Alex Neustaedter Talks ‘Low Tide’ Journey And Love For ‘Good Will Hunting’

Alex Neustaedter in "Low Tide" (Photo: A24)
Low Tide centers on several teenage boys (Keean Johnson, Alex Neustaedter, Daniel Zolghadri) who rob houses from out-of-towners on the Jersey Shore. When Alan’s (Johnson) younger brother Peter (Jaeden Martell) stumbles on a stash of gold coins during one of their excursions, all bets are off when greed and betrayal enter the picture. Alex Neustaedter had my attention several years back after his memorable performance in the Meg Ryan directed feature Ithaca, and in the interview he talked about that experience as well as his time on Low Tide.


Jaeden Martell, Keean Johnson, Alex Neustaedter and Daniel Zolghadri in “Low Tide.” (Photo: A24)

Alex Neustaedter, who starred last year in A-X-L and was a cast member on Colony, plays Red, the malevolent teen who’s the leader of the youths. Once Red starts to question the loyalty of this friends, he attempts to make sure he’s one step ahead of the game, no matter what the cost. Penned and directed by Kevin McMullin, Low Tide is a intricately woven, 84-minute thriller, and the cast all do a superb job (Shea Whigham, as a concerned cop who is trying his best to help the young men, is also part of the talented ensemble). Anyways, here’s the interview:

Low Tide absolutely works as a narrative, but there was a bit of a gamble going with taking on a project by a first time feature filmmaker. Did you know Kevin McMullin had the skills right off the bat?

I kinda did. From the script and the proof of concept that he created for the film. When I met with him, even though it was over Skype, I could just tell how smart he was and how passionate he was about the film and he knew what he was doing. 

But you don’t really know until you get on set with someone and see how they operate a set. He was one of the calmest directors I’ve ever worked with which was very freeing. It really set the tone for the entire shoot. Even though I know that he was dealing with a lot of things, he never revealed it to us.

He was so committed to helping us with our roles but at the same time he wasn’t overbearing. He gave us some space and knew when he needed to come in. He’s just super mature as a director which is really rare from someone’s first film. 

I was impressed at this movie’s subtlety and how it doesn’t spell everything out to the audience Can you talk about the layers behind your character and I’m sure that subtle approach was a big reason this movie appealed to you.

Yeah completely. As an actor, it was amazing because I had come up with a lot of his backstory. Obviously I talked to Kevin about it but I wanted to have something in my own head that solidified the reason for Red’s actions. That was an incredibly fun and creative exercise and it helped me tap into why Red is the way that he is. I’m not going to divulge any specifics but it really helped. Kevin was on top of it for sure and was allowing me to have my own take which was really helpful.

Were the elements ever rough regarding the water and the climate?

It was the middle of summer on the Jersey Shore. I don’t know if you’ve been to the East Coast in the middle of summer but it gets really, really hot and humid. We were shooting a lot of those fight scenes outside the entire time and where we shot, in that little cove, they have these things called black flies which essentially are flies but they’re flesh eating flies. So they’ll just land on you and start gnawing into you. That was the most annoying thing ever – everybody by the second or third day was taping up all their legs. 

Any part of skin exposed, the flies would land on you and eating. I think Jaeden, right after he gets shot, and he’s laying on the ground, I think there’s a fly that was laying on him and he had to sit through it while the fly was gnawing into his skin. So I give him props for that. It was a lot of elements and also the budget was super low. It was guerilla style filmmaking and we couldn’t control a lot of sets we were on so I think ultimately was for the better. Because of the unexpectedness and the way we were shooting, it just made everyone flow together and we were all in it together. There was no other way. So with this film, it kind of helped.

I remember watching your performance in Ithaca and being impressed. I’m just wondering if you learned a ton from that film from Meg Ryan (who directed and co-starred) and Sam Shepard?

Absolutely. That’s so funny that you mentioned that. That movie, really for me, was my first movie that I did was the lead of. For me, that film was a huge growing up experience. I think – it was a coming of age story – but it was also a coming of age in my life. That movie made me really fall in love with filmmaking and being an actor. There are so many unspoken lessons that I learned from working with Meg and Sam and Hamish (Linklater), all of those amazing actors that translates into this.

I remember shooting on this film with all of the amazing and talented actors just how fun it was and it really made me just appreciate how blessed I am to be in this industry. I think it’s more appreciation of the fact that I get to do this as a job and work with these amazing people.

With your experience on Colony, was that also helpful moving forward having a creative inroads to film and television?

Yeah definitely. I know they’re definitely shot in different ways. Schedules are demanding in their own way. Perspective is everything so that fact that I’ve had these experiences already on both sides really gives me an idea of the kind of projects I want to do in the future. I think it’s been really helpful being on both sides.

What motivates you as an actor?

I think for me it’s always changing and that’s why I love it because. I kind of grew up bouncing around and went to a bunch of different schools and played a bunch of different sports. I’ve kind of done a lot of different (things) just to see what I like.

I know that with filmmaking there are endless ways to go about it whether it’s TV or a film and there are different types of characters that I can play. For me it’s just whatever inspires me. If it feels right and I like the people involved, that is what inspires me and that is what I stay true to – how it feels in my gut.


Can you name a favorite movie and what makes it special to you?

That’s a good question. Good Will Hunting – I can’t nail exactly why it triggers me in a certain way but that movie when I first saw it blew me away and I was in tears. It’s movies like that move you in a certain way that I’ve found are the films that I like the most. There is no theme behind that. It depends on the performances and the message behind the film. I really align with that movie for some reason, and I’m not claiming to be a genius or anything like that, but the fact that he has the mentorship and that’s something I’ve dealt with as well. It really stuck close to me when I saw that movie.

Low Tide, co-starring Kristine Froseth and Daniel Zolghadri, is now playing in theaters.

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