Alexandria is a city that celebrates its community through a variety of annual festivals and events, especially when it comes to arts and entertainment. From September’s Alexandria King Street Art Festival to the Scottish Christmas Walk, there’s always something to see and do.
And in just a few weeks, local residents and film fanatics alike will come together for the 13th annual Alexandria Film Festival, honoring independents in the industry by showcasing shorts, documentaries and feature-length films for four days. More than 50 films from around the world will be screened at this year’s event, including several directors, actors and screenwriters from Northern Virginia.
Among them is actress, director and Alexandria-native Casey Wilson, who will return home to screen her new comedic short, Daddio, telling the personal tale of how the loss of her mother affected her and her father in different ways.
Prior to the screening on Saturday, Nov. 9, we chatted with Wilson about the production process, loss and how the city of Alexandria impacted her career. Highlights from our conversation are below.
What are you most looking forward to at the Alexandria Film Festival?
I’m most looking forward to obviously coming back to my hometown and getting to see the film with my dad, and also for his friends to get to see it with him there.
You directed, wrote and starred in Daddio. What was it like balancing all of those roles in one production?
It was fun. Normally I’m just a writer on projects solely or an actor on them solely, so to do all of it was actually so much fun and almost liberating, because you know when you’re a writer and an actor you have very little control, and I could finally be the maniacal control freak I’ve always been while in that director role. But it was great and I had this amazing actor, Michael McKean, from This is Spinal Tap and Better Call Saul, playing my father. He was so generous since it was my first time directing. And I think he really nailed the part of my father.
Talk to me about writing this script and telling this story that is so personal to you.
I actually co-wrote it with my dear friend Laura Kindred, a writer that I met at NYU. We lived together about 14 years ago when my mom passed away, so we were writing about the time of life after my mom died and sort of about how grief takes form about a year after someone dies, not right away. Where, you know, the kind of well-wishers are back to their own lives and grievers are sort of up to their own devices—you’re still deep in grief but everyone else seems to have moved on. For my dad and I, after my mom died he became incredibly manic and I became incredibly depressed and at the time I didn’t think this, but there’s something very comedic in that. Daddio is a comedy about death but I think it’s also heartwarming, which is how people deal with grief in different ways.
Do you think it’s essential that you stepped back and wrote it 14 years after your mom’s passing?
I don’t think I could’ve written it a day earlier. I’ll give you an example: My dad got a perm shortly after it happened, so you need 14 years of distance before you can write about that.
What is it like returning to your hometown?
I’m excited! I come back to Alexandria a lot, probably about three to four times a year, but it’s always fun to come back. I’ve always been a huge supporter of the Alexandria Film Festival, as is my dad, and I love what they’re doing and how they’ve grown it. Alexandria is such a special town and this film festival is a true gem, so I can’t wait to see some of the other films and get to know the filmmakers. My dad is, of course, hosting a reception after my film debuts too, which will be great.
Do you have a favorite place in Old Town?
Oh my gosh, so many. My friends and I used to be obsessed with the Rock It Grill, the karaoke bar on King Street, but really I just love all of Old Town in general, especially during Christmastime. It doesn’t get better than that.
What advice do you have for budding actors in NoVA?
None! No, I’m kidding. Well, Dermot Mulroney did it so that’s what inspired me. He’s from Alexandria. I think anyone can do what they want to do and I think TC Williams was such a great high school for me to go to. My teacher, Flo West, really pushed me to get into drama. And there were so many opportunities just on a local level in Alexandria that really helped me get my start. But I think if anyone wants to try it, just do it. That’s the greatest advice I can give anyone. It’s not an easy business, that’s for sure, but if anyone has any inclination, there’s nothing better than being an artist in my mind.
Other highlights from this year’s festival include the kick-off event on the evening of Friday, Nov. 8, featuring the work of young filmmakers from Northern Virginia Community College. Following the screening, guests will have the chance to meet the students and learn about the inspiration behind each film.
In This Changes Everything—a feature-length documentary that uncovers the misrepresentation of women in the entertainment industry—you’ll see familiar faces such as Meryl Streep, Shonda Rhimes, Cate Blanchett and other Hollywood notables as they share their stories with the world. After the screening, American film director Maria Giese will answer questions from the audience.
For tickets and more information about the upcoming event, click here. // locations vary; $50 per festival pass
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