Series writer and director Sigal Avin talks about finding an ending, harnessing color and music, and the logistics of directing a fictional director.
[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for “Losing Alice,” including the end.]
While filming the penultimate episode of “Losing Alice,” writer-director Sigal Avin faced a challenge. Not only did the episode have an extended streak that required emotional vulnerability on the part of everyone involved, but also at that point, Avin was a director directing a fictional director.
Buried in an incredibly focused and layered business, Avin had to figure out at the most basic level possible how to differentiate herself from her filmmaker character Alice (Ayelet Zurer). Avin couldn’t even call it “cut!” – it was in Alice’s dialogue, a signal for David (Gal Toren) and Sophie (Lihi Kornowski) to show their frustration.
“We had a code. I was shouting “Chips!” if I really wanted to cut, if it was Sigal who wanted to cut the scene or just yell “Cut” so they know when to explode, ”Avin said. “These scenes were actually a bit confusing. It was crazy, at one point it was me with the headphones looking at the monitor and Ayelet is there with the headphones looking at the monitor.
Finding ways for everyone to focus on and become familiar with the material was something of a necessity in making “Losing Alice” the complex spectacle it has become. Bulk shooting in different locations with limited availability meant that some footage that, ideally, would come after weeks of building a relationship on camera, came early in the process instead.
“We ended up shooting the first week in Alice and David’s room. What we did was try to really trust each other, understand each other and know each other through rehearsals, ”said Avin. “It’s pretty intense because you can find yourself doing the scene from episode 2 in the bedroom and an hour later the breaking scene from episode 7 and then going back to a scene from the episode. 1, all in the bedroom. You have to really understand the tone and energy of exactly where the actors are supposed to be in terms of the story, without really going through it yet.
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In addition to the pre-shoot rehearsals, Avin had lengthy conversations with artists about unboxing the blurry lines between fact and fiction that this show plays so well with. She also had ways of making sure everyone was on the same page literally by going directly to the script’s scene descriptions.
“Ayelet and Lihi, they would like to close their eyes and listen and make me read. I invest a lot in the scene descriptions because it’s also important to me, in my head, ”said Avin. “At the end of episode 7, Alice comes out of the room, she is a little broken and cannot understand if she is crying or laughing. This whole description was written there. One of the people reading the scripts said that no actor can ever do that. But Ayelet succeeded. I think this is one of my most favorite scenes. “
Focusing on the words also went hand in hand with the emotional connection with the tone of a given scene. The swirling emotions of desire, frustration and catharsis – and even fear – meant that focusing on the right combination was coming from the atmosphere on set. When blocking scenes, Avin would often put on music that she felt embodied the right mix for whatever was about to play.
One example where this music really connects to the stage itself is Alice and the Trip to Gaga Dance Class. It becomes a kind of ballet between two characters coming together, moving both as individuals and as part of a strengthening unit. As well as being a relief from some tense shoots elsewhere, it was an opportunity to bring even more of an organic feel to the performances. “Being in the hotel all day, being underground in the garage, even pulling the boat was not easy. There was something about the dance scene that almost felt like a break. This is actually how I wrote “Losing Alice”. I would do Gaga every morning and then go to my desk and write, ”Avin said. “They all really did a one hour class. I have sent Lihi to a few classes before so that she knows where she is going and that she understands it. For Ayelet, it was the first time, just like Alice. So the beautiful process that Alice is going through, and the connection between them, which is so well made, is completely real because they really didn’t know what to expect.
The finale of “Losing Alice” is the culmination of many visual models in the previous episodes. Perhaps the clearest way is the interplay between blue and red that weaves its way through the series. The costume choices, the interior decor, even the ambulance lights as Sophie moves, all show how these two distinct ideas begin to converge.
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“My DP Rotem Yaron and gaffer Ftian Ibrahim are two brilliant partners. There’s been a lot of thinking about it, ”Avin said. “I remember after the second day of filming I called Rotem and said, ‘We’re not going far enough.’ There was this decision to go with a vision and Rotem totally understood. We went all the way without fear with the red and blue, giving each character their own color. Alice is very blue and as the story unfolds she takes on more and more red, Sophie’s red, until everything blurs the two colors at the end.
That red is at its most inevitable in the ending scene of the finale, with Alice back in that familiar train environment. This time, she speaks with the elusive Naomi, the elusive real inspiration of Sophie’s script. For the viewer, there are many ways to absorb this last interaction. Does this guilt of Alice demonstrate a justification for making the film knowing that it would put people in danger? Are these the mid-coma thoughts of a dying Sophie? Or is it another cosmic coincidence in the development of a woman’s life and career?
Avin said that no matter how she conceived of what was really going on in that last train moment, she never approached this scene or any other scene from “Losing Alice” with the intention of creating a sequence. dream or obvious fantasy. (A good example is the white dresses scene which helps kick off the episode before a hard cut in a mirror shows Sophie isn’t actually there.) It was about finding reality in every interaction.
“I think that’s part of his strength. It’s kind of how it all feels like you’re not sure what’s going on. Is this the movie? Is it a dream? Is this the reality? It was all shot as if it was happening, ”Avin said.
If “Losing Alice” gives the public this freedom of interpretation, there were points where the same was true for Avin herself. She and editor-in-chief Yael Hersonski spent most of the year editing the series, much of it in the midst of the pandemic, exposing the intertwined timelines and fictional levels of how they were constructed at the stage of the scenario. These many winding roads lead to a final image of Sophie opening her eyes, leaving the audience wondering what exactly was awakened. It is an initial idea which, for Avin, was inevitable.
“It was always the end, but there were a few different options,” Avin said. “Sophie is in a way the symbol of art or a muse, all those things that I have in my head. I needed her to end like this, to open up.
“Losing Alice” is now available to stream in its entirety on Apple TV +.