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LatinoBuzz: Miami International Film Festival

Interviews
by Juan Caceres
March 6, 2013 5:30 PM
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'THE BOY WHO SMELLS LIKE FISH' (USA) Dir. By ANALEINE CAL Y MAYOR

LatinoBuzz: This is your first film - they say that sometimes you have been waiting your whole life to tell the first one - Was that the case with this story?

Analeine Cal Y Mayor: Not with this story. I had never heard about this disease until 2006 in the first place. I was waiting indeed for a long time to direct my first feature. I felt I was ready and I enjoyed working with actors very much but the story was not waiting in a drawer for years fortunately. I saw the article in the newspaper and I immediately knew I wanted to do a film based on that news. It was a beautiful girl with this terrible disease, Trimethylaminuria, terrible more because of what it causes emotionally and psychologically to the persons not so much the physical part. I wanted to turn this drama into a comedy, otherwise I would do a documentary.

 

LatinoBuzz: Was it always an intention when you were writing the screenplay, that this would be in English?

Analeine Cal Y Mayor: Actually it was not the intention at all. I wrote it in Spanish with another screenwriter (Javier Gullón) thinking it would be shot in Spanish.  But I always imagined a North American neighborhood where Mica, the main character, lives. Partly inspired by Elvis´ Graceland, he lives in a museum house of Mexican kitsch singer Guillermo Garibai but we don´t have those museums in Spain or Mexico.  We started even casting Spanish actors but suddenly it didn´t make sense where they lived.  Somehow it didn’t fit that the actor was saying “joder” and other Spanish slang with this setting. Also the singer was supposedly very famous so I wanted it to be outside Mexico, he was an International singer after all.  Now that I see the film it seems naturally suited for English language and the good news is that nobody that read it after it was translated suspected it was first in Spanish. Then my Canadian producer Niv Fichman told me “ You need to meet this actor, Douglas Smith, he is perfect for 'Mica'”. So I waited for the occasion for several months and finally one evening in Toronto we met after a screening and walking towards him was really like a film , I still remember crossing to the other side of the theater like in slow motion and when I saw him I knew it was going to work. I don´t know who was more nervous but he stepped on my foot. Zöe Kravitz came later. I didn´t write thinking of any actor in particular. I wanted someone that was attractive but that could stand out in other ways.  There´s always in Hollywood like 4 or 5 actresses that I confuse because they don´t really stand out.  She had to have a personality that you believed she fell in love with someone like him, and also a beautiful women that in the story is relaxed about her looks. She is an amazing actress and has something unique that I can´t really put in words. She is just a natural.

LatinoBuzz: You've worked on projects across the globe - has it changed the way you look at art?

Analeine Cal Y Mayor: After making video art in Innbruck, Austria and then getting a grant in almost the opposite city: New Delhi, I changed the way of working and also I try to get rid of clichés about expecting some art based on the artist´s Nationality. I learned to see more, I guess. I write a project back home but then when I get to a place I take my time to observe. I forbid myself to take photographs the first week and after a week I decide how to adapt my project or throw it away and start from scratch. Also after traveling I know that people expect a type of film again depending of your Nationality but that is a prejudice. Some people are going to say my film is not very Mexican or very Latin but that is if they are referring to a cliché of the “Mexicanity”. What does a film needs to have a Mexican flavor? Cactus, drug lords?  Well, I have some mariachi music after all but because my characters live in a house of a Mexican singer.  It ´s all part of the same world.

LatinoBuzz: There's amazing women filmmakers coming out of Latin America that's bringing an excitement and an invigorating voice that's been missing - do you see this continuing to emerge or is there still much needed change needed within the industry?

AnaIeine Cal Y Mayor: I'm optimistic of the emerging women directors. Every year I see a little bit more coming up slowly. In Mexico at least, the industry is still a man´s world. It's funny how some crew members can´t say “Yes, Mam” they say “Yes sir “ all the time! And they do it without thinking. I´m “Sir” in Mexico a lot of times. I admire Claudia Llosa and in Mexico, Paula Markovich, Mariana Chenillo and Patricia Arriaga.

LatinoBuzz: What's next from you?

Analeine Cal Y Mayor: I'm working on a new script that has to happen in an isolated forest, perhaps Sweden or Finland but while that film takes shape I might spend all my savings to do a very, very low budget film. This is one thing that I still enjoy in Mexico: my colleagues make films with 20 million pesos, 2 million or $200,000.

Visit www.analeine.com for more on this great talent!

 

THE MIDNIGHT GAME (USA) Dir. By A.D. CALVO

A. D. Calvo

LatinoBuzz: What was the first horror film that scared the bejeezus out of you and got you hooked?

A.D. Calvo: Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things. Back in '79, shortly after my father died, my mom moved us into an old white house on a hill with an historic New England cemetery in the backyard. My bedroom window overlooked the tiny lot riddled with crooked, broken headstones. I can still remember the name on one of them, Alexander X. Weed, and my morbid fascination with the babies’ graves that had shifted in the ground over the years, revealing dark crevices into the earth around them. We didn't have cable back then, so I'd occasionally catch a scary movie on channel 9 or 11, our local NY affiliates. This film really scared the crap out of me. The thought of the dead rising from their graves kept me awake half the night. I was only 11 at the time, and I'm sure the death of my father -- and that damn cemetery – didn’t help. I checked that film out recently, and it was rather comical, deliberately campy. But man, oh, man, it wasn't back then. Orville was a living corpse who haunted me on many nights.

LatinoBuzz: How do you see your work evolving within the horror genre?

A.D. Calvo: Honestly, I'm not a big fan of violence in film and have consistently focused more on the psychological aspects of horror. In my more recent films, particularly The Midnight Game, I've tried to "amp up" certain graphic elements -- but my style is still a far cry from anything close to gore porn or slasher, which are just not my thing. I love a great ghost story and would love to revisit that world with a more mature approach one day. I think of horror classics like The Shining as benchmarks for what's possible within that realm. It all comes down to finding the right screenplay or writing something that I feel really works. After four films, three of which were skewed more toward young-adult horror, I'm looking to shift into more mature themes.

LatinoBuzz: With the likes of Guillermo Del Toro and Fede Alvarez etc and even a film like, Mama - crossing over to the mainstream, do you see a possible gateway for films to be made starring a Latino cast and marketed successfully to an American Latino audience?

A.D. Calvo: Yes, I do. I've always loved Latin horror films like The Devil's Backboneand The Orphanage, and even cerebral sci-fi like Timecrimes. I like the weird ones too, e.g., Santa SangreThe Last Circus. There's just so many amazing Latino actors and directors, many who haven't been exposed much to US audiences. The Argentine actor, Ricardo Darin, is a personal favorite, but lesser known here in the states, despite the Oscar win for The Secret in their Eyes. He'd be great in an American Latino ghost story! Something gothic like The Others, don't you think? Perhaps a nice mix of foreign Latino names, like Darin, and some better known domestic faces (Oscar Isaac, John Leguizamo, Rosario Dawson -- a few more personal favs). It's fun to think of the possibilities.

LatinoBuzz: You take a trip to a cabin in the middle of the woods straight outta Deliverance with 4 characters from Horror films and there's no cell phone reception -- because, despite all previous warnings, it's still a great idea -- Who are they and who's out in the woods (Dick Cheney is a perfectly acceptable answer)?

A.D. Calvo: I love this question! Here's my dream team: I'd take a Ripley-like character (from Alien)—someone who's capable of kicking ass and protecting the bunch; and I'd throw in a weak male sidekick, to provide a little comic relief—the quirky Shaggy of the bunch. My cabin wouldn't be complete without a wise old man, physically inferior but intellectually a necessity to the group's survival (I'm picturing Michael Caine type wisdom and self assurance here)… Then, lastly, I'd toss in another woman, but a sensitive type—someone who understands that even evil can have a good side. A character like the one Naomi Watts played in The Ring. She'll help offset Ripley's take-no-prisoners attitude, BUT will make the crucial mistake of sparing the lives of a few of our villains, who are none other than a mutant militia controlled by their own evil inbred children. (Militias really scare me. As do evil children.) Not sure what my chances of survival would be, but it would make for an interesting movie!

LatinoBuzz: Where and how do the ideas come to you? And how do you flesh them out?

A.D. Calvo: My creative process can be summed up as follows: left brain, right brain. On the one hand, I think about other films I've responded to and try to create an amalgam, of sorts, from that. Something fresh and new, but that still feels familiar and is producible within a set of constraints. This is the logical, left brain half of the process. On the other hand, I remain open to the infinite possibilities that unfold before us, in a more mystical and romantic way (the "creative tap" we all have access to). I have found this balance serves me well. Being true to my vision, creatively and aesthetically, while listening to, but not being bound by, the business side of things.  In terms of fleshing out ideas, I have a great set of "go to" people whose opinions I really trust. As with any collaborative endeavor, it's important to keep folks involved (and hence excited about the project). Of course, it's also important to separate individual tastes and personal opinions from more important ideas that can make a project better (and not just different). When you hear that a particular thing isn't working, from a couple of trusted sources, you know you have a problem. Likewise if one's suggestion is well received by others on your team then it's probably worth pursuing, despite any hesitation you may have. I believe you can do this without compromising the so-called, "singular vision of the director." I've heard of film directors referred to as "benign dictators" but the key word here is "benign" and not "dictator." Filmmaking is a collaborative medium so you're acting more like a creative CEO, you still have a boardroom of key folks to listen to. It's really just a matter of building the right team and becoming calibrated enough to recognize the things that raise the bar versus the things that don't really matter. That's the core of it, I think. That, and not letting your ego get in the way of that, is key. 

LatinoBuzz: What are the next projects?

A.D Calvo: I just finished another screenplay, my first in 2 years. It's definitely a deviation from horror. It’s a character-driven mystery with a little magical realism thrown in. American Splendor and Ghost World meetThe Lovely Bones. Very different for me. I've also been developing an original time travel concept. Sci-fi is a genre I've always enjoyed and I have a unique idea for a time machine that's fairly well grounded in physics... I have a few other concepts in various stages of development.

Any of these projects could be next, but we'll have to wait and see. Having the wherewithal to push another film through to the end is becoming a greater challenge, psychically, for me. Knowing the pitfalls and what is and isn't possible, given a budget, can become a hindrance of sorts, but it can also make you more discerning and creative—which is a good thing… as long as it doesn't cripple you.

For more on A.D.'s work, check out: www.goodnightfilm.com

 

EENIE MEENIE MINENY MOE (USA) Dir. by JORGE 'JOKES' YANEZ

LatinoBuzz: Tell us about the scene in the 305 -- there's a few collectives down there doing really interesting things.

Jokes: The 305 is my home, and there's nothing like it anywhere in the world, the mix of cultures, styles, personalities and weather is a stew with a flavor all its own. In the last few years the arts has really been gaining momentum and there’s talent that is staying and making stuff here which is great. I love seeing Miami artists I grew up with getting their respect. Miami has made its mark in music, sports and visual art and I'm happy that it’s finally starting to get an identity in film.

Latinobuzz: Where did this idea come from and how long from when you wrote this, did it go into production?

Jokes: The idea was conceived around 2003/2004, I was living in L.A. and directing music videos flying to all these different cities and I noticed how people would tell me I had an accent and style that they couldn't put a finger on. When I would say “Miami” they would say of course, it's obvious. So the first seed of making a feature with characters that were authentically Miami came to mind in the way New York filmmakers tell New York stories and wanting to make a movie that addressed a lot of the attitudes that I thought were prevalent in the 305, especially about hustlers with strong ethics and loyalty that were gaming the system. The final ingredient was meeting a few tow truck drivers and it inspired using that as a thread to tie everything together. In early 2007, J.Bishop, my writing partner and I finished the script and I started looking for financing. In 2009, we created a short film 'Vladimir’s Vodka' that features some of the characters and the aesthetics of “EENIE MEENIE MINEY MOE”. That piece created the momentum we needed and we finally went into production in late 2011.

LatinoBuzz: Who are the filmmakers that inspired the aesthetic of your work?

Jokes: I would say for this film i was really inspired by the work of Brian DePalma, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky and a few little sprinkles of Kubrick, Scorsese and James Cameron. I mean all these guys are like titans in the industry its hard to make a movie and not be influenced by their work. Overall, I’ve been a film buff for years and there’s so many influences that contribute to my aesthetic choices.

 

LatinoBuzz: What does premiering in your home town mean to you?

Jokes: I couldn't imagine it any better way. I made this movie because of growing up in Miami and being able to share it with so many of my friends and family is what its all about.

LatinoBuzz: What are the constraints of making independent films in Miami?

Jokes: The biggest constraint is finding money, Miami is a party town and not too many investors have done anything in the movie business and actually not been burned by it, the second is the weather being outdoors in the summer is hot and wet two things that’ll put a production in slow motion.

 

LatinoBuzz: And what are the benefits?

Jokes: Locations and finding people that are still mesmerized by the allure of the movie biz. In LA it's big business and people are jaded and want their check, here so many people are just so helpful and proud that their block or business is being shown that they bend over backwards to accommodate you.

LatinoBuzz: Name a classic novel you could make into a film, and set it in Miami -- what is it and who is in it?

Jokes: 'The Count of Monte Cristo': I can see that being re-imagined into a Miami setting and I am definitely drawn into the revenge plot. I would love to use Benecio Del Toro, Julio Mechoso and Nestor Carbonell and some fresh new faces. I like discoveries.

 

LatinoBuzz: What's the next Jokes Flick?

Jokes: The next one is titled 'The Local Crew', it's a true to life story about some of the experiences J.Bishop and I had growing up. We just finished the script and are building the team to produce it.

For more on Jokes flick, visit: www.eeniemeeniemineymoe.com

 

 

TONY TANGO (USA) Dir. By MANOLO CELI

 

LatinoBuzz: You wrote the screenplay along with Billy Sommer from an idea Max Maulion and Andres Oliveira came up with.

Manolo Celi: Yep! Billy Sommer was the genius writer. There was a lot of back and forth between us via phone and many many Skype sessions, but the best stuff was written by Billy who is a truly gifted writer. Andres and Maxx had written an initial 1st draft and they created the iconic character of Tony Tango, and what started to be a doctoring of the script, ended up being a complete transplant. Everything changed except for some character names and that there is a dance competition, but even the main characters were re-written completely anew.

LatinoBuzz: How was this presented to you in the first place?

Manolo Celi: Andres and I had worked on some commercial projects previously, and we really hit it off. They gave me that 1st draft, and while I knew the script needed work, I really related to the character of Tony who was a real underdog. I also found both Andres and Maxx to be very talented and driven to get the film done.

LatinoBuzz: How did pitching a story about an overweight tango dancer in ill fitting ballroom outfits to investors go?

Manolo Celi: All of the investments came from Andres and Maxx sources. They dealt with the financing 100%

LatinoBuzz: What about the casting process? These characters where very specific.

Manolo Celi: We were lucky that the two main characters, Tony and Pablo were already being played by Maxx and Andres. And then, we were so fortunate to find tremendous talent like Antoni Corone and Sergia Louise Andersen to complete the picture - not to mention the rest of the cast who were all truly amazing. My main concern was working with the cast to get as genuine performances as possible. While their characters are very absurd and quirky, the audience needed to relate to all of them and sympathize with them.

LatinoBuzz: A lot of care went into the detail in making the film - the costumes, the choreography and the tone of the humor was very specific. How did you go about getting the right team with budget limitations?

Manolo Celi: What can I say about the crew? What great luck!! Many of them, I had already worked with or had known for a very long time. DoP Angel Barroeta is an incredible DP and professional, not to mention a beautiful human being. Tom Criswell is hilarious and somehow made the art department work with barely any resources, Li Millian, the wardrobe stylist created Tony's most memorable clothing, hands down, Jonathan David Kane made the day to day run so smoothly, Alan Ramos found us the absolute best locations we could find within the limits of our budget, Jerry Perez and Christine Lopez not only acted great throughout the movie, but they also donated so much time beforehand choreographing Maxx's dance routines, Obi Reyes did a miraculous job with all of the film's make up needs, Carlos Gomez was superstar Gaffer. Both AD's De la Vega and Rafa Herrera ran the set so smoothly, and they kept the energy alive and the production going. And, on the post side even, it was amazing: Juan Pablo Mantilla, the music producer composed an amazing score, and also produced so many great pieces for the film, and Bob Curreri was an incredible colorist. I mean, really, everyone put in so much time and love into the project for next to no money or for no money whatsoever. I hope to work with every single one of these people again, for the rest of my career.

LatinoBuzz: And how much was specifically your vision?

Manolo Celi: It really was a wonderful collaborative process by everyone involved. Obviously, as director, it is important to have a clear vision, and keep everyone on the same track. Especially in a low budget production like this, there are always situations that crop up that force you to think on your feet and be very receptive to suggestions from your team. I believe a good deal of the film reflects my vision, with compromises due to the resources available and not having final cut of the film, but there are many things that reflect the direction that we had aimed for. 

LatinoBuzz: You guys applied this green initiative to shooting the film in Miami - and here people are, thinking filmmakers are heartless brutes -- where in the process was that decision  made?

Manolo Celi: We all tend to be very environmentally conscious as individuals, but it was Jonathan David Kane who really pushed the green initiative. He was really who got that ball rolling and was very disciplined about it.

LatinoBuzz: What's the next project?

Manolo Celi: I have a short and another feature in the works. The short is musically-themed, and the feature is more indie-action themed. Besides that, I continue directing commercials. 

For all info on Tony Tango click here! www.tonytangothemovie.com

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