Interview by Johannes Oberman

Alec has his hands in all of it: music, film, photography, and design. He is constantly exploring the boundaries of what perception is and what reality can become. I met Alec a few years back and have continued to be dumbfounded by his view of the world. What makes sense for him is this evolving view of how art intersects with our day-to-day routine. The kid is a talent. is a small sampling of what he has created. The projects that he has in store are beautiful. These images were captured one day, following him around in his element while he was in the creation phase of a music video that he is pulling together. – Johannes Oberman

J: Tell me a little something about how you got started in filmmaking…

A: I’m not really sure how I got started in filmmaking. I could say something like, “I started out by using my family’s 1980s shoulder VHS camera, putting it on a tripod, and pressing the red button while my cousins and brothers and I emulated WCW wrestling in my Grammy’s basement during numerous Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.” And though that’d be true, I think the real answer to the question lies somewhere in the realm of how, early on in life, the aforementioned visual medium became a contagious and practically essential manifestation of my imagination. This is to say, in a sense, that it’s less about how I got started in filmmaking and more about how filmmaking has found and shaped me, and continues to shape me.

Today however, I must admit, that even as I’m continually enraptured by the art form, there’s a part of me that’s constantly trying to run away from it. This is partially due to the wish to explore other mediums, but mostly for fear of the weight of conviction, of the felt responsibility to share some piece of the infinite glory, truth, and beauty my heart experiences every day. This is an inherent responsibility for any person when they acknowledge that these things actually exist. It’s a beautiful burden, but still, at times, somewhat of a nuisance when you are trying to go to sleep at 1:00AM and a fully composed song comes to you in a hypnagogic state, or when all you want to do on a Sunday afternoon is have an organic pumpkin spice latte and mindlessly play Super Nintendo classics and therein you are struck with some sense of the awesomeness of life, this heavy thing they call “inspiration.”

J: What are your creative inspirations?

A: I find the idea of “inspiration” to be really interesting. I’m not sure where exactly our modern concept of it comes from. I can only speculate that it’s been grossly shallowed, like so many things, by our American obsession with making everything basically quantifiable. To me, everything is inspiring. Sure, for any given person there will always be varying degrees to which this, that, or the next thing will be found to be particularly notable or worthy of sharing, but nevertheless, everything that exists appears to me to be connected like one big poem. In other words, I don’t believe that I could ever bring myself to compile some sort of list of isolated things that generally inspire me. I mean sure, I could drop words like “people” and “nature” but that wouldn’t really do anything for anybody.

[Enter] Poetry.

As philosophy is at the base of all academic study, poetry is the foundation of all artistic expression. Any artist who is operating out of honest conviction, no matter their medium, is at once a poet. Even more simply put, the basic idea of a human being existing and having a particular outlook, perspective, or worldview is, in and of itself, poetic. This is why, fundamentally speaking, every person is an “artist,” whether or not they realize it. Speaking more specifically for the “artist by trade” or by “self-acknowledgment” however, I must say, it is utterly essential, if not entirely unavoidable, to sense in some capacity this idea of existence as poetry and our absurd, yet marvelous, role as co-poets amidst it. When found in this disposition, a person has little need to search for specific sources of inspiration since all of life, and all events in the scope of time, beautiful or horrific, become directly or indirectly elucidative of truth in some manner.

This poetic worldview parlays to me personally insofar I spend a lot of time daydreaming. Dreams are my fuel. Not in the shallow sense that I expect every single dream I have to come true, or that every time I have a great thought the resultant “conviction” drives me, as if by force, to get things done. No. As I alluded to above, this struggle is actually something like slavery, or rather a deathly form of self-deception. And when you come to understand this, it easy to see why so many folks see dreamers as simply lost in the clouds*, lotus-eaters dumbed and shackled by sensorial pleasure. Unfortunately, many are. Oftentimes I am. But when I’m in my most optimal state, dreams fuel me properly, not in and of themselves, but rather via the process of dreaming which leaves my mind open to sensing the poetry that already exists, that is spinning wildly all around me every second of every day.

Having said all of this, if I were forced to sum it up in a single word, a technicality, I would say the source of my inspiration is, simply, motion—I suppose that waxes poetic, or at least, pseuodo-poetic in some manner :b (smiley face with tongue sticking out).

*On a separate note, I must say that if every human being spent even a few moments getting lost in the clouds each day, even at the risk of temporary distraction or neglect, I think that the world would be a much more peaceable, loving, and not to mention, inspired place.


J: What do you want to achieve with your stories?

A: Nothing in particular. Or, at least, nothing directly. I despise the idea of a film having a particular message. It’s not that I’m a relativist or that I think life is just one big black hole, completely the opposite. I just believe that any artist with a conviction for beauty, or even just for constants of the human experience, simply ought try to capture these things as is, as they appear in a given moment.  When a filmmaker’s focus is broadened in this sense, and simultaneously narrowed to see every shot as an anecdote in its own right, the “story” in a film largely begins to construct itself, and typically in a manner much more charitable to reality and less perverted by ulterior motives. 

Every piece of art that has stood the test of time has spawned from this: some sequence of ultra-concentrated sensorial experiences, the likes of which will likely appear to many folks on the outside to be “beside the point” or excessive in some manner—whether overly analyzed, overly imagined, overly heartfelt, or plainly hedonistic. This response by onlookers is a necessary part of the process, since, for the artist, the practice of poetically observing the world is the practice of trying to tap into something beyond the mundane world, something transcendent, something that most folks are moving to quickly to see.

Filmmakers, like painters or photographers, have a unique calling to try and gather folks in a room and give them a focused, isolated experience of some piece of reality, particularly one that they may not get to experience, much less even ponder, otherwise. Ultimately though, what we do is no different than what a park ranger or an outdoorsy friend does when they organize a weekend trip to a place where city dwellers, if they are willing, can easily shift gears in their brains from the mathematic and material to the mystic and contemplative—which, ideally, are all parts to the same whole, but, more often than not, get disassociated or practically divorced from one another during the dissonant rhythms of the typical American workweek. Setting people up for this gear shift is all I’m ever trying to “achieve” in anything artistic or even remotely “creative” that I do. Fundamentally, my goal in crafting a film (working countless hours, going down numerous rabbit holes, and literally pulling hair out of my head), is no different than what I hope to achieve this Thanksgiving in knocking people’s socks off with the most cray-awesome gluten-free pumpkin pie ever (made with fresh pumpkin, pure whipping cream, and brandy, of course).

So, all-in-all, in a similar fashion to my response to the first question, it is less about what I can set out in front of me to achieve via a particular story and more about me remaining engaged in a continually growing relationship with reality, and thereafter some set of experiences, naturally, having something to say. And typically, it’s not just one thing, but rather a lot of little things, that when compiled, I hope and pray will create some sort of coherent thought. Oftentimes, I don’t even know quite what these things are until I’m finished with a project, and, even then, if I can put it in a nutshell or write it on a bumper sticker, then I’d have to figure I’d cut myself short in some manner, whether due to lack of patience or some other external pressure I’d let get the best of me. It is this process, this relationship, and the honesty therein, that allows for the creation of art that will continue to be revered and analyzed as long as it physically exists, even if that is only in the distant memory of a single person.

Obviously, every piece of art tells a story whether it’s trying to or not. And whether or not that is a good story is largely determined by the initial disposition of its creator. Now, please do not take me as saying it’s a requirement of good art for the artist to be analytically self-aware of his or her “initial disposition.” Hardly. The cool thing about the creative process is that for it to genuinely arise and flourish in a person seems to necessitate empirical means. In other words, there must be a poetic, or call it “mystic,” experience at the root of why a creator creates what they do. It seems you can’t work your way to the real deal, the stuff that lasts, by pure logic or theory alone (if even such a thing exists).

This opens the door of legitimacy for people to literally be struck with conviction like lightening and inadvertently create masterpieces, even while having very few technical skills. Now, obviously, this doesn’t happen to everyone in such an instantaneous sense, but, regardless, it does happen. And furthermore, even though dependence on the reoccurrence of such a miracle is almost certainly a futile endeavor, the reality of this phenomenon should be taken as an important marker of the “empirically mystic soil” within which all timeless art must be planted. Again, creators are often planted in this soil without even knowing it, and many times even while self-glorification, spite and other artistic vices also continually propagate. If some bit of conviction for some bit of truth is present somewhere, it is possible, for good art to be created by anyone, anywhere, anyplace, anytime, whatever their intention, and regardless of their sins. And that is pretty amazing.

Though I’m obviously a geek for all this analytic exploration as to what constitutes an authentic artistic process, it’s not like I sit down and go through all this ‘ish every time I begin a new project. That wouldn’t be very authentic :). If I did that, I would be leaning on method and math as my saving graces and robbing myself of the wild and wondrous experience of being convicted and led by all sorts of incredible, amazing, and awesomely-ever-changing things—all that infinite glory, truth, and beauty stuff. Interestingly though, even while I understand it’s not every artist’s cup of tea, I still find all this analytical exploration to be equally important to actually making art. I couldn’t imagine making art without a continual meditation on the privilege that it is to even experience inspiration much less to have a mind and body with which to shape that inspiration into something I can call my own.

It’s funny. When I look back at the breadth of my responses to these otherwise simple questions, I suppose at some point, even an analysis of art becomes art in and of itself—hopefully good art in this case :). And what an incredible realization to have—that even wonder about the process of wonder produces more wonder. Herein may lie the ultimate antidote for an artist lacking inspiration (i.e. what they may truly be lacking, or rather, fundamentally disconnected from, is not inspiration, but wonder). If you consider wonder a disposition rather than a given place (inspiration), or a reaction (art), this opens the door to the creative process being something largely in our control, rather than something resolved to origination only in lucid dreams or sudden light bulb moments.

Burt Bacharach once said that, ‘[the songs] eventually stop coming to you’. I admit that sentiments like that have plagued my twenties and early thirties with something of a desperation to soak up as much novel inspiration as possible before it’s gone forever. But as I’ve pondered wonder, its occurring to me that even if things do stop “coming to you” (which thankfully hasn’t been my experience as of yet), then that doesn’t mean you will live the rest of your life uninspired, and that to “write songs” you must do it entirely from systematic theory. When you consider that most things in this world will necessarily appear novel in your first thirty years of life, contingent on the fact that those were the first times you actually witnessed them, what Burt’s quote seems to indicate is not that inspiration dies but rather that there is a changing of the guard, a passing of the baton, at a certain point in life when the “newness” of many things wanes, but also when you’ve also been properly endowed with the tools to excavate your own inspiration (the primary tool being a disposition of wonder). It’s like, you’ve seen great spectacles in museums, but now its your turn to go out and discover more, Indiana Jones.

Returning directly to the question at hand though, my rule of thumb, in chasing the hope that my art will actually achieve something, is that if I am truly operating out of a humble disposition and a honest conviction, then whatever I create from that place, people may not catch on right away but eventually they will get it. Eventually they will see what’s going on on a deeper level, and hopefully in a way unique to them, well beyond what I could have intended or imagined. I operate out of the idea that my art is simply opening doors and windows to a view of reality people don’t see everyday. And with that perspective, you cannot expect that everyone is going to walk through or look out and see what you want them to see. In my experience, it can almost be a confirmation that you have created something of depth if people are reticent to walk through that door, or reach their head out that window. Sure, it could mean that you’ve created total rubbish as well, but I cannot count the number of times somebody has initially had zero reaction or even a negative reaction to something I’ve made, only to years later go out of their way to tell me “I get it” or “I can’t stop listening to it now.” Art is not a one-way street, as much as today’s entertainment has trained us to believe. It is a two-way street, and like the artist must be disposed to wonder to stay fully engaged, so must the onlooker. We are not responsible for people’s reactions, we are only responsible for opening windows and doors to something way beyond ourselves. The rest is up to God.


Interview originally published on
Responses revised and updated November 2018, 2022
Johannes Oberman is a New York based Photographer & Videographer
All photos copyright Johannes Oberman 2015

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