Myles Yaksich. Photo Courtesy of Myles Yaksich
Filmmaker Myles Yaksich chatted about writing and directing the film “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 LA with a plan of completing two shorts and a feature-length film. After completing POPPIES in 2018 and ERIN in 2019 (both of which are available on Amazon), I knew it was time to take the plunge and write a feature-length film, which ultimately turned into “Albatross.”
From a production perspective, “Albatross” really came about because of the COVID restrictions enforced during the Global Pandemic. In 2019, my producing partner, Jennie Lew Tugend, and I had been developing another project in LA, but when the pandemic hit that was put on hold. I returned to Canada with my backpack and carry-on – thinking it would be a few weeks – but soon realized it would be a lot longer. Jennie and I talked about strategy, and I suggested a pivot – starting a new project to film in my hometown. This evolved into ALBATROSS.
“Albatross” is really a character piece, a dark, character-driven, drama, which examines the concept of self (identity, ethnicity, and sexual orientation) in the context of society, while illustrating the compromises individuals are willing to make to feel as though they belong.
Two seemingly separate narratives, spanning some 30 years converge at a dinner party between a pair of newly introduced couples in 1959 New England, revealing that the attendees know much more about one another than they first thought.
Tables turn when a progressive biracial couple attends dinner at the imposing home of an unexceptional artist and questionable psychiatrist. By daybreak, they find themselves pawns in a cynical game that exposes the cracks in their facades.
The trailer for “Albatross” may be seen below.
What was your favorite part of the experience making “Albatross”?
The film came together very quickly and, with just a few months from writing the script to production, it was a team effort to elevate the characters and story world. The collaborative process of working with the cast and crew to bring the story to life is incredibly fun and rewarding.
Firstly, working with Ashley Hallihan on casting the film was entirely successful and we attached some of Canada’s finest theatre 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 bring a new life to the characters I had written on the page.
Beyond the cast, I worked closely with each department in pre-production to build the world of “Albatross.” Cinematographer, Dylan Chapgier, and I developed the visual style of the film, which includes everything from story-boarding and finding the frames, 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 Hair and Make-Up designed by Amber Bentley and also fit into the physical environments I created in the production design process. I also entrusted Producer, James Mark to ensure we’d make it through production.
How does it feel to be a filmmaker in the digital age? (now with streaming, technology, and social media being so prevalent)?
There’s a lot of industry conversation about this topic right now. The landscape has changed so much in the last 10 years, and it’s becoming highly fragmented – an explosion in 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 the most eyes possible.
The flip side, is that content is both created and consumed fast – so even though there are a lot of stories being told, they aren’t necessarily being consumed. It would be great to see larger investment in ever-green quality projects that have a life span longer than opening weekend box-office – Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and Everything Everywhere all at once is a great signifier that it’s possible.
I also think, social media plays into current confusion, many think short-form content is a substitute for long-form media, but I disagree. I just think the addition of TikTok and similar platforms expands the pie, rather than eats into it.
What inspires you each day as a filmmaker?
Honestly, after starting a career in finance, I’m inspired each day by the freedom to create and the ability to pivot with what sparks my imagination each day. That being said, my background in finance and business has afforded me the flexibility and also instilled structure and the idea of delivering on my projects.
It’s also very easy to get lost in projects, to do a deep dive and not come up for 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 and aspiring filmmakers?
I’m pretty new to the film 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 others tell you, “No.”
Another important skill to develop pertains to getting feedback in the creative process; learning to distinguish between more objective feedback (logic problems in your story) and subjective feedback (personal preferences over character traits, dynamics), and also evaluate where the feedback is coming from (if you’re writing a romance and the feedback comes from a horror writer – it may not be the most valuable critique).
What does the word success mean to you? (My favorite question)
Success is such a fascinating word, and at the core of a project, I’m currently developing. My personal definition of success revolves around goal achievement.
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 primary takeaways from “Albatross.” Firstly, see the film for the performances – the cast did an incredible job bringing these characters to life, and as an ensemble, it’s fun to see who connects with which character.
This ties into the second point, which is conversation. The willingness to have conversations with those who are not cut from the same cloth is so important, perhaps now more than ever. Everyone has a story and a background that shapes their views, ideals, and comfort levels, and conversation is such a great way to connect with others who have different life experiences.
“Albatross” shows some of the stories that shape who we are and underscores that we aren’t 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.
To learn more about writer and director Myles Yaksich, follow him on Instagram.