Q&A with Roger Alexander of AlphaMale Visuals.
AF: What was your inspiration to get involved in the film and entertainment industry?
RA: I’ve always had a passion for music and Hip-Hop culture. I actually started out rapping, singing, writing songs, and making beats. In college, I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and I would casually create short films & skits to promote for our fraternity events. We experienced wide success with these videos, and a friend planted the seed in my head about starting a production company and doing this “for real.” At first, I wasn’t sold on it.
After graduating, I knew that I never took rapping seriously but still wanted to work in the culture somehow. So, I chose the safe and guaranteed money and took a corporate job. On the weekends, I began building my production company shooting music videos and commercials. This way, I could still stay in the Hip-Hop community while still paying bills with my day job. I set a 5 year plan to save up money, move to Atlanta, invest in the assets I needed, and start running my production company full time. I accomplished my plan in 4 years. Several awards, plaques, and accolades later, I used my momentum from the music video industry to cross over into feature films!
AF: What were some challenges you initially faced when you started AlphaMale Visuals? How did you manage to overcome those said challenges?
RA: Building a business is always an uphill battle. I faced countless challenges. For one, I was entering in the film industry with no film school and no formal training or mentorship. I had to teach myself everything about the craft, and the business.
Challenges like, learning how to balance my personal life, relationships, and day job, with the progression of building my business. In the early stages, I had to virtually cut myself off from the world and lock myself in my apartment for 6 months studying and practicing. I was so ghost, the people around me thought I had moved to another state.
Internal challenges like self-comparison problems. I didn’t start my journey into film until I was 22 years-old. I was competing against people who started as soon as they could walk. I’d always think about, what if I started sooner, or I would be comparing my current level to my competitors and peers and feeling like I was so far behind. I learned to turn those feelings into motivations and every time I started to feel those feelings, I would go out and shoot and keep myself busy with learning new techniques.
AF: What was your most memorable project? Why?
RA: It’s always hard for me to choose when people ask what my favorite projects are. I have multiple favorites that I love for different reasons, usually because they represented different milestones in my career. The first would be directing the opening performance for the 2020 BET Awards with Lil Baby & 42 Dugg’s song “We Paid”. Growing up watching the BET Awards as a kid on TV, it was a personal goal of mine to make it to the BET Awards somehow. Prior to that, a music video I filmed with Kevin Gates & Yung Bleu called “Ice On My Baby” was the first project I directed that surpassed 100 million views on youtube. The visibility and success of that project opened up a lot of doors for me.
Most recently though, I’d say my favorite project would be filming the Keyshia Cole movie on Lifetime. “Keyshia Cole: This is My Story” is my first film to debut on Lifetime, achieving record numbers of 3 million viewers its opening weekend. Keyshia Cole is a legend who doesn’t just make good music, but her catalog and persona is cemented in our culture. So many people relate and identify with her and I’m honored to be a part of her journey.
AF: Your latest film entitled “Keyshia Cole: This is My Story” recently aired on Lifetime. What was it like working with Keyshia Cole?
RA: I have a lot of respect for someone who can be so vulnerable and hold their wounds open for the world to experience. Most people, myself included, hide their vulnerabilities and insecurities from the public. But from day one, Keyshia has always shared that with the world through her music, TV show, and now her movie. Being that this film is centered on the relationship with her mother, who passed recently, it quickly became apparent that her wounds were still kind of fresh. She wasn’t just acting on camera, she is actively dealing with this trauma in front of our eyes, almost as if it was a form of therapy. When you see Keyshia cry in the movie, those tears were real and unscripted. Those scenes where she is talking one-on-one with her mother, to her, felt like her mother was being channeled through actress Debbie Morgan (who is an incredible actress). She was reliving the flashbacks and difficult conversation in the moment. Working with Keyshia was a surreal experience that I’ll never forget.
AF: Who has been your biggest critic? How did you implement that criticism into your company’s workflow?
RA: I’m always my biggest critic. Not even a few days after I put a project out to the public, I am already scrutinizing it and finding things I feel that I could have done better. Every time I complete a project and it’s out in the public, I write in my digital notebook (Evernote) and page titled “Things I learned from (project name)” In this page, I write down all the mistakes I made during production, pre-production, and post production. I write down the cause of that problem, how it effected the final product, and what I can do next time to fix or prevent that problem all together. Before I go out to the next job after that, I review this list of mistakes and things I have learned, so it is fresh on my mind. Then I make changes to my workflow to ensure I never repeat those mistakes again. This “Things I’ve learned” note is several pages long, almost never ending LOL. I’ve made A LOT of mistakes in my 12 years and will likely continue to make more. But It’s how I learn and grow.
AF: What’s next for AlpaMale Visual?
RA: More movies! My latest movie we just finished shooting is called “Whatever It Takes” starring Tami Roman, Kandi Burruss, Brely Evans and Rayan Lawrence (BMF). It’s a hilarious romantic comedy where I served as the DP and is set to debut later this year. There’s a few more TV shows and movies on the way, but I can’t speak about those yet. Hopefully in our next interview! (thanks for taking the time to speak with me).