Recent alum finds unexpected success in Hollywood


Alex Thompson '12 was a little bit frantic on the plane ride back from his senior year study abroad experience of working in film in Prague.
Since DePauw doesn't have the same production culture that the film school Thompson attended in Prague had, he was worried that when he came back, he would lose that community.
Thus, between the Czech Republic and Phoenix, the first draft of Irene and Marie was born.
"I decided to write something that I could pursue immediately," Thompson said. "When I got back to DePauw, I found out that it was much richer than I remembered."
Irene and Marie is a short story about two second-generation Greek women in their late 70s who treat church like a second high school to avoid the realities of growing older.
Thompson said he was inspired by his grandmother.
"My Yiayia (grandmother) has always been a very funny storyteller," Thompson said.
Thompson wrote something he knew about and could continue researching and revising. It's evolved into a project in development in Los Angeles, studded with Academy Award and Tony Award winners.
Last summer, Thompson worked as a casting intern in Los Angeles, and this summer, he returned as a casting assistant, working on film sets. Since he knew that's where film was happening, he wanted to be in that location.
"That is where most films begin," Thompson said. "That's where the money is - it is in Los Angeles. There's really no way around it."
Hollywood became involved with his project after he sent a letter of interest to veteran actresses, prompting Olympia Dukakis, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe winner, to respond. He also contacted a producer after reading a book his boss gave him about producing short films. Eventually, members of the cast and crew started falling into place.
Thompson also had a lot of friends helping him after he had only been living in Los Angeles for about seven months.
"I struck gold with my friends," Thompson said. "They really gave back."
In order for Irene and Marie to pass through the final stages of production, he needs to raise an additional $35,000. He plans to speak to donors this week. Later this month, he will do a read through, a final edit and a shot list. He plans to shoot the film over three days, beginning on Nov. 9.
As someone who is a film writer, having award winners shot on a high-tech camera in New York City for his project is a blessing to Thompson.
If the film succeeds and has a wide audience, it could mean that he gets the type of career he wants, and that people might come to him for jobs.
He has wanted to pursue "the moving image" as a career since he was eight years old. One Thanksgiving, his father gave him a tape camera and told him to make a movie about Osama bin Laden, anthrax and Thanksgiving, which led him to create a "very terrifying" film.
"It was like a crazy crash course," Thompson said.
As several years have passed since then, Thompson has written short fiction pieces, twelve or thirteen short films and one feature film.
"There's nothing as beautiful as theater," Thompson said.
Even so, there are challenges for Thompson, such as money, and feeling like he has to justify people giving money.
He also doesn't like the idea of unproduced scripts. He feels if he waits too long to pursue publication, he'll eventually feel it isn't worthwhile.
"You've got to do shit while you care about it, so that you'll have that ego and blind ambition to follow through," Thompson said.
Thompson said he would not be doing this project now if it hadn't been for DePauw, which gave him the chance to make important alumni connections in Los Angeles and get involved with extracurricular activities.
"DePauw is like a sandbox for me," Thompson said. "DePauw has the funding and the faculty to support any dream you have."
Wayne Glausser, a professor of English, only had Thompson in one class but remembers a certain quality of wit that was pretty unusual in someone that young.
"He was a really lively and quirky presence in class," Glausser said. "I could always tell when Alex was ready to say something."
Glausser isn't surprised that Thompson is involved with a film project.
"I'm impressed," Glausser said. "I really hope this turns into a real career for him."
Michael Sinowitz, an associate professor of English, is also happy for Thompson and not surprised of his accomplishments.
Sinowitz said Thompson is the type of person to pursue things very doggedly - Irene and Marie is a sign of that.
"Alex is a colorful character," Sinowitz said.