Fantastic Fest 2019 Interview – AMIGO director Óscar Martin

“AMIGO is a thriller that combines drama with black comedy and even horror. As in real life, in AMIGO there are tragic, pathetic and funny moments. Javi and David are two  inseparable friends, more than friends they are like an old marriage; it’s a movie of two characters isolated in one location, in the tradition of MISERY, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, MISERY, SLEUTH or AMOUR. In today’s society we tend to exclude children, women, invalids. They are socially excluded groups, so they can be transformed into monsters.” Director Óscar Martin on AMIGO which screens at the 2019 edition of Fantastic Fest. 

Congratulations on your film playing in at Fantastic Fest this year! Is your first time at FF and are you planning to attend your screenings?

We are delighted to be able to present the film at the coolest festival in the USA. Austin is one of our favorite places on the planet, we were in this wonderful city a few years ago and have kept many friends since then. We like Austin, everything is weird, it is a city with a great artistic atmosphere . We can smell in the air big love for music and movies. And the people are spectacular. It is a dream to present our little work in this great festival.

So how did you get into this movie-making business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I have been in the audiovisual world for 20 years, working in different departments, as a filmmaker, camera, editor; I can say that I have gone through all the roles. After many experiences in the field of advertising, TV series and music videos, we decided to make our first feature film.

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

We had a long time to make a feature length with Javi Botet, after making the short BONSAI several years ago. We make a beautiful friendship and collaborate on several projects. Last year, talking about a future project with him, he told me about an idea he had about two friends, one of them paralyzed, and his sickly relationship full of tragicomic situations. A movie of two characters locked up; talking to my partner, the producer Elena Muñoz, we decided the project was feasible and we start the production of the movie. I think in David Pareja, because he is a friend of Javier in real life and both made a comedian tandem very popular in Spain. They made numerous internet short films. The three of us began to develop the idea, enriching the situations with personal anecdotes that had happened to themselves. Javi is the thinking head of the original idea, David dedicated himself to polishing the dialogues and I was in charge of the structure and the through-line of the script.

The rehearsal process was extremely fun. These guys are geniuses, a torrent of creativity, he kept laughing with them in situations that in theory do not even make a hint of grace. It was clear that they “are” the characters they were going to play. 

The toughest moment was the filming phase, we had very little time and the pretense of doing something with a good bill. Minimum team but with big names, such as Montse and David from DDT, who are Oscar winners. All willing to adapt to the budget. We shot in a house isolated from civilization, without coverage, without internet; I did not know what this would mean in the millennial members of the team, who practically went crazy. We started with great force and enthusiasm, but as they go on the days and effort are making a dent, disputes begin to arise between team members. The riots, the hosts. I remember a critical moment when I was separating Javi and David, who were literally slapping each other.

The actors and the management and production team slept in the same house that was the shooting set. I had read that some director had done it and had worked for the immersion of the actors in the characters. I must admit that it works too well. Reality and filming intermingled as the days progressed. I remember waking up in the middle of the night because Javi called me with the bell. He went and told me that it hurt such a thing. I lay with him to warm him. The relationship between Javi and David exploded in many moments, one day they were killing each other and the other they were so calm, as if nothing had happened. In the middle of a scene, our production manager Pedro Toro uttered a phrase that would become the logline of the film. “This is like the French movie UNTOUCHABLE but with sons of deputa” It is often said that filming is the best way to make friends;  I would say that filming is the best way to lose friends. It is true that at the end of the process we can no longer be considered friends, we are family. 

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

What moves me the most is movie passion, no doubt. I love cinema, and I have enough respect for this medium to give everything I have in the shooting. I feel like a sports coach and I go with my team to death! I like that we are all on the same page, create together in freedom. I am not interested in working for goals by saying or imposing exactly what they have to do. The goal is for everyone. Evey department knows what they do best and contribute their grain of sand to the project. This is possible when you surround yourself with talented people. Working in the creative field, with wonderful and talented people makes you feel privileged, there is no doubt. But this is not a path of roses. 

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The main challenge was to make a decent movie with very little time and resources. I like movies with our own soul, so we wanted to make a movie in total freedom, without letting ourselves be influenced by opinions and clippers from outside people. That is why AMIGO has quite politically incorrect scenes. We must not put limits on humor or terror. Apart from the maximum learning that is to participate in almost all areas of the process, the maximum reward has been to see the interest that has been aroused. The first criticisms made by programmers and festival directors are being good ones. We have great enthusiasm and hope this is the first film of many to come. 

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed. 

AMIGO is a totally independent production and we wanted to make it by getting the best possible look. How to get it? We used the best equipment we could get, both human and material, for example, we shot in ARRI, to get the vintage look we used the Cooke s2 / s3, a type of lens used by Kubrik, for example. But of course, counting on those rentals, the entire movie had to be shot in just over a week. Imagine the madness. We joked with the shooting plan, there were too many shots per day.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie to audiences here in Austin?

We hope the movie is big enough and weird to Austin, Texas!

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

Just after Austin we premiered in our country at the Sitges Festival, and then we will connect with Nocturna, which is celebrated in our city, Madrid, then Donosti, Tenerife … etc. We have several contests from different countries that have been interested in projecting the film, but there are still more dates to be specified.

If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

I would like to screen it at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater or El Capitan de Hollywood, NY, Le Grand Rex in Paris, Tokyo’s Toho Cinema, I don´t know; there are many iconic places where we want to see the reaction of different audiences and cultures. I think that although our history is quite local, it can be understood universally.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

That they love it, it is not worth so much effort. Seriously, it doesn’t matter what you can say, if you have the need to make a movie no matter what they tell you, the impediments you encounter on the road and the failures, scorn and lack of help … If you have enough conviction you will do it … even if you die trying.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen?

More than a cinéfilo, I consider myself a total cinéfago. Whenever I find time it is to watch movies, one, two or three a day. Therefore, although I have my favorites of all time, the list is constantly changing. On an emotional level, I will tell you that the first movie I saw in the cinema was ET: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL being a child with my parents. As a child I also left an indelible mark with WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? By maestro Chicho Ibañez Serrador.

Fantastic Fest takes place from September 19th to 28th. For more information on this film and the many others playing in Austin, TX, point your browser to www.fantasticfest.com

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