BACK IN TIME: An Interview With Dean Alexandrou

Scowering the internet more often than not, it took me a while a few years ago before I actually managed to find actor and stunt performer Dean Alexandrou's fantastic 2010 Doha Tribeca International Film Festival short, Dohard. I loved the action, the pace and smoothness of the cinematography as well as the stunts, and co-star, actress and martial artist Selina Lo was tons of fun to see in her role as the anti-victim of our purse-snatching villain.

It's one of the hundreds of dozens of examples I often discuss when it comes to showcasing the talent that is out there in the world when it comes to martial arts filmmaking and acting, and it made me even more eager with the production of Alexandrou's newest effort with director Daniel Zirilli, Time Rush. It was called Reflex during its production and I actually thought it was a better title, but Time Rush is the name and it's one worth noting in the course of one's own attentiveness to the action community at large.

I discuss that and more in my review of the film which you can check out right now while I continue to hold out for upcoming prospects featuring our cast, and especially Alexandrou. It's not everyday that you get to talk to someone who fought Who Am I? co-star Ron Smoorenburg in a movie, and all with a career spanning up to a dozen acting and stunt credits with some writing and directing credits.

For me, this was worth sharing my platform and having him as an interview subject, and I'm very pleased to share a few words with him. Alexandrou is truly somebody we ought to support and I have all the hope in the world that he will continue to blow minds both in front of, as well as behind the camera. Plus he's pretty damn cool to chat with, and as far as I'm concerned, anybody would be fortunate to collaborate with someone as professional as he is.

Here is my interview this week with the one and only Dean Alexandrou!

Film Combat Syndicate: Thanks for getting back to me Dean! How has the year been for you so far?
Dean Alexandrou: Hot!
FCSyndicate: That's one way to put it lol. I'm no fan of it myself. Apart from the weather though, how is life in Asia treating you? How long have you been a resident?
DA: [laughs] Asia is a big place and I've only been to some of it! Though the bits I have been to have treated me well, so no complaints there. 
I've never been a resident, always just "passing through" - for about 10 years now. 
FCSyndicate: And in those ten years you've amassed yourself a career in stunts and film leading up to your most recently completed venture, Time Rush. What do you draw most from that experiennce?
DA: Over the years I've gained quite a lot of experience doing fights, stunts, chase sequences, and all that screen action stuff for films and TV. That is definitely something I needed to draw on for Time Rush. 
Where I'm quite new is on the production side of things. So for Time Rush I was putting most of my effort into the production, organisation, and off camera stuff, and going on autopilot for the action sometimes.
FCSyndicate: How did you get into doing films and stunts?

DA: Armour Of God was the inspiration - the movie that set a little trigger off in my head that made me think - I want to do that! I had already done a few martial arts classes before then, and my dad was a huge Bruce Lee fan, so I had already been exposed to some of that stuff, but nothing that grabbed my attention the way that Jackie Chan movie did. 
The path from there was fairly random, but always with that goal in mind. "I want to be in Armour Of God". It is still my goal. I want to make a movie like that which will inspire a young Dean somewhere. 
First I started doing TaeKwonDo and gymnastics more seriously. Then I got into martial arts tricks (via Bilang), and parkour (it wasnt "invented" back then, but everyone was doing it anyway), and started hanging out with other performer types, making showreels and auditioning for things. We had a little action team and would go around doing events, sometimes in other countries. 
I did a stunt show for a year in Germany, which was the first time I got to train with professional film stuntmen, rather than acrobats, dancers, and martial arts performers. They taught me a lot of useful skills that still give me an advantage out here in Asia, even now. 
Then I got a few random stunts and small film roles in the UK, which gave me an insight to the film-making aspect, scale, and budget (or lack of) on professional productions. After that I made my way to Hong Kong to see what would happen!
FCSyndicate: And of course, being fond of Jackie Chan, your trajectory with Time Rush landed you a few film credits with Who Am I? villain Ron Smoorenburg who plays opposite you. What was that like for you?
DA: Yeah Ron is great. We've been friends for a while so it was easy to get him involved. 
He has a fantastic attitude - always puts in 110%. Very skilled and talented, and always looking for ways to be creative with choreography, enhance things, and make something memorable. He has excellent timing and great reactions, and is happy to play-part or excel in his own way. Whatever is required. Great guy to work with.
FCSyndicate: What were some of the challenges you faced during the making of this? I notice that much of the opening sequence was sort of guerilla-shot and I can't help but giggle at peoples' reactions toward Ron as he's combing the market  wearing tactical gear looking like Hobbs from the Fast And Furious movies lol. Tell me about filming that sequence.
DA: Oh man some of those shots were so funny to do. 
Ron is on TV here a lot, so some of the people recognise him straight away. Others recognise him, but aren't quite sure where from and suddenly wonder who or where they have seen him before. And then others don't have a clue who he is - they just see a big guy wearing bizarre tactical gear, walking through a quiet market in the middle of nowhere - and those reactions are the funniest. 
That scene is composed of several different locations. 
One is a market right next to the train market, so it was fairly easy to do, and actually it is difficult to edit out shots of people looking into the camera, or taking photos on their phone as they know we are coming. 
Another is a market on the outskirts of Bangkok. The market owner gave us permission, so we just did a few pick-up shots to fill in the rest of sequence... That is where we have the strangest and most confused reactions. Ron stays in character the whole time, so, as he shoulders he way through the crowd there are clearly people who are outraged, then suddenly glance up and either get scared, or see someone famous (depending on whether they recognise him or not). It was funny. The people in the markets were very cool. Really it's only the first reactions that you can use, since everyone is expecting it to happen the next time round - particularly the stall owners. 
I guess it's a bit like shooting a prank show for some of these sequences.
FCSyndicate: How many times did you rehearse that sequence with the train?
DA: None. There are a limited number of train departures on a given day. So we shot the rehearsal, but kept the distance very, very far. Then each subsequent take got closer, and the drivers and police guys trusted us and felt comfortable for us to get closer with the next take. 
Again, the difficult bit was cutting out people photographing us on their phones, since everyone knew what was going to happen.
FCSyndicate: And I reckon somewhere in Bangkok is a little white puppy waiting to get paid for his candid cameo! 
DA: Don't worry, we've been in touch with his agent.
FCSyndicate: Noted, and Film Combat Syndicate will have the exclusive! [laughs]

You did a 2010 action short called Dohard and it featured Selina Lo. Her role here in Time Rush is actually the first film I've seen her in and I enjoyed her performance. How did you two meet prior to this project?
DA: I met her on a music video in the UK. We have actually worked on a number of different projects together, though not always in the same scenes. 
She is a great actress and another wonderful person to work with! On the next project she will have more of a defined character and dramatic role to get her acting chops stuck into.
FCSyndicate: Tell us more about JaiKa Stunts for those of us who aren't familar with this group.
DACheck out their Facebook page. Jaika Stunts is a highly reputable Thai stunt team who work on international action films, television, and TVCs. They do everything from fighting, action choreography, and wires, through to car stunts, rigging, and pre-visualizing entire sequences. They have one of the best gyms in Thailand for stuntmen and actors to train, design, or shoot sequences. 
They were enormously helpful in shooting Time Rush. It wouldn't have been possible without them.
FCSyndicate: Your director, Daniel Zirilli with whom you now share credits for his newest feature, The Asian Connection - He's done action films before, so what was it like to work with him?
DA: Daniel was both excellent, and easy to work with. He brought a lot of experience, getting the best performances from us for the drama, but also with a critical eye for the action sequences too. Having him onboard made the project much more epic, polished, and on a bigger scale than it otherwise would have been. He was invaluable!
FCSyndicate: Can you tell us or possibly clue us in about what you're working on now, if anything?
DA: There are a few projects all in different stages of progress.
Right now I'm working on another action film right now, this time as director, which is probably going to take up most of my time for the next year or so. Then there are two projects that I expect to be working on as an actor, also taking place over the next year, which haven't started yet. 
That will be more than enough to keep me busy for the foreseeable future!
FCSyndicate: Is it at all possible that you and Selina will get to share some more of the screenfighting spotlight as well in the near future?
DA: I would say it's highly probable, but nothing is guaranteed. :D
FCSyndicate: I understand [laughs] Is there anything else you would like to add before we leave off? Any advice for aspiring film professionals looking to follow in Dean Alexandrou's footsteps?
DA: Listen to Jim Carrey - 
"My father could have been a great comedian but he didn't believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. When I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you could fail at what you don't love, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."
FCSyndicate: Duly noted. Dean, thanks SO much for connecting with me in our first interview. I look forward to more discussions after this!
DA: [laughs] Hey man no worries. Thanks for interviewing me!
Time Rush is now available on VoD in the U.S. and on DVD wherever movies are sold.

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