ShoWest Groundbreaking Filmmaker: Alan Ball 


With Warner Independent's "Towelhead," the story of a Lebanese-American girl coping with puberty and older men, Alan Ball returns to some of the themes he explored in 1999's "American Beauty." Ball spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway about the film, his feature directing debut and his first major project since the conclusion of "Six Feet Under."

The Hollywood Reporter: You seemed to abandon the movie business while you were working on "Six Feet Under." Is that true?
Alan Ball: I had actually written two screenplays while doing "Six Feet Under," and I had one I was ready to take out. Then my agent called and said, "I just got this manuscript I think you should read" (Alicia Erian's novel "Towelhead"). I fell in love with it. I optioned it myself and took the script out. Everybody passed. Then we financed it independently and took it to (the Toronto International Film Festival) and sold it to Warner Independent.

THR: Were you surprised it was turned down?
Ball: I was surprised, but there are a lot of things in the movie that people find terrifying.

THR: Were you consciously revisiting "American Beauty" with the older man/ younger girl story line?
Ball: It wasn't conscious. Afterwards, I sat back and went, "OK, obviously there are themes that draw my interest."

THR: This is your debut as a feature director. How was the experience different from directing television?
Ball: Since our budget was so small ($8 million) and we had such a short time to shoot (35 days), it wasn't so different. The downside is it has taken so long. I directed this movie almost two years ago! I'm used to things happening a lot faster.

THR: Do you see the movie differently now that so much time has passed?
Ball: Oh yes. After I finished it, I thought a lot of stuff needed to stay, and now I realize it didn't. I cut almost 10 minutes (out).

THR: Are you still writing movies for others?
Ball: I did a few, but it's not for me. I don't feel comfortable being a writer for hire. If I respond to something, I respond in such a passionate way, it's hard to keep a distance.