Movies & TV / Columns

Alan McIntyre On Making His Directorial Debut With Stargazer

May 1, 2024 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Stargazer Image Credit: Freestyle Digital Media

The 411 Interview: Alan McIntyre

Image Credit: Alan McIntyre

Alan McIntyre is a cinematographer, producer, and director who has been working in the movie business, according to his imdb page, since at least 2005. McIntyre has been the cinematographer on such movies as The Changeling (2006), Fog Warning, The Awkward Comedy Show, Spirit Cabinet, My First Miracle, Are You Happy Now, and many more. McIntyre’s first feature film as a director is the comedy-drama Stargazer, which hits all digital Video On Demand platforms and DVD starting April 30th, 2024 from Freestyle Digital Media. In this interview, McIntyre talks with this writer about making Stargazer, how he worked as both director and cinematographer on the movie, and more.


Image Credit: Freestyle Digital Media

Bryan Kristopowitz: Why did you want Stargazer to be your first feature film as a director?

Alan McIntyre: When I first read the Stargazer script I immediately connected to the struggle of Grace Campbell, who is trying to bring a forgotten genius’ contributions to light. In a world overflowing with information it can feel impossible to get your ideas into the world. My grandfather was an astrophysicist and my father was a classical architect and artist, so the themes of astronomy and Greek mythology were also close to my heart.

BK: Where was Stargazer made? Did you get to use an actual library?

AM: We shot Stargazer at Rider University, where I had just completed a filmmaking class with the graduating seniors that utilized the school’s fantastic library. The film program was excited to continue that collaboration with a bigger-budget feature, where we were able to use the campus as a backlot with the graduates as crew learning from professional department keys. The Film department faculty, Dr. Shawn Kildea, Dr. Barry Janes, and Dr. Jay Stern were instrumental in producing the film, finding locations across the campus and helping set everything up with the administration during the covid lockdowns.

Image Credit: Freestyle Digital Media

BK: How did you cast Stargazer? How did Anette Gordon-Reed get involved in the movie?

AM: Kate Ginna and Matt Bogart were established in the lead roles when I came onboard, so we had zoom readings with a number of actresses for the Diana role and were blown away by Lei Nico, who brought a sexy charm combined with an undercurrent of vulnerability. I cast a number of the supporting student roles with the Rider actors I had just directed in the class project. Annette Gordon-Reed was a connection from novelist Carol Weston, a great supporter of the project, who reached out to her to explain the importance of Cecilia Payne’s discoveries. We wanted someone with Gordon-Reed’s gravitas who could play a TV personality who holds the lead characters to account.

Image Credit: Freestyle Digital Media

BK: Describe your working relationship with producer and co-writer Rob Ackerman.

AM: Rob Ackerman has been a fantastic collaborator on Stargazer, staying positive and open minded as we wrote and rewrote the script to fit our cast and location, then being open to new ideas and cuts in the edit. We consistently bounced ideas back and forth, leaving nothing off the table, and found our way to a stronger story through unrelenting examination of our footage. I look forward to more productions with him in the future!

BK: How difficult is it to be both director and cinematographer on a movie like Stargazer? How did you create the look of Stargazer?

AM: I love to shoot and direct at the same time as it allows ideas to flow faster, and gives me chances to take risks that another operator might not try. As a cinematographer my primary inspiration comes from the actors’ choices mixed with the dictates of the script, so playing the camera to the actors blocking keeps it simple and engaging. I knew that for this film I wanted to have a camera that moved and kept up with the actors, so I hired my former student, Jordan Tetewsky, to shoot every scene with Stedicam in order to allow the camera to seamlessly keep up with their movements through the library. I had a rotation of students shooting B-camera on an 85mm long lens to pick up coverage that the Stedicam was missing. My mantra was “coverage above all” as I knew there was so much dialogue that I might need to cut for pacing, so I wanted to have options for every scene. I didn’t want to be a cinematographer who directs their first film and shoots only one or two beautiful but uncuttable shots.

To further elevate the look of Stargazer, I hired my favorite colorist, Bradley Greer from Kyotocolor in New Orleans. I had previously worked with him on half a dozen films over the years and his relentless pursuit of possibilities in the visual language astounded me. He worked to give Stargazer a different look for each part of the film – we start in a normal world, then transform the look as we flash back to 1920’s Harvard, then Ancient Greece. Each storyteller’s section gets a bold look to compliment their personality, based on early color photography, two and three strip technicolor.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Stargazer for you as a director? What was the easiest?

AM: After shooting dozens of films and shooting/directing many music videos and shorts, the easiest part of making Stargazer was knowing where to put the camera. I wanted the story to visually build from a “normal” world of school and students into a “magical” world of storytelling and fantasy, so my music video experience helped quite a bit with that.

The hardest part was learning to make the decisions that I don’t normally need to worry about in full as a supporting crew member. Blocking the actors was sometimes tough, as I had one scene with twenty pages of dialogue and “They walk into the room” as the only screen direction. But I learned to work with the actors, ask questions and get their input to help form a collaborative scene structure that fit with the characters’ motivations and worked within the whole story.

BK: How long did it take to make Stargazer, from finishing the script to completing post-production?

AM: We spent about a year and a half from prep to final color correction and sound mix, spending a year editing on and off. It was a great approach as the material needed a long time to settle into place. I was able to edit, then take a few weeks off to teach while producers went through the new cut and gave notes, so when I returned to the material I had some distance for the re-approach. I wanted to edit so that we wouldn’t run out of time with a professional editor and be stuck with whatever we were able to figure out in six or eight weeks. We learned so much in the edit about what was and wasn’t working and were able to do some pick up shoots to improve the audience’s understanding of the story and character motivations.

Image Credit: Freestyle Digital Media

BK: How did you develop the soundtrack for Stargazer?

AM: We struggled to find the right soundtrack at the beginning of the edit, but then Rob Ackerman introduced me to Phoebe Kruetz’s albums and I immediately knew that she was the right sound for Grace’s world. A female singer/songwriter with hilarious acerbic wit, Phoebe added so much personality to the film. We needed another type of score to match Diana’s character, which was provided by Katy Pfaffl, who composed a mysterious mythology-tinged musical soundtrack to match the dancing and 1920’s Harvard storytelling scenes. The Spike Randall macho personality was aided by tracks composed by punk rocker Tony Barber (Buzzcocks) who brought a gutsy bass-infused rock sound to some scenes.

BK: According to your imdb page you’ve worked on over 50 movies as a cinematographer. How did you become a cinematographer?

AM: Looking back at my early high school and college films I realized that I had always been the one holding the camera, it just came naturally to me. When I started working on professional film sets, I quickly saw that the cinematographers who didn’t know how to light held up the production, so I went into the electric department to learn lighting and became a gaffer (chief lighting technician), then started shooting Columbia and NYU grad films before getting hired on features. I trained with some great DP’s including Lisa Rinzler (Menace II Society), Maryse Alberti (Creed) and Oliver Bokelberg (The Station Agent) who taught me how to make lighting look natural and help tell the story.

I always tell my students that the only real metric that matters in the film business is if you get re-hired, so I’m happy to say that many of the directors I have shot for have brought me back on multiple films over the decades, like Jay Stern, who helped produce Stargazer, and Tim McCaan, who hired me on three feature films and pushed me to figure out a way to shoot two camera coverage without compromising on the lighting.

BK: What was it like working with Olivia Wilde on A Vigilante?

AM: A Vigilante was a tough shoot that dealt with abuse and finding a way out of violent homes, but Oliva Wilde’s professionalism made the job easier. She warned us before the shoot that she would be in a dark headspace for her character, but when we got on set she could pull off an amazing performance, then be back to herself between takes. I appreciated that this film was trying to bring some darker elements of our society to light.

BK: What was it like working on the horror movie Haunted Traxxs/Lonely Joe?

AM: This one was a tough shoot, the less said the better. I enjoy shooting horror and noir-thriller films as they give me a chance to play with fun lighting setups and create tension with the visual palette.

BK: What was it like working on the docudrama Roe vs. Wade?

AM: This one was a tough shoot, the less said the better. I thought I was signing on to one type of movie but they switched it up and made the film more propagandistic. I have always loved Jon Voight. He was fantastic to work with.

BK: Any movie making heroes?

AM: I love the films of Stanley Kubrick and Akria Kurosawa, and as I get older I’ve gotten into Yasujirō Ozu. These filmmakers use the camera as an integral part of the storytelling, placing the audience at the optimal angle for every moment. These three filmmakers also represent the full range of lens choice: Kubrick prefers wide lenses with Z-axis movement, Ozu exclusively uses 50mm medium lenses with no camera movement, and Kurosawa prefers telephoto lenses with lateral camera movement.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

AM: I am currently developing a narrative feature, Lockdown, about two high school faculty members trapped during an active shooter event, debating the best way to survive. I am also in post-production with two documentaries; Live Happily, about Baroque harpsichord composer Domenico Scarlatti and Dinerman, a verité film about a diner preservationist in Forest Hills, Queens.

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of Stargazer?

AM: I hope that audiences are encouraged to look deeper into the connections that bind us across time and space and celebrate the oneness of humanity as we struggle to solve our communal existential problems. And I hope they get a little turned on.

BK: Have you ever been deliberately naked in a library? In real life?

AM: Nope. That’s what actors are for.

Image Credit: Freestyle Digital Media


A very special thanks to Alan McIntyre for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

Stargazer will be available on all major digital Video On Demand platforms and DVD starting April 30th, 2024. Buy it on DVD here.

Check out the official Stargazer website here!

Check out the official Stargazer Instagram page here!

Check out my review of Stargazer here!

Check out Alan McIntyre’s official website here, Facebook page here, official Twitter page here, official Instagram page here, and official YouTube page here!

Alan McIntyre headshot courtesy of Alan McIntyre. All other images courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media.