Monday, July 06, 2009

AFF Filmmaker Follow Up with Doug Lenox

Born on a mattress in his mom's living room, Doug Lenox spent the bulk 
of his youth watching movies and suffering through the yearly failures 
of his beloved sports teams. He found little else that held his interest 
until he discovered juvenile delinquency. However, an incarceration for 
armed robbery at age sixteen quickly ended Doug's burgeoning romance 
with crime. He finished high school and moved on to college, where he 
discovered a love for history, writing, literature, film, and whisky. He 
earned his B.A. in American Studies from UC-Berkeley. 

After graduation, Doug worked as a video store clerk by day, a barista 
by night, and a UPS package loader by overnight. Something about the 
seventy hour work week inspired him to quit his jobs, move to New 
Orleans, and go to film school. At the University of New Orleans, Doug 
wrote, directed, and shot his first film, "Give the Anarchist a 
Cigarette", which screened at the Coney Island Film Festival and the Big 
Muddy Film Festival. He had just begun his second year at the University 
of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. 

Amidst the chaotic aftermath of the storm, Doug was temporarily admitted 
to the graduate film program at NYU. While coping with displacement, he 
wrote the film, "Quincy & Althea". Filled with both joy and sorrow, he 
returned to his former New Orleans home to direct his satirical tale of 
Hurricane Katrina, marriage and survival. 

"Quincy & Althea" has screened at over 40 festivals in 7 countries, 
including the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Palm Springs Festival of 
Short Films, and the Woodstock Film Festival. The film won the Student 
Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival, Best Student 
Narrative at the Fargo Film Festival, Best Short Film at the Memphis 
International Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Nevada City 
Film Festival. 

As a result of his work, Doug was formally admitted as a rare transfer 
student to NYU's graduate film program. Currently, he is in 
pre-production for his thesis film, "Local Tourists". 

He resides in Sunnyside, Queens, but he and his girlfriend talk a lot 
about moving to Los Angeles. 

AFF caught up with Doug and discussed his love/hate relationship with New Orleans and the amusing stories behind his short "Quincy and Althea". 

 Tell me about your film that screened at the festival. 

Doug: “Quincy and Althea” is the story of two 60 year-old, bickering, married 
Hurricane Katrina evacuees, who have just returned to their flood 
ravaged New Orleans home.
Despite the seemingly overwhelming task of 
reconstruction that lies ahead for the couple, the last thing on either 
of their minds is rebuilding. All Quincy and Althea want is a divorce. 

The idea came out of my personal experience of getting “Katrina-ed” with 
my then-girlfriend. I heard all of these valiant and romantic tales of 
couples persevering amidst the chaos caused by the flood. For example, a 
friend of mine proposed to his girlfriend while they were evacuated. She 
said yes! My girlfriend and I, on other hand, argued the entire time. 
We fought about when to evacuate, what route to take, which of our 
belongings to pack into the car, and what to do once it became clear we 
weren’t returning to New Orleans. 

Despite all the conflict, we preserved, and as odd as it sounds, I know 
we couldn’t have done so without each other. Together we survived all 
the stress, uncertainty, and sadness, and were able to move forward with 
our lives. The whole ordeal solidified my belief in one of the central 
paradoxes of the human experience: We are all essentially incompatible 
with each other, and yet we desperately need one another in order to 
survive. Personally, I find this dilemma far more humorous than tragic.

Carol Sutton and Harold Evans filming a scene for "Quincy and Althea"

AFF: You were attending school in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. 
Did you find that making a comedy set in such a devastating location 
helped you deal with your own lost connection to the city? 

Doug: Definitely. Being displaced by the flood made me realize what a strong 
connection I actually had to New Orleans. At the time, my relationship 
with the city was definitely of the love/hate variety. Before the storm, 
I used to joke that my favorite places in New Orleans were the airport 
and the interstate. Mostly, I’d say this sort of thing to piss off the 
diehards, but it also reflected my frustrations with the city. As a 
professional cynic who enjoys finding the flaw in everything, New 
Orleans has plenty of problems to dwell upon. There’s the poverty, a 
terrible economy, brutal weather, political corruption, and the bad 
Mexican food (It’s gotten better, Post-Katrina). 

And yet, in spite of all its warts, there is much to love and admire 
about New Orleans. Only when I was taken from the city against my will 
and forced into exile on a friend’s couch in Brooklyn, did I realize how 
bonded I was to the beautiful mess that is New Orleans. No, my nostalgia 
didn’t arise just because I was sleeping on a couch; my friend’s couch 
was actually pretty comfortable. It was on that suitable couch and away 
from New Orleans that I realized what I loved and missed about the very 
unique city. Of course the rightly famous food and music are a central 
part of its charm, but the city is more than that. What makes New 
Orleans special is the people and their authenticity, irreverence, utter 
lack of self-consciousness, sense of camaraderie, perseverance, and 
ability to find the humor in everything. This is why it seemed perfectly 
natural when I started writing and the absurdist comedy that became 
"Quincy & Althea" came out. 

Originally, I set out to write about the tumultuous way in which my 
girlfriend and I managed our way through the disaster, but it quickly 
became clear that I had a desire to address my feelings about New 
Orleans. I think I felt guilty about always trashing the city, and felt 
the need to apologize. But how do you apologize to a city, least of all 
one that you’re thousands of miles away from? Also, my writing is not 
the least bit sentimental, so a passionate love ballad to the city just 
wouldn’t come out of the pen in my right hand. Eventually, I figured out 
what I wanted to say to New Orleans: 

"Even though I still kind of hate you, you should know that I also love 
you, but I’m probably never going to just come out and say it. Sorry." 

I realized that my particular relationship to New Orleans mirrored 
certain types of relationships between longtime lovers, and that’s what 
led to the final incarnation of Quincy & Althea. I certainly had moments 
where I doubted my writing choices, but the second I set foot back in 
town in order to shoot the film, I knew I had crafted the story that 
best expressed my complicated love for the city of New Orleans. 

AFF: Were there any particular challenges to filming in a post-Katrina New 

Doug: The shoot wasn’t as challenging as one might think. By the time we went 
into production (six months after the flooding), there was enough of a 
functioning city to allow us to operate pretty much like a normal film 

The bathroom situation in the Lower 9th Ward and other extremely 
devastated areas was a bit iffy, but we always managed to find a 
demolition or construction crew who let us use their port-o-potty . 

The city bureaucracy was still in shambles, but they worked with us the 
best they could. When I inquired about getting permits to shoot, they 
told me it would cost $20,000/day to get a permit to shoot in the French 
Quarter. If I wanted to shoot anywhere else, it wouldn’t cost me a dime, 
but they couldn’t provide me with a permit. So, we shot everywhere, but 
the French Quarter. 

The biggest challenge was tracking down people in order to get 
permission to shoot on their properties. Since the city was mostly 
vacant, we could have shot pretty much anywhere without needing 
permission. But that just wouldn’t have felt right to me. Thankfully, we 
somehow managed to get permission from the owner of every location we 

Considering the dire situation facing the returning residents, the 
people of New Orleans were amazingly helpful and supportive of our 
shoot. Local businesses donated free food, water, and tons of snacks 
(Abita even donated beer to the wrap party!). The crew stayed for free 
in people’s houses and apartments. The all-local cast took off from work 
in order to work on the film. I’m still amazed at how great the shoot went. 

Oh, one challenge that I personally faced, was directing with sunburn. I 
got so badly burned on the first day of the shoot, that I spent the rest 
of the production looking like an embarrassed lobster that had just been 
slapped around by Mike Tyson. 

AFF: “Quincy and Althea” showed at over 40 different film festivals. Why 
did you feel that the films presence at festivals was so important? 

Doug: I can’t really answer why the film might be important to festivals or 
their audiences, but I can say that the festival experience was 
invaluable to me. Movies are meant to be seen with an audience, 
especially comedies. As tortuous as it can be for a filmmaker to have to 
watch their own film with an audience, it is ultimately a very rewarding 
experience. It’s fascinating and enriching to see how people respond to 
your work. I also love participating in Q & A sessions so I can hear 
myself talk into a microphone. I like my microphone voice. Love my 
microphone voice. 

AFF: Any favorite memories from your time here in Austin? 

Doug: My favorite memories as programmed by the festival: 

"Shotgun Stories", "The Savages", the Q & A with the writers of "Harold & 
Kumar", and the comedy writer’s panel. 

My favorite non-programmed memories: 

Bribing an usher with a DVD of "Quincy & Althea" so she would let me bring 
in the spicy peanuts I brought from The Mean Eyed Cat (W 5th street bar) into 
the screening of "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead". 

Losing my new Canadian friend at the final night after party at some 
Karaoke bar out in the sticks. At some point after getting a ride to 
the bar with a stranger and his girlfriend who liked flashing her 
breasts at passing cars, we became separated. I went from karaoke room 
to karaoke room in search of my buddy, but couldn’t find him, so I took 
a cab back to my room at the Austin Motel. The next morning, we ran into 
each other at the airport. He told me he had woken that morning on his 
motel room floor with the door wide open, and no memory of the previous 

AFF: What are you working on now? 

Doug: Currently, I’m in pre-production for my thesis film, "Local Tourists." 
I’m also in the midst of developing “Christmas Cards from Prison,” my 
first feature film, as well as a collection of short stories, and a 
feature documentary. Also, I’m looking for a new apartment, a new job, 
and to get back into shape. 

For more on Doug, please visit

Its not too late to enter your film!

Late post-mark deadline: July 3rd

Very late deadline: July 15th

Just one more you reason you should be at the Austin Film Festival & Conference in October...

This year's panel discussions will feature case studies of the writing and script-to-screen production process with the writers and creators for such films and shows as Twilight, "Lost", Valkyrie, Watchmen, The Secret Life of Bees, "Mad Men" and the HBO hit series "Entourage".

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