Harry Sparks directors 'The Visitor.'

Harry Sparks’ ‘The Visitor’: A Movie For the Outsider in All of Us

It may seem strange to describe a story about aliens, government agents, and UFOs as a “personal journey.”

But for director Harry Sparks, that’s exactly what The Visitor is.

Sparks is a shy, soft-spoken person, with a kindly demeanor far afield from the barking, take-no-prisoners abrasiveness of a Stanley Kubrick or William Friedkin. You won’t find him firing a shotgun next to the ear of an actor to generate a surprised reaction, or driving a performer to madness with 148 takes.

In that sense, he is more like one of his heroes, Steven Spielberg, who is also known for an outwardly amiable, “can’t say no” vibe. “He is a very gentle and kind individual,” Visitor star Anna Claire Clouds said of Sparks in a recent interview.

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But it would be a mistake to think Sparks does not have a firm, committed sense of his directorial vision. “Harry is just so creatively dedicated to the project,” Clouds said when discussing The Visitor. In a shooting schedule of just five days, Sparks managed to capture a compelling, personal story as well as five varied, passionate sex scenes.

The movie, newly released from Elegant Angel, chronicles the love story of Kate (Clouds) and David (Alex Jones), a humanoid alien whose spaceship crashes on Earth. “I’ve always had in mind that this story about an alien that comes to Earth and how humans and how other people would react,” Sparks said in a recent podcast interview. “And that always fascinated me. I was interested in seeing how that will play out in a dramatic kind of way [and] an erotic kind of way.”

Like many of Sparks’ prior works, including Revenge of the Petites and Beauty and the Beast XXX, The Visitor features a protagonist who is a loner and outsider. It’s in this sense that the movie has his strongest personal stamp. “That’s kind of the way I felt often in my life, especially growing up and I think a lot of people can identify, like when they come to a new town or when they come to a new school. [You] feel alone,” Sparks said. A film school graduate, Sparks became intrigued with adult entertainment when he encountered a campus screening of Pirates. “I just found it fascinating that this movie, you know, had special effects and these costumes and these high production values, but it also had the erotic side.”

He soon found himself behind the camera for similarly memorable productions. The Visitor is redolent with references to Sparks’ best-loved films, including the works of Steven Spielberg, from the shooting star at the opening to the awestruck faces at the end. There’s even a sweetly comedic moment that pays homage to the father-and-son dinner table scene in Jaws. Recalled Sparks, “I think back when I was a kid, I was on a trip with my family, and we stopped at a motel. I forgot why I was doing it. But I was looking in the mirror and I saw my dad. And I was making faces and then he he would copy everything that I did. And so that, for some reason, kind of stuck with me.”

The movie’s sexy side calls to mind bawdy 1980s comedies, which Sparks also cites as a major influence. “The biggest influences is the humor, the sense of humor. But also, it’s [that] those movies often explored coming of age and things like peer pressure. And just because that was a time that I guess I grew up on, but also movies like an American Pie that were influenced by those. But it’s mostly about the humor and the feeling, again, of there is always a character in that is coming of age and trying to deal with all the pressures of becoming an adult,” Sparks said.

XBIZ once memorably characterized Sparks as a “man without a niche,” a testament to his ability to combine and even transcend genres.  This task was particularly difficult in The Visitor. “It’s a very emotional movie, but that was one of the big challenges, too, to bring that emotion across,” Sparks said. “But a lot of cases, when you’re making a science fiction film, or you’re asking your performers or actors to look at something that’s not quite there. And it was like, they all got it, they all understood it. And that was one of the things I was concerned with, before shooting is like, are we going to pull this off, I think. There’s always the challenge of getting everything done within a relatively short amount of time.”

The Visitor contains sexual chemistry that would test the ratings limits of even the wildest 1980s sex romp. Sparks cites the love scene between Alex Jones and Anna Claire Clouds as the most artistically satisfying hardcore moment in the feature. “Because it’s more of a sort of a slower, more romantic kind of scene. It starts out that way at least and then it sort of grows in intensity. I was really concerned about that scene before we shot it because it’s a different kind of scene. Now the question is are people are fans going to be into it or not, but I felt it was important because it’s more romantic, and it has to be. The relationship is the core, the soul in the movie.”

In the end, thanks to its personal tone, The Visitor ranks as one of Sparks’ proudest achievements. “All you can do is really is make a movie that you hope that people will like, you make a movie that you’d like, and you hope that there’s at least at least one other person out there that gets it.”

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Harry Sparks image courtesy artist’s X (Twitter) profile