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SXSW '09 Interview: "Women in Trouble" Writer-Director Sebastian Gutierrez

by William Goss

The "Women in Trouble" Pitch: "A serpentine day in the life of ten seemingly disparate Los Angeles women: a porn star, a psychiatrist, a flight attendant, a masseuse, a bartender, a mother, a a daughter, a pair of call girls, etc. All of them with one thing in common: Trouble."

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
A day in the life. Women. Love. Lingerie. Tears. Men. Elevators. Trouble.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience?
I've been to the music part of the festival before, which is incredibly cool. And a couple years ago I caught the fantastic documentary, King Of King, at the Alamo Drafthouse, a setting which pretty much puts all other film festival settings to shame as it perfectly embodies casual but respectful, laid back, informal, and a sense of discovery.

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?
A red truck.

Not including your backyard and your dad's Handycam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?
I used to work as a grip, putting up and tearing down sets for sitcoms. I noticed that once pilots were shot, they left the sets standing while they waited to hear whether they got picked up or not. I waited until one got cancelled, asked the art director for permission, and wrote a short using the standing sets. Nobody would direct it, so I did it myself.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"
I feel jealous of it.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?

During production, did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
The whole idea was to make a movie we'd all be proud of, with zero adult intervention (i.e. producers, money people, studio types), so that we could got to a festival and hang out, SXSW being top on our list.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
I found a ten-page scene I had lying around that never fit into any script. It was basically two women getting dressed in front of a mirror, talking. It was funny and sexy. I thought, I betcha I could rehearse this and shoot this in one day with two hi-def cameras, make a cool little short. And then I thought -- if I write nine more of these, I could shoot each segment in a day and make a whole movie in ten days!

Ridiculous, really, but that's what we did.

I called in a bunch of favors with actors, edited off the computer in a closet, paid for the whole thing myself, piecemeal.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
All the hard work, preparation, professionalism -- is a given. A movie is also supposed to be a game. You're getting paid to play, so never take it for granted (In our case, we weren't even getting paid, so might as well have fun).

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
Boy, that's the endless list: Stanley Donen, Fellini, Hitchcock, Bob Fosse, Fassbinder, Almodovar, Don Siegel, Godard, Vera Chytilova...

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
I watched Fassbinder's Lola and said I want that! Minus the politics. And the treatise on the working class. And the essay on capitalism. And the German setting. And the downer note. And the... (in any case, you wouldn't recognize any of it, but it made sense to me. I love that movie).

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Alan Rickman.

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?
I'd fix Catwoman.

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big time. And why, of course.
I can't think of one that won't. Several are already there: Carla Gugino, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Simon Baker. I think Adrianne Palicki will surprise the hell out of most people, since all they know her from is "Friday Night Lights".

Finish this sentence: If I weren't a filmmaker, I'd almost definitely be...
...a red truck.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with?
It would have to be an old, sickly, yapping small dog that I would be doing a favor to, really, by putting down. I'd do that for Marcello Mastroianni, I'm pretty sure.

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!"?
My definition of "made it" is getting to do for a living what you would do for free, so yes.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I still hold a place in my heart for a well written review. The days of Cahiers Du Cinema geeks turning into auteurs are long gone, but I like people who are articulate and passionate about movies. The actual "criticizing" part is less useful and informative. But I love anyone posing a well-researched argument or theory to place a movie into context.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” Mexican wrestling masks. They could just figure randomly in scenes. At a funeral parlor. On the beach. Or maybe if someone came up with dayglo rosary beads, that could be interesting.

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?

Explain to the producers what great press we could get from the lawsuit and counter-lawsuit and reach a settlement by which both versions of the movie are released simultaneously, only the NC-17 one isn't advertised in newspapers but you use the R-rated ads to let people know there is an "unrated" version playing at certain select theaters.

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?
Touchy issue, but at the end of the day -- whether you have one hundred collaborators or ten, if a person conceives and directs a movie, I believe it is their movie. Just like if Neil Young makes a record and a bunch of people play on it, it's still his name on the record. The frustrating thing is -- and I say this as a writer -- studio movies where a last minute replacement director is getting the possessory credit and the studio makes all the decisions anyway. The truth is, in most studio movies, that film by credit should go to the dozens of executives who dictate every single dumbed down thing in the movie. Chris Nolan therefore deserves an even more impressive credit than "film by," it should be like, "Against all odds, still recognizably a film by."

If IMDb is to be believed, you're working on a follow-up involving Carla Gugino's character. Is it too soon to ask how that film will be connected with this one, or is it almost a separate story entirely?
Mostly, IMDB shouldn't be believed -- but in this case, it's true that I just finished filming a companion piece to Women in Trouble called Elektra Luxx. That is the name of Carla's character in the first film. She is a world-famous pornstar at a crossroads in her life. The movie incorporates about half the cast from the first flick and introduces a bunch of new people into the world. There is a third film too, called Women in Ecstasy.

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?
Please average movie-watcher, go see the other trillion movies instead. We are only looking for a few cool people who find women sexy and fascinating but are usually bored to death by so-called chick flicks.


Sebastian Guiterrez' Women in Trouble will play as part of the 2009 South By Southwest's "Spotlight Premieres" slate. For more information, click here.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2694
originally posted: 03/05/09 15:25:17
last updated: 03/05/09 16:16:20
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