“My life is completely upsidedown,” exclaims Brazillian filmmaker Flavio Alves excitedly, currently in the swells of dozens of phonecalls regarding permits and other pre-production pursuits for his next film, Tom in America. He explains that 1% of his film career starts with, “and the award goes to…” and the other 99%, people don’t see. Alves estimates receiving 500 phone calls and 1000 emails every day. Still, he says he enjoys the entire process of being an independent filmmaker. “Every film sets new challenges and that’s amazing. It
makes me value every victory that I have.”
Alves attributes much of what he has achieved to luck and being in the right place at the right time. Ironically, he was granted political asylum in the United States in 1998 with the help of the Immigrants and Refugee Rights Clinic at NYU’s School of Law. With a political science degree from Columbia and experience working as an assistant to then-NY Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Congressman Anthony Weiner, he decided to return to school to study film production at NYU. Alves found that he could bring into filmmaking more of his personal life and passions that got lost in the world of politics.
“Media is very powerful. I believe in human rights and making a difference through politics. But I can also make a difference by making films.”
He advises aspiring filmmakers to be consistent. “Get a trusted audience expecting certain things from you.” His trademark? Sexual identity and old people.
Alves says he gained so much from growing up with his wisdom-wielding grandparents in Brazil and developed a fear of getting old age only once he left his country. “After I came to America, I found that elderly people were often neglected by society. They are disconnected from their families and marginalized just by being invisible.”
Fighting the feeling that older generations are no longer valued as necessary in society, Alves makes the unique aspects of elderly living a major focus of his films. His next film, Tom in America, an elderly man finds a discarded male doll, which winds up haunting him and seducing him. It is a story of dreams versus reality for a man who dearly loves his wife of 50 years, yet finds himself facing his inner desires.
After chasing his own true passion, Alves founded the New York film production company, Queens Picture LLC. “I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t make films. I do what I like to do.” He expects to work every single day, including his birthday, Christmas, and New Years. But being an independent filmmaker has its perks. Alves carefully selected every single crew and cast member for Tom in America. After many rejections and budget woes, he is ecstatic to have Academy Award Nominees Sally Kirkland and Burt Young (Rocky film series) starring in his film.
In the last 5 years, Alves has directed and produced more than 20 films, including The Secret Friend, which received 24 awards, including Best Short Film at Cleveland International Film Festival, Amsterdam Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, and Savannah Film Festival. Only a few days left to back his Kickstarter campaign for Tom in America! And don’t forget to call your Grandmother, Nonna, VoVo, Babushka, or Abuela today.