Myles Yaksich talks about writing and directing the movie “Albatross”

Myles Yaksitch. Photo courtesy of Myles Yaksich

Filmmaker Myles Yaksich spoke about writing and directing the movie “Albatross” and the digital age.

What inspired you to write “Albatross”?

After leaving my career in investment banking and private equity in Singapore, I moved to Los Angeles with plans to direct two short films and a feature film. After finishing POPPIES in 2018 and ERIN in 2019 (both available on Amazon), I knew it was time to take the plunge and write a feature film, which eventually turned into “Albatross”.

Production-wise, “Albatross” really came into existence due to the COVID restrictions enforced during the global pandemic. In 2019, my producing partner, Jennie Lew Tugend, and I had developed another project in Los Angeles, but when the pandemic hit, it was put on hold. I returned to Canada with my backpack and hand luggage – thinking it would be a few weeks – but soon realized it would be much longer. Jennie and I talked about strategy, and I suggested a pivot – starting a new filming project in my hometown. This evolved into ALBATROS.

“Albatross” is truly a character piece, a dark, character-driven drama that examines self-concept (identity, ethnicity, and sexual orientation) within the context of society, while illustrating the compromises that individuals are willing to do to feel like they belong.

Two seemingly separate tales, spanning some 30 years, converge at a dinner party between two newly introduced couples in 1959 New England, revealing that the attendees know far more about each other than they didn’t think so at first.

The tables turn when a progressive biracial couple attend a dinner party at the stately home of an unexceptional artist and a dodgy psychiatrist. At daybreak, they find themselves pawns in a cynical game that exposes the cracks in their facades.

The trailer for “Albatross” can be seen below.

What was your favorite part of the “Albatross” creation experience?

The film moved very quickly, and with just months from script writing to production, it was a team effort to elevate the characters and the story world. The collaborative process of working with cast and crew to bring the story to life is incredibly fun and rewarding.

First of all, working with Ashley Hallihan on the casting of the film was a great success and we brought in some of Canada’s top theater actors including Sarah Orenstein, Romaine Waite, David Keeley, Katherine Gauthier, Jill Frappier, David Huband , Thom Nyhuus, Daniel Krmpotic, Mikaela Bisson and Jonathon LeRose. The cast worked tirelessly to breathe new life into the characters I had written on the page.

Beyond the casting, I worked closely with each department in pre-production to build the world of “Albatross”. Cinematographer Dylan Chapgier and I developed the film’s visual style, which includes everything from storyboarding to framing, lighting style and blocking.

Costume designer, Christopher Puanil, and I developed the visual style for each of the characters and made sure they would work well with the hairstyles and makeup designed by Amber Bentley and would also fit into the physical environments that I created during the production design process. I also entrusted the producer, James Mark, with the task of making sure that we went through with the production.

What is it like to be a filmmaker in the digital age? (now that streaming, technology and social media are so prevalent)?

There’s a lot of discussion in the industry on this topic right now. The landscape has changed so much over the past 10 years, and it’s becoming very fragmented – an explosion of content creation and format, and audience expectations – which is great for opportunities.

Teaming up with FreeStyle Digital Media has been a smooth and seamless process, and will put “Albatross” in front of as many eyes as possible.

The flip side is that content is both created and consumed quickly. So while there are a lot of stories being told, they aren’t necessarily consumed. It would be great to see greater investment in evergreen quality projects that have a lifespan longer than the weekend box office opener – Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis and Everything Everywhere all rolled into one is a great sign that it is possible.

I also think social media is playing into the current confusion, many think short form content is a substitute for long form media, but I disagree. I just think adding TikTok and similar platforms expands the pie, rather than eating it.

What inspires you every day as a filmmaker?

Honestly, after starting a career in finance, I’m inspired every day by the freedom to create and the ability to pivot with what sparks my imagination every day. That being said, my background in finance and business gave me the flexibility and also instilled in me a structure and the idea to carry out my projects.

It’s also very easy to get lost in projects, deep diving and not getting air, so I try to structure my routine to include a walk and a trip to the gym each day.

What is your advice for young aspiring filmmakers?

I’m fairly new to the cinematic game, still learning and navigating the industry. One thing I try to encourage in my students at Toronto Film School and UCLA Extension is that when it comes to creativity, don’t let other people tell you “no”.

Another important skill to develop is getting feedback in the creative process; learn to distinguish between more objective comments (problems with logic in your story) and subjective comments (personal preferences on character traits, dynamics), and also assess where comments are coming from (if you’re writing a romance and that the comments are from a horror writer – maybe not the most valuable review).

What does the word success mean to you? (My favorite question)

Success is such a fascinating word, and at the heart of a project, I am developing it. My personal definition of success revolves around achieving goals.

What would you like to tell our readers about “Albatross”? What’s the one thing you want them to get out of it?

There are two main takeaways from “Albatross”. First, watch the film for the performances – the actors did an incredible job of bringing these characters to life, and as a whole it’s fun to see who connects with which character.

This goes to the second point, which is the conversation. The willingness to have conversations with those who are not cut from the same cloth is so important, perhaps more than ever. Everyone has a history and background that shapes their opinions, ideals, and comfort level, and conversation is a great way to connect with others who have different life experiences.

“Albatross” shows some of the stories that shape who we are and highlights that we are not always what we appear on the surface. Our feelings about each of the characters change throughout the film as we peel back the layers of their individual stories.

For more from writer and director Myles Yaksich, follow him on Instagram.

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