Synecdoche, New York
If we don't "go to the movies" in any form, our minds wither and sicken.
One of the interesting parts of being on Film Twitter is making friends with filmmakers you would never otherwise meet. I don't have the money to travel to many festivals, so I relish the opportunity to meet likeminded filmmakers who are just starting their career. I recently made the acquaintance of a young director named Alejandro Montoya Marín who recently finished his first feature and got to pick his brain about the experience.
His debut film "Monday" is a laugh riot, a delightfully silly an knowing meta-action movie. It follows Jim (Jamie H. Jung), a sadsack loser on the worst day of his life. He's fired, dumped and kicked out of his apartment, and that's before cartels get involved. The story takes a number of crazy left turn that begin to feel less abrupt as the film progresses. Though just under an hour Monday squeezes a lot of incident and a lot of very funny gags into its fabric. Montoya plainly designed the film to work so that every scene offers some measure of payoff, from the hyperactive and jokey, cartoon-derived sound design to the whiz-bang camera movements. Montoya says the film is inspired by "'Lethal Weapon,' 'After Hours,' 'Army of Darkness,' and Edgar Wright." It's "After Hours" that's perhaps the best entryway into the movie. Though produced by Robert Rodriguez through his "Rebel Without A Crew" TV show, the film has an underlying sweetness that cuts through the pitch-black tone and occasional bouts of ultra-violence, much like Scorsese's nocturnal slapstick odyssey.
"Monday" starts out like an "Office Space" or "Stripes"-style slacker comedy before veering into Rodriguez country, a place marked by gun fights and fluid identity. It isn't until Jim turns to his best friend Paul (Kenneth McGlothin) that the film truly finds itself. Neither Jim nor Paul is equipped to handle the sight of bodies piling up around them as the night wears on; they gather their strength to survive from each other, just barely keeping pace through the horrific ordeal. It's touching watching a couple of screw ups find inner reserves of courage just by being near each other.
Anyone with this many ideas spilling out past its tiny runtime is plainly about to become someone we'll all be talking about on the festival circuit for years to come. I spoke with him about the making of “Monday,” which will be premiering on the El Rey channel on Monday, 10pm ET.
The film obviously harks back to early Rodriguez but there's a few important differences. Your film is about camaraderie on the worst day of a guy's life and how important it is to extend a hand when you think people might need it. Can you talk about how you crafted the relationships here. What was the inspiration for the dynamic between the leads?
Well, friendship is incredibly important to me, and anytime I have needed a hand or to talk to or to unwind, my friends have always been there. Paul is key to Jim, I mean what best friend would accompany you as a whole cartel is after you? Only the best of friends hahaha.
I guess the inspiration is my friends, I have a best friend in every country I've lived in, and it's amazing when you go back after years and it feels like only a week passed by. I was born in Laredo Texas, raised in Merida and Monterrey Mexico and went to film school in Canada.
I think it's shaped my storytelling, my ability to convey story to different cultures, but also know what could work for the majority of the audience. It allows me to write into the scripts several types of comedy, casting a bigger net to get more people laughing. I mean I hope I'm doing that! Also I just wanted to make a fun movie that people can say man that was worth my 12 bucks.
Can you talk just a little about the funding/filmmaking process for those who didn't get a chance to see you on "Rebel Without a Crew"?
The circumstances were insane. Shooting a movie for $7k, with no crew, in 14 days is hard enough as it is. But when you have a camera crew following you, yeah it's even more stressful. We were part of a show called 'Rebel Without a crew" where Robert Rodriguez chose five filmmakers to do their first feature film the same way he made "El Mariachi."
Making your first film with this kind of support is obviously a huge deal but it speaks volumes about the current climate that you're still organizing a grassroots campaign to get the film seen. What direction do you think independent cinema is headed (visa-vis funding, distribution, genre, unconventional screenings)?
It's harder to get your film seen now more than ever. Anyone can make a movie. I think people need to be familiarized with funding and marketing. Making the movie and having it be as good as it can be is only 70% of the job, then comes promoting it, getting it out there.
It's interesting that the kind of movie Rodriguez used to make has basically become the province of direct-to-VOD style movies, while he had to make the leap finally to working with James Cameron when he couldn't get away with doing things the old way. What do you think the future of the Rodriguez school of DIY craft looks like?
I think Robert will always be indie, he made a 7k movie with us as well. He is currently editing it if I'm not mistaken, but you haven't seen the last of old school Rodriguez, and I'm glad he inspires me to keep going and not taking "no" for an answer.
You guys made this pretty run-and-gun, what are some of the funnier stories from the making of the movie?
Oh man, so many, from sharing sandwiches with my friend and co star Kenneth McGlothin, because we didn't have money for food. To having unloaded everything, set it up ready to shoot, and it starts raining. My bag with my lap top getting run over by one of the actors because it was set next to the retire, to cops coming to shut us down, to me yelling at Robert to get out of my shot. Not knowing it was Robert of course, he can beat the crap out of me. I listened to BIG THIEF albums non stop at 5am driving to my house so I wouldn't pass out after filming. It was a tough, fun, stressful experience, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
What's next for the film and what's next for you?
I have several things I wanna do, like a sequel on which we are almost ready to start pre-production. Yes, it will be called “Tuesday,” so original of me! it takes place a couple of hours after this one ends. But I also want to do a horror-comedy-action movie, an all-female vampire movie which we are trying to get off the ground. I'm also trying to make a romantic comedy called "Low/Fi,” a lot of stuff, but we definitely need a tad more than seven grand for these. People can follow me on social media (@fourpoint5films) to see what we're up to.
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