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LAS CRUCES - “Bad JuJu.” That’s the name of the character created and played by Las Cruces filmmaker Julian Alexander in the digital series by the same name now available on IGTV (instagram TV), YouTube and Facebook and which is designed to be watched on a smart phone.
The first three five-minute episodes of the new series were screened during an April 5 premiere party at Salud! de Mesilla, where the first episode of the series was shot.
Alexander wrote, directed and starred in “Bad JuJu” for Story Island, a London-based production company. A total of 16, five-minute episodes in the series have been filmed so far during about five days of shooting in Las Cruces and Mesilla, he said.
“We’re really excited about the production,” Alexander said at the premiere party. “What’s really cool about the series is the idea that we shot everything with the intention of being watched on your smart phone. We turned our camera sideways and shot in portrait. It was a completely new approach to framing our shots and composing our images.”
Bad JuJu is a rap artist who has been signed to a recording contract for his comedic talents. What he really wants is to be taken seriously as a rapper.
“You’re a comedian, Junior, that’s what you’re getting paid for,” Bad JuJu’s manager tells him. “Do the funny rap, please!”
“I want to make serious music,” JuJu replies. “Why can’t you take me seriously.”
JuJu’s got a record deal, a beautiful girlfriend and “he’s living out your dreams,” according to Aiku Series on Facebook. “However, your dreams are not his reality.”
The series “is a commentary on social media, online dating and Hip-Pop culture (Hip Hop is the new pop,” Alexander said.) “Our characters are archetypes, from mumble rappers and hypebeast to influencers and paparazzi reporters. Fame in the social media age. People are getting famous for nothing, so what happens when someone gets accidentally famous and isn’t allowed to use it the way he’d like. That’s Bad JuJu. He went viral… now what?”
“Bad JuJu” is “a multi-faceted look at digital superficiality,” Alexander said. “Phones have changed our living experience and ability to interact with each other. All the characters in the show are struggling in one way or another, digitally. Whether it’s the lack or abundance of followers or dating. Social media is controlling their lives.”
In addition to Alexander, the main cast of “Bad JuJu” includes Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim, Josh Horton, Terry Troutman, Jessica Jimenez and Nick Check and Per Andreassen.
The creative team is comprised of Executive Producer Emmanuelle Rey-Magnan, Producer Pilar Cartró Benavides, Production Designer Noe Gomez. Cinematographer Jazmin Harvey, music composer MS Kumar, editor Lia Hayes and sound designer Massimiliano Borghesi. Alexander also thanked Las Cruces Film Liaison Jon Foley and the nonprofit Film Las Cruces “for welcoming our production and supporting our shoot,” as well as local businesses.
Alexander and producer Cartró Benavides have been working together since grad school in England – in addition to a BA in digital filmmaking from New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute (CMI), Alexander has an MFA from Leeds Beckett University.
“Once she started working for Story Island and developing shows with them,” Alexander said, “she brought me into the conversation, and that’s when I had the opportunity to pitch ‘Bad JuJu,’ which was based on a tiny series of micro skits I made a few years back. They liked my work and my approach to comedy, and a year and half later it led to this.
“This series is a milestone in my life,” he said. “It’s rare to have a gig where I have this much freedom. This is a dream. The experience Story Island has given me is mind blowing.”
Alexander said his biggest challenge on the project “was probably directing and acting at the same time. We had a bare-bones crew and they were the best of the best, and also close friends of mine along with NMSU students. We were all wearing different hats and had roughly 80 pages of script to shoot.
“A lot of my best work has found its way into the series, and a lot of myself is within the show as well,” Alexander said. This comedic style and aesthetic is one that’s been a through line in my work since I began producing content over a decade ago. This series truly is international,” he said. “We are still mastering our episodes. Between our editing, design and music we’re in conversation with folks based in India, France, England, Italy and beautiful Las Cruces, New Mexico.”
Alexander has written, directed and acted in a number of local films. “Buffalo,” which he wrote and directed, was featured in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner. He also has been an actor, director and writer for local theatre. While attending The Northern Film School in England, Alexander made “Beat Blue,” filmed in Las Cruces and Albuquerque, which is a police drama all in rhyme, and “Leo,” which was shot in England and France and has won multiple festivals around the world. Both films were produced by Benavides. Alexander teaches filmmaking at CMI.
Mike Cook may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.