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Nurturing the Auteur Theory: Five Questions with Alex Karpovsky

Alex Karpovsky stars as Ray Ploshansky in the extremely popular HBO show Girls, created by Lena Dunham. He’s worked with Dunham since her breakthrough Tiny Furniture. when speaking to Karpovsky, working with friends clearly means everything to him. His most recent movie project is the Britni West film Tired Moonlight, which won the Jury Prize for Narrative Feature at Slamdance. We spoke to the Newton, Massachusettsraised Karpovsky by phone, where he was in California, working on “a dark and punishing web series about online dating, the blackly comic Sideswiped“. Here’s what he had to say about platforms and the changing landscape of television.

What do you enjoy most about working on independent film?

What I learned is working on small personal projects with my friends. Like, nothing makes me happier, or more enthused, more engaged in a project, than doing something with the people I’d like to hang out with anyway. And also working on projects that are very direct and personal and honest.

What about when you are the one making the film?

I’m doing such no budget or low budget endeavours, so that if it’s not fun, there’s no point. But if I work with friends, the chance of having fun is much greater than bringing together a group of strangers and hoping for the best.

Do you think that the festival circuit is always best?

It’s easier to find your niche audience with more and more digital platforms emerging. Or in the case of Lena, not make another and a whole other door gets open where you suddenly have your own TV show. The Duplass brothers just started their own show called Togetherness, and they’d never made a TV show before and most of their momentum came from films that premiered at film festivals. Same thing can be said about Looking. Those guys started at film festivals with a film called Weekend. And now we’re all sharing the same night.

And they are all comedies?

It’s all comedies, it’s all sort of raw, gritty personal stories tethered to naturalism. It’s all kind of pretty cool stuff, and the fact that I don’t know if it could have existed on any other network other than HBO. Because the amount of trust involved in the case of these young and certainly inexperienced people, HBO gives them a chance. Because certainly it nurtures this auteur theory, where they give these people a lot of room to express their sensibilities. And I think the products speak for themselves to a large degree.

Were you friends with the Coen Brothers?

My role in Inside Lleywn Davis was the only thing I auditioned for in my life. Everything else was through friends or through acquaintances, I didn’t know those guys at all. They’re my favourite filmmakers of all time, so acting in anything of theirs is a fucking honour. I just acted in the new movie of theirs, (Hail, Caesar!). It’s mindblowing to be invited to the set of movies you grew up idolizing, but then to be invited back. Pretty amazing.

The season finale of Girls airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO Canada. Hail, Caesar! is set to open February, 2016.