Q&A With The Alchemist Cookbook Director Joel Potrykus [Cinetopia Film Festival]

In Interviews, Movies by Bub Smith0 Comments

Cinetopia International Film Festival is happening right now! Seriously, we are waist deep into it and I couldn’t be happier. Cinetopia offers up some damn cool movies and not just your standard festival flicks. Films that you might not see everyday, but damn well should check out. One of the films that I was eager to check out was Joel Potrykus’s The Alchemist Cookbook. Potrykus is a Michigan film maker who makes movies only Potrykus can and you know your getting a truly unique movie (Full review of the film will be up later today). Potrykus was at the Cinetopia screening of Alchemist Cookbook to present the film and even did a Q&A after. Completely candid and a funny guy, Joel Potrykus talks about distributors, Doritos and casting The Alchemist Cookbook. Check it out below and if you live in the Metro Detroit Area be sure to check this one out. Dates and times at http://www.cinetopiafestival.org/

Potrykus on how he came to work with Oscilloscope Films…

Oscilloscope Films, they are a distribution company from New York, founded by Beastie Boy’s MCA (Rest In Peace). They have always been by favorite distributor and I always bugged them every time I made a movie, I just sent it them. They were always like,” Alright, Joel… We remember you from the last time you sent us movie…”  But, I sent them a movie 2 years ago called ‘Buzzard’ and they were like,”Yeah, this is awesome. It fits right in our catalogue.”

So when it came time to make ‘ Alchemist Cookbook’ I just threw it out there and was like “It’s time to make another movie. Are you guys interested?” And they put up the entire budget for it. They are distributing it, they own it, their awesome. They get it.

Potrykus on Ocsilloscope giving notes about the film…

They had comments, but I had full control. [Ocsilloscope] trust me. They get me. They are going to be releasing the movie theatrically in the fall… so it’s important for you guys to go on Facebook and check it out and tell people what you saw! Ocsilloscope right now is like,”What is this movie!?!” It’s not a horror movie. It’s not a comedy.” They don’t know what to call it quit yet, so they are waiting to see what people who have seen it have to say about it. They are waiting to see what audience it connects with. I’m not even sure what audience it is for.

How he found the actors for The Alchemist Cookbook…

That was the hardest thing; Finding actors who understand the content and I could trust to do something. I did not know those actors ahead of time. Their both from New York. The lead actor, whose name is Ty Hickson, He was a film a couple of years ago called “Give Me the Loot”. We sent the script to, maybe, 10 different actors. Most of all of them were like,”I don’t get this… What is this I just read?” and that’s fine. I totally get when people don’t get what this is, but Ty had an advantage right off the bat. When we sent it to him his reaction was,”I got to sit with this for a couple of days.” That’s what I wanted to hear. I don’t want to hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ right away.

The other actor, Amari Cheatom, he’s another New York guy. He was in Django Unchained. A non-speaking role, but if I say that it makes my movie sound super cool. Me and Tarantino both worked with Amari Cheatom!

Where the idea for The Alchemist Cookbook came from…

That’s always the hardest question. It started off the weirdest way. The actual origins of the script I’ve never told. I don’t think these guys [The crew] even know. My ideas start somewhere and always end up somewhere totally different. The actual “seed” is Me and my lovely producer were driving in a car in Grand Rapids and we saw someone we knew or thought we knew…  He looked like he was zoning out and we drove next to him for a while and he wasn’t looking at us. We rolled down the window and said he’s name and he slowly turned and stared at us. It was him and he just turn and walked into this house he happened to be in front of. For whatever reason, the movie was going to be about a doppelgänger because we just saw a real lifer Doppelganger. Or maybe he was just on some heavy medication. This movie was going to be about a doppelgänger. However it happens the movie took a life of its own…

Why Potrykus uses Doritos in his movies…

Doritos need to be in more movies. If I ever get tapped by Hollywood to make a James Bond movie it’s just going to be James Bond, no car chases, no shoot outs. It’s just going to be him like “I’m fucking hungry right now. We got any Doritos?” It’s just gonna be that. It will be the best James Bond movie.

Potrykus explains the pacing and tone of The Alchemist Cookbook…

I definitely want to challenge the audience. I don’t want to give them  something to entertain them too much. I kind of want you guys to sit there for a while and live with the character. Not have this cut, cut, cut. I kind of want to do something different and that’s the beauty of independent film. We don’t have anyone sitting over our shoulders say, “We got to speed this along.” I want you sit with the character a bit. That’s the best way to understand someone. Just to sit there in a room with them. The pace is very deliberate. It’s not for some people and I totally get that.

On casting and writing African-Americans…

What this is me trying to do something complete opposite to what I normally do. To what people associate me to do, which is angry, white guys in some kind of urban city and I was like “Let’s do something completely opposite. Let’s take it out in the woods.” For me when you first tell somebody the movie is about an alchemist, they picture an old wizard with a long white beard. And I was like, let’s just go the opposite of that. That’s what Ty [Hickson] was so excited about. He said, “As a black actor I never get opportunities to play these kinds of roles.” We definitely wanted to do something different and give different perspective on black culture. I am not black, obviously, so when I gave this script to the two actors I said, ” I wrote this and it’s not my world. So you guys make this your own and feel free to do what you want with it. It was really important for me to make this movie that breaks clichés and different kinds of genres.