Broadway Goes To...The Champs-Elysées

  • 06, Jun 2016
  • Theatre in Paris exclusives
  • Guest author: Alex Ko

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Caption: Photo of Alex Ko in Billy Elliot by Gai Dagai

American actor and Broadway star Alex Ko takes on the Champs-Elysées Film Festival

The arts have always been in my nature. From the age of five, I got my start in dance and gymnastics in a little state called Iowa, bang in the middle of the United States. From that age, I always knew that I wanted to entertain and work in an environment where people could experience art. This led me to my great big move to New York City at the age of eleven. In 2008 I got the part of “Billy” in Billy Elliot the Musical, the 10 time Tony Award winning (including Best Musical) show. This eye-opening experience in a Broadway show was both liberating and beneficial.

By liberating myself vicariously through the act of performing, and living the life of a professional performer. About three times a week, I would be on stage for a continuous 3 hours, performing in front of 1,443 people. With the power of the beaming lights, the obnoxious applause, and the rush of energy running through my veins the moment I stepped on the stage, I was able to feel something important. A sensation I wanted to keep with me for the rest of my life. As I outgrew the role, as any 15-year old would playing an 11-year old part, I ended up leaving the show in May of 2011. This led me to the publishing of my autobiography with Harper Collins in 2013, Alex Ko: From Iowa to Broadway, My Billy Elliot Story.

Being able to reflect on such a poignant and important time in my life as an adolescent really shaped the way I look at myself and at the world. After one year of the book’s release, it was time for me to go on my next adventure! Just after the summer of 2014, I moved to Paris, France and started pursing a film degree at the American University of Paris. Not only was this a culture shock, but an even more liberating experience of becoming a young adult living on his own in a foreign country. This required me to become dependant on myself, and appropriate myself to the way of life here in France, which included the language!

During my film studies, I decided I wanted to pursue a future in the French film industry. This not only requires the mastering of the French language, but the integration of myself in French society and the comprehension of all the social constructs. With this in mind, I felt it was time to find work that could help further my experience in film, but specifically here in Paris. This then led me to the Champs-Elysées Film Festival, established in 2012 by Sophie Dulac. The festival takes over every cinema on one of the biggest and most renowned avenues in the world. A clear focus on independent cinema in America and France is clearly established. The main intent of the festival is to build a bridge between the American and French cinema. Building the relationship between these two countries and their relationship to film itself.

The opportunity of being able to view such an important idea in cinema is clearly present with opening the entire festival to the public. Yes, we understand that we are not the famed Cannes Film Festival. But we are a festival that is able to portray these two cinematic movements to the general audience, not a carefully selected group of individuals who most likely understand most things about the art of filmmaking.

In recent years, the festival focuses on a particular city in the United States, and exploits its characteristics and the portrayal of that city throughout history in cinema. The fifth version of the Champs Elysées Film Festival will be focusing on the city of Chicago this year, from the 7th to 14th of June.

Working on the pre-production of this festival was not only a great way of looking at how any film festival actually runs, but it was also interesting to peek over the shoulders of industry professionals who were able to teach me specific things that were particular to French cinema.

Moreover, from the time I was five years old, my best mode of expressing myself has been through art. Getting the opportunity to change the world with various forms of entertainment was always in my essence. From my background as a Broadway performer, an author, and now an aspiring film director/writer, I find myself very lucky to be a true American in Paris.