The idea is to turn this into a kind of diary. You will see how I “grow” within the Bolivian film industry and, hopefully, beyond. It may provide an interesting insider’s perspective into the art of “selling” a film when you’re self-distributing.
So, this isn’t just about sucking my own dick. I really hope this is of interest.
First up, a rather meaty written interview, which is part of the official presskit. It will appear in truncated form, I’m sure, on a paper or two by this weekend. But here I present it to you in its entirety and exclusively in English. Enjoy.
So… Your bio claims you wrote several screenplays before Nocturnia and discarded them all. Were they not very good?
(Oh. I like how you just throw that question out there so off-the-cuff like that and assume that it won’t offend me in any way. It doesn’t and I admire your balls.)
I actually think that, when it comes to art, you’ve got to be your own worst critic. I’m pretty hard on myself because I really try to put myself in the audience’s shoes when I write. So, I’d better be entertained and surprised. If I don’t like it, how could I expect anyone else to buy it? Having said that, those screenplays you’re talking about – 4 of them actually, are very dear to me. That’s how I learned the craft of screenwriting and Nocturnia wouldn’t exist without them. But, yeah, they sucked and I hope I’m maturing as a writer. Nocturnia, in fact, started life as a completely different movie. I abandoned that 60 pages in. Didn’t work for me. But I kept the title, characters and some other core concepts and started all over again.
This movie has a lot of psychological elements. Is there any reason why you decided to do that? Does psychology interest you?
(This question is actually kind of stupid. Sorry dude, but you use the term “psychological elements” in such hushed tones like this is Kinsey or something… I’m not all that and I did the best to understand and answer your question…)
I don’t know. I think all writers should be psychologists one way or another, because you create characters and you have to get inside their heads to figure out what makes them tick. Personally, I tend to always be more interested in the characters that drive a story and I want to know why people do the things they do. But, as far as Nocturnia is concerned, that script started life as a horror movie, which it really isn’t anymore. The film became something more like a coming-of-age drama with thriller elements. And the best thrillers are psychological thrillers… For me, anyway.
How hard was it to shoot in New York?
It wasn’t. I know we all have this idea that shooting in NY or Paris or London or whatever is … REALLY HARD … But it isn’t and it never was. And now, with the arrival of DV it’s even easier. New York is a great town. Most beautiful city in the world, with a richness of locations that you can use to give character to a movie. It’s a matter of being inventive. If you have a digital camera and you feel like shooting a movie in NY, then just go out there and shoot it. Obviously, if you get into big budget filmmaking you’re talking about City Permits and blocking streets to stage shootouts and car chases… But that has nothing to do with going out guerilla-style to shoot a movie in 28 weekdays. If you’re hungry, you find the way to do it. I figure it’s like that anywhere in the world.
Would you say you’re guided by any particular school of thought when it comes to filmmaking?
(Dude! What is it with you and these questions? Just say: Who are your influences? This is not for The Economist. Calm down!)
Well… [Bolivian filmmaker] Jac Avila is my father. So I’ve lived surrounded by cinema since I was a baby. And that undoubtedly had an impact on my deciding to become a filmmaker myself. Some fathers and sons go to ballgames… For us, it’s the movies. But if you’re talking about creative influences it’s a little harder to pin down because I like all kinds of movies from B-grade fare of the 70s and 80s to the most complex work of, say, Wong Kar Wai.
You know? It’s easy to namedrop a “master” like Fellini or Kurosawa or, even Wong Kar Wai. Everybody likes to do that and sound very “literate.” But I’d rather talk about John Carpenter, who from 1974 to 1988 didn’t make a single bad movie. We could also talk about George A. Romero – master of the socio-political satire. Dario Argento – a visual genius, who’s made some of the most interesting and innovative thrillers of all time. Watch Profondo Rosso again if you don’t believe me. And few filmmakers will name them as influences because they’re known for making “exploitation,” “commercial” (and other supposedly negative adjectives) films. But it is legitimately good filmmaking that set standards for genre film as we know it today. So I have no problem bunching them in as influences together with Cassavettes (my personal hero) or Scorsese. Or Truffaut or Bertolucci. I think they’re just as important as those guys. And someone I like even more than Wong Kar Wai is Takeshi Kitano, he’s made some of the most unique films I’ve ever seen. Anyway, I like film. All of it. But if I had to pick one “school of thought” I’d say American Cinema in the 70s. That was a real revolution and many great talents came out of there. Just so many great films.
So… Back to the movie now. You show the youth of New York balancing their time between going to parties and playing videogames…
First of all, let’s take “New York” out of the equation. Nocturnia doesn’t take place in New York specifically. The youth I’m showing is my own youth. I think anybody who grew up in the 80s and 90s can wax nostalgic about spending a whole day playing Legend of Zelda on their NES because they had to destroy Gannon on that day. Right now, I can tell you about sitting in my room for 4 hours trying to beat that fucked up mission in GTAIV where you rob a bank with Packie and have to face an army of police that chase you into the fucking subway… If anyone’s got any tips, please tell me. (I passed the mission already, thanks for asking) Basically, I’m trying to reflect current and universal youth. It’s loads of fun to go crazy plaing GTA. And, after that, what’s better than going over to your favorite joint and getting a few beers with friends? I doubt many people in my generation would argue that.
Where was the challenge in acting and directing at the same time?
Before deciding to become a filmmaker, I wanted to be an actor. But I have to admit it was a risk to do that my first time at bat, and in a pretty significant role to boot. The key was to find something easy. I really think, from an acting standpoint, I have the easiest part in the film. So I could just focus on directing and almost play myself. But I’ll keep making the effort because I like acting. In fact, it would be cool to have a side career as a character actor.
So… What’s next on your plate?
(What? What am I, Spielberg? I’m lucky to have a plate, let alone something on it… How am I supposed to respond to this?)
Well, Nocturnia is finally coming out so my plate is kind of full still. But I am working on the screenplay for a follow-up. I’ll jump right into that, hopefully, when I’m done with this. This was my training ground and now I want to get seriously into the business of making films and telling the stories I want to tell. Hopefully I can do that, one at a time, over the next few years.
All in all… I’d say this is pretty cute and I come off as. at the very least, someone who knows what he’s talking about.
More to come… Including my ugly mug on TV. Stay tuned.