’s kind of, all is history. So that’s where it stemmed from.

Being co-directed by you two, can you walk us through how that collaboration works on set and on a production level?

Kevin Alejandro: As Leslie stated earlier, we’re both already directing our own things individually. So, when it comes to that, you’re expected to have answers to all of the questions, right? Because you have that hat on. So, it was a real opportunity for us to collaborate on what we thought our particular strengths were. I think once we figured that out, we just leaned into that. So, I understood that it, when it came to the lighting and the composing of the shots and those kinds of things, that Leslie was more educated in that field. So, she took on those responsibilities. I think we both understood that, I have history with Lesley-Ann Brandt, first of all, on set, but I feel like my strength is communicating with the actor.

Interview with Kevin & Leslie Alejandro, Directors of ADULT NIGHT
source: Alejandro Films

Leslie Alejandro: He’s incredible with communicating with actors and directing actors, aside from also just his talent in creating stories through his shots, the one thing I knew that I could learn from him is, because by trade, I’ve been a photographer for the last 10 years, and I do mostly talent celebrity portraits.

I direct talent in a different way, that I know that they need to be comfortable in, because they don’t usually know how to pose in front of a still camera, but it’s so different than trying to gather emotion from them, or get them to a place where they need to be in the moment. Watching Kevin be able to do that, and learning from him from that was just, I mean, it was invaluable. It’s not anything that I could learn even. I took a masterclass in one of the top acting teachers, or acting coaches, here in LA and I took her six-week masterclass to actually learn and see how she coaches them, but to actually see Kevin in action and see what they came up with together, it was just priceless.

Kevin Alejandro: We leaned on each other for what we did well, and there were very few moments where we stepped on each other’s toes. One of the things that I love about what we did with Adult Night is that, not only are Leslie and I husband and wife, our production partner is her sister, my sister-in-law, and everyone that we put together, from the actors to the crew, on this particular film, was somebody that was already in our family, and then our family away from our family. They were our friends. Friends and friends of friends, and we all just ran a set that everyone wore a lot of hats and we all relied on each other and had a great time trying to tell the same story.

Leslie Alejandro: And also, even with Lesley-Ann and Kevin, we rehearsed a lot. We did a lot of rehearsals and blocking even prior to going into the space and Lesley-Ann Brandt’s husband, Chris Payne Gilbert, is also not only a great actor, but he’s also a great acting coach. So, they actually really beat out those beats, in really creating the high intensity that needed to be there, and also creating that emotional connection that Kevin and Lesley had to have. It was so collaborative between everybody – Even our DP and our AD are married. It was just a creative family that really just wanted to make something good, and I’m pretty confident, I judge my work a lot and I’m pretty hard on myself, but I’m pretty proud of what we all created together.

You practically answered my next question already, but Leslie, I wanted to touch on your history as a photographer. How do you feel it’s influenced your approach to film directing?

Leslie Alejandro: I think it gave me the confidence to know that I actually knew more than I thought I did. I didn’t think I was going to go into filmmaking just until maybe a few years ago, I wanted to do a photo project, and I had a friend out in Vancouver who convinced me that maybe I should document this project that I was doing. It was a pretty big project that I’m super emotionally attached to. So when I moved back to LA a few years ago, I decided to take directing courses, or do a directing program over at UCLA Extension. As I was taking those classes, I realized that I actually knew more than I thought I knew, like I said. So, really, it’s just given me the confidence to understand what I’m doing in this space.

Also just being part of the industry, at some sort of level, especially learning a lot from Kevin’s experience too, has really taught me a lot about doing it. I mean, the DP that I worked with, I had shot a couple of music videos over the weekend. She told me that she was a little tripped out, the fact that I was a photographer going into directing, where I think a lot of photographers will go into maybe cinematography, but I am, I love storytelling. I did like storytelling even through my images that I would always shoot. So, yeah, no, I think to me it felt like a natural progression.

One thing I noticed when researching Adult Night online is the various ways you guys have marketed, especially on Instagram, where you’ve had the poster reenactment competition, and then you had the “Adult Night Happy Hour”. How do you feel this level of interaction has helped spread the word of the film?

Kevin Alejandro: I personally love human interaction. I love to feel like I’m close to the person that I’m talking to. I think we piggybacked off of that. All of us, the majority of us are that way, and our fans for Lucifer in particular, we’re very close to. We listen to them. We talk to them. We love interacting with them.

We felt like this was a good opportunity for us to extend that same sort of love and hopefully progress in all of our projects that we do, on a real human level, to just let people know that we’re not just doing this for ourselves because we’re vain, or it’s because we do it for ourselves, but we do it for them too. We want them to all feel as involved as possible, and I think it’s been a very, very strong asset to what we’ve created.

Leslie Alejandro: Dani De Jesus, who is my sister and our producing partner at Alejandro Films. She is really, really honed in on trying to create a family outside of our own family, and really, to be completely honest and transparent, right now, Alejandro Films, because of Adult Night, and because of Kevin and Lesley-Ann Brandt, obviously a lot of the fans who follow are fans from Lucifer.

Trying to create viewership outside of Lucifer, and have them follow Alejandro Films is definitely a challenge, but we welcome that challenge, because we are excited for the films coming up, and the projects that we are moving forward with, and for everybody to be able to see it and view it and have the opportunities to see it and view it. It’s definitely worked out in our favor, and we appreciate everybody who wants to be involved in our events.

With Alejandro Films, you’ve had the shorts Smile, Bedtime Story and Adult Night. In the future, do you see yourselves moving towards features at all?

Leslie Alejandro: I’ve been working on a script for the last year, that is going to be a feature. Right now, I’m just in rewrites of it, but hopefully being able to shop it so that I could actually film it and direct it myself. And yes, I mean, features are our forte of what we wanted to do, and also what’s funny is that everything that we have done so far is not quite in the genre, maybe bits and pieces of them, of the direction that we want to go. The three of us, we do love horror elements. We love thrillers and psychological thrillers with a social impact.

Kevin Alejandro: I’m presently looking for my next directorial adventure. The next thing you guys can see from me, I just directed the season premiere of season six for Lucifer, but I’m presently reading scripts. I want my next directorial adventure to be a feature film.

Alex Lines: How has Alejandro Films as a whole been handling the COVID crisis? I assume you must’ve had quite a few projects being paused or moved?

Kevin Alejandro: Yeah, all of the above. Us, just a lot of the people that we’ve talked to personally went through the rollercoaster of what that experience was. It was new. It was, okay, this is the moment where we can just… We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to just be creative, and then have that thought, and then have the rug pulled out, and being like, “Wow, this is something real that we’re going through.”

It was a roller coaster of emotion and, yes, projects got put on pause, but after a while, we did have a moment where we can just sort of focus on ourselves, and on the stories we wanted to tell, which is how, Leslie’s script is incredible. She did allow herself that time to really focus on what she wanted to say in that story. So, we’re just picking back up like the rest of the industry, and luckily the pause button wasn’t a stop button.

Leslie Alejandro: And I feel that also, we’re able to take the opportunity, Alejandro Films is still pretty new. Dani had moved out from Maui after being an educator for over 10 years out in Maui, but prior to that, she did work as head of development for a producer that had deals with Sony and CBS right out of college, when she got out of UCLA. So, she worked almost 10 years with another producer in development, and then decided to save the world a different way in education, and then kind of came back to saying, “Okay, I think I’m ready to come back into production again.”

Interview with Kevin & Leslie Alejandro, Directors of ADULT NIGHT
source: Alejandro Films

When she had moved out here, it was just last August of 2019. So, we’re still pretty new, and we’re able to take the opportunity of this pause, to really dig our heels into developing, and getting our claws into development, for several projects. Now that we’re coming out of it slowly, we’re at a better place to know and be confident that we could actually do things with these projects and they’ll actually go somewhere, as opposed to sometimes it just being an idea and you just throw it in the wind to see what happens, you know?

We’ve been able to take that opportunity because of this pause. It is still going to be a little bit difficult because as everybody knows, the ones that are going into production are usually the ones with the bigger budgets, because permits aren’t going to be allowed without these COVID teams. Without that budget, you can’t pay for the COVID teams. So, it’s going to be a little bit tricky to figure out at what level we’re going to be able to go into production, but we’re pretty confident that we’ll make it work.

Alex Lines: Can you talk about some of the upcoming festivals that people can find Adult Night at?

Kevin Alejandro: Oh, absolutely. We just got accepted into the next two Oscar-qualifying film festivals, HollyShorts and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and that’s happening this weekend, right, babe?

Leslie Alejandro: On Sunday, we’re doing a big event with, actually, another filmmaker. Her name is Arianna Basco, and she has a film called Glimmer, that she had co-written and directed, and stars in actually, and Rosario Dawson is narrating it. So, Rosario was so cool and totally had posted our event. On Sunday, we’re doing a Have Dinner With Us kind of event for the two films, and in Los Angeles, because of the pandemic, I’m Filipino, so my community has been struggling a little bit, especially in the restaurant industry.

So, a lot of Filipino restaurants have been closing down because of COVID. So, we’re trying to bring a little bit of attention, and help our community a little bit. So, our event is called Have Dinner With Us. If people will purchase a ticket to the festival and then show proof of that, and then also buy from their local Filipino restaurant, anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area, you’ll get an invite to the event where we give away prizes. It’s an hour and a half.

Yeah, we’re playing games. We have grand prizes. You can win Zoom calls with both Kevin Alejandro, Dante Basco, and then also Ella Jay Basco. She was the lead little girl in Birds of Prey. So, that Basco family is a powerhouse of actors and creators.

Kevin Alejandro: It’s also sponsored by Madre Mezcal. So, we’ve got some really good strong support for a really great cause, and amazing people attached to it.

Film Inquiry thanks Kevin and Leslie Alejandro for taking the time to talk with us.

Adult Night will be screening at the Hollyshorts Virtual Festival from November 9-15, 2020.

Updates regarding Adult Night’s festival screenings can be found here and any news on upcoming Alejandro Film Productions can be found on their Instagram page.

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