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SXSW '07 Interview: "Scrambled Beer" Director Cristobal Valderrama

by William Goss

The "Scrambled Beer" Pitch: "Vladimir lives a highly chaotic life, while Jorge is very neurotic about order and control. Their two visions of the world collide as Vladimir starts time-traveling, waking up every day on a random date, and getting involved with Jorge's girlfriend."

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
A dark time-travel gone psycho comedy in opposed visions.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience?
First time in SXSW, and first international festival that I attend.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be "When I grow up, I want to be a..." what?
Filmmaker. Clichť, but true.

Not including your backyard and your dad's Handycam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?
At age 19, when I got into film school. In the first year, we did a lot of video short films in groups of 5 or 6. The following year, I got the chance to direct my first 16mm short film, in 1997. I got to make three of them.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"
Since "Scrambled Beer" is my debut film, every step has been amazing, but being in a festival is like the beginning of the final process, in which you are revealing your child to the rest of the world, prior to a commercial opening, so itís very exciting. Sometimes this work is very lonely, so Iím anxious to share this with people doing the same.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Statler and Waldorf, the two old guys in the balcony, who make dark, sardonic jokes against the rest of the show. Statler was identical to my grangrandfather.

During production, did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
In the film school days, the condition of 'art film' was the most important goal to achieve, so festivals and critics were the most important thing. Now that I finally got the chance to make a feature length film, I have changed, and my efforts have been to make the audience have a good time and give them something fresh to enjoy, so during production, it was the average moviegoer who was in my head above film critics or other filmmakers. I want people to enjoy it rather than winning a Palm díOr.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
My graduation project was a short film that took, like, three years to complete, and at the end I hated it. Surprisingly, it won a small local film festival, and the award were 12 rolls of 16mm film. That got me writing something that eventually won a Chilean fund to develop in a professional preproduction. Some actors were attached because they liked the script, and suddenly a starting film company got to read the script, they liked it, and since it had some cast on board and some funding, they proposed me to produce it. Since Chile has a barely existent film industry, we have had some really good luck in every step of the way. Sounds like a dream, and in a way it was, like a snowball downhill, growing and growing. I hope I survive the final crash, though.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
The fourth day of shooting was a very difficult and long day, some very dramatic scenes, in which I felt I took real command of the story. At night, I was euphoric because I could get exactly what I wanted. So I relaxed. The next day, I was somehow too much self indulgent, believing that I could do anything, but that morning we shot a scene that could have resulted much better than it did, even though nobody noticed nothing wrong. Everything went right, but I felt I could have done more if I would have been more alert all the time. So that day on, I stayed 100% focused and gave all the attention I could to every detail and person. A filmmaker is not a spontaneous genius, but a leader for a group of people who follow his or her example of hard work, concentration, respect for the others and love and humility for the story in hand. Itís a fun job to do, but a job above all.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
I love almost all kinds of film styles. I love Antonioni films and I love James Bond films, but if you have to be very selective, some filmmakers stand out. Specially the ones that can jump from one genre to another with grace, like Polanski, Kubrick, or the Coens, and also the ones that make films impossible to imitate, the odd ones like BuŮuel, Jodorowsky or Fellini. Current filmmakers that have achieve that I think are Richard Kelly, P.T. Anderson, Michel Gondry or Vincent Gallo. "2001," "Breathless," "Underground," "Un Chien Andalou," "Santa Sangre," "Silence of the Lambs," "Pink Floyd: The Wall," "Natural Born Killers"Ö

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell "This! I want something JUST like this, only different."?
I deliberately avoided watching films during the previous three months of preproduction just to concentrate and imagine the scenes without too recent influences. Since I have a daughter, I didnít have too much extra time, though. It was hard to let "A History of Violence" and "The New World" go, but I think it kept me focused. But also we used some films as deliberate reference for music, acting and tone. Most particularly, "Groundhog Day" and "Ferpect Crime", by Alex de la Iglesia, a Spanish dark comedy very close to the tone we were looking for.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Paul Giamatti.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
"D.O.A.," a 1950 film remade in 1988 (starring Dennis Quaid), about a poisoned guy who has to investigate his own murder before he dies in 48 hours. Both are lame, but the idea can give us a great picture. "The Stranger and the Gunfighter," a 1974 spaghetti-western kung-fu comedy weird mix in which a cowboy and a martial artist look for a treasure which map was divided in four quarters and tattooed in four beautiful womenís asses. Another version of "The Time Machine." Iíd look for a good vampire or road movie in the vault of the studio, and [there are] a couple of free biopics I have in mind.

Name an actor in your film that's absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
Diego MuŮoz plays the main character in the film, and a very gifted actor for comic and dramatic roles. He has a large acting experience in Chile, and is as natural as you could ask for. He simply shines a light on "Scrambled Beer," and the fact that he is attached to make an introspective, soul-searching road movie in a few months speaks out how well can he develop in many genres and tones. And heís very handsome too, I must admit.

Finish this sentence: If I weren't a filmmaker, I'd almost definitely be...
A newspaper comic strip cartoonist (which I was, for about two years).

Who's an actor you'd kill a small dog to work with? (Don't worry; nobody would know.)
(Besides the obvious Pacinos, De Niros and Gene HackmansÖ) I think Drew Barrymore, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci, Edward Norton, or Sylvester Stallone, and I would kill a panda bear to get Lee Van Cleef or Jack Palance back from the dead.

Have you 'made it' yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say "Yes, wow. I have totally made it!"?
In a way, I can feel that I already shot my first film, so thatís always satisfying, even it ends up being a flop. But I think that I will 'make it' simply if the audience enjoys it, which is a very hard thing to know for sure. Beyond that, the success would be complete if it could get me shooting the next film. Because thereís always another one ahead, right?

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
Unfortunately, you canít live without them. I think they are the weakest link in all the motion picture chain, but also that the fact that they have never made a film is NOT an argument to discredit their right to analyze and criticize a film and contribute to make people choose to go to see them. Really.

You're told that your next movie must have one product placement on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
Inca-Cola, the number one selling soda in Peru, our neighbour country. Itís even way much successful than Coca-Cola, so Coca-Cola ended up buying it some years ago. Itís very much a bizarre product, highly popular, with a strong national identity, and on the other hand, a property of an American company, which is the way for pretty much everything in Latin America.

You're contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that's absolutely integral to the film or you're getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
Iíd reshoot the sex scene in order to pass the test, but Iíd include the original scene in the DVD, which is a format that I think gives the film a totally new second life to it.

What's your take on the whole "a film by DIRECTOR" issue? Do you feel it's tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film - or do you think it's cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
I think it depends on the project, since some big studio films look like corporate propaganda rather than personal visions, but in most independent films, itís the director who is pretty much in every step of the way, mostly because of necessity. So I think itís okay to make the director the main responsible for better or worse, but itís also a bit overrated. I think the star has to be film itself, no matter who did it or who starred in it.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?
Tired of the same story formulas? Looking for a bizarre matinee moment? How does a time-travel noir comedy including goth freaks, stupid psychos and a full cast of losers who do nothing but drink a strangle blending of black beer and eggs anytime of the day sound to you? Some things should never mix up!


Cristobal Valderrama's Scrambled Beer will play as part of the 2007 South By Southwest's "Emerging Visions" slate. For more information, click here. And check out BSide.com for even more info!

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2101
originally posted: 02/23/07 06:59:14
last updated: 03/06/07 17:25:00
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