Meet the Filmmaker: Alexander Carson (Numbers and Friends)

After moving to North America, a European man discovers fantasy baseball. This new love leads him to re-evaluate and re-imagine his place in the world around him. Using a mixture of still and moving photography, Numbers and Friends is an enigmatic short film that brings into question the relationship between sports fandom and cultural identity.

We spoke to director Alexander Carson about his inspiration for the film and his next moves as a filmmaker.

Numbers and Friends screens Saturday, August 16 as part of our closing night celebration Rooftop Shots! Tickets are on sale now!

RTF: Where did the interest in fantasy sports come from? Had you been involved with fantasy sports before, or was it something you looked into specifically for this film?

AC: Before Numbers & Friends, I used to make films with my girlfriend. Then I lost my girlfriend and suddenly had lots of time on my hands. I quickly realized I was spending way too much time reading about hockey and baseball on the internet, partly for the purposes of excelling at fantasy sports. I somehow decided I could justify this behavior by devoting a portion of my sports time to thinking critically about how fandom works to create meaning in people’s lives, and to relfect on this creatively through my next film. That was the genesis of Numbers & Friends.

RTF: The film’s use of still imagery is entrancing, sometimes even haunting. What propelled you to use still imagery in the film? Do you think that still images capture more or something different than the moving image?

AC: I’ve always had a complicated emotional relationship with still photography. There’s definitely something haunting about the way that looking at a photograph connects the present moment of spectatorship with the past, with a moment that’s gone forever. Numbers & Friends is partly a film about nostalgia; its also partly a travel film, so I thought it would be appropriate to capture a significant portion of the story through still images, through a kind of tourist’s gaze. And I like the way that presenting still images for varied lengths of time on screen forces audiences to examine their own viewing practices, and to consider how they’re constructing meaning from very different types of images.

RTF: The narrator of the film states that “between a man and a number can exist no real love”. Can you give some of your own thoughts on this idea? How did this idea lead you to the film’s epiphany-like conclusion?

AC: I’m not particularly successful at fantasy sports, mainly because I constantly play against the numbers in favor of style or personality when selecting players for my fantasy teams. I realize that this doesn’t often earn me victories, but it does make me happier overall if I’m proud of the guys who are representing me. I guess this is a metaphor for thinking about how we make choices in other areas of our lives, in terms of how we define our priorities and our notions of success or accomplishment.

RTF: What’s next for Numbers and Friends? Got anything else in the works?

AC: Numbers & Friends has had a great festival run. We premiered last year in Toronto at TIFF, won the Golden Gate Award for New Visions at San Francisco in May, and have played a handful of amazing venues along the way. I’m currently in production on my first feature film, O, Brazen Age, back in Canada ( I describe it as part coming-of-age story, part art-cinema meditation on photography and souvenirs. I’m very fortunate to have government funding for a lot of my work so my brother jokes that I’m a civil servant filmmaker. Not untrue, in some ways. Just trying to make films that are challenging and different from other films while maintaining a high level of fun. Very proud to be part of Rooftop’s 2014 season, thanks so much for having me!