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SXSW '07 Interview: "Borderland" Director Zev Berman

by Scott Weinberg

The "Borderland" Pitch: Three Texas University seniors, on the eve of their graduation, road trip to a Mexican border town for a final weekend of drinking and debauchery. Their vacation becomes a living nightmare as the trio run afoul of an ancient blood cult looking for a human sacrifice. Based on true events, Borderline blends the raw terror of Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the gritty true crime realism of In Cold Blood, evoking a world of paranoia, dread and horror.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
Horrific gritty true crime based on the Matamoros Cult killings of 1989.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience?
Yes! Yes!

If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
Love meeting people who live eat sleep vomit movies. Hate the dude in the audience who asks what your budget was.

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?
Mad Scientist!

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real ‘start’ in filmmaking?
Worked as a Camera Technician. Freelanced as a Camera Assistant. Took classes at the City College of San Francisco. For $20 a credit hour, they gave us lighting packages, 16mm cameras, and editing suites. Made three short films. Decided to get a Masters degree from AFI. Worked as an Assistant Director. Optioned a great script. Got it to the right people. Made it. Wheeee!

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on the festival circuit?’
I’m totally fuckin’ excited for people to check it out.

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

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
We just made the best damn thing we could make.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.

College student kidnapped in Matamoros. Huge manhunt. Drug cult busted. I was there. The story stuck with me. Years later, met writer Eric Poppen. Pitched him the idea. We developed the idea. Co-wrote the script. I gave it to Lauren Moews. She took it to Lions Gate. They said yes! Emmett/Furla and Freedom Films joined in. All systems go. Scouted 850 miles of the Texas/Mexican border. Cast out of LA and Mexico City. Shot it in Tijuana. International Production. Amazing experience. Cut it. Mixed it. Screened it for a test audience. They went crazy. Can’t wait to screen it for SXSW!

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?

Amores Perros, Alice (the Jan Svankmajer version), The Piano, Dead Ringers, Wizard of Oz, Eraserhead, Nostalgia, Stalker, Singin' In The Rain, Haxan, Last of the Mohicans, Secretary, Tokyo Decadence, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars, In the Realm of the Senses, Toy Story, Fantastic Planet, Akira, Ninja Scroll, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Last House on the Left, I Walked with a Zombie, Burden of Dreams, Fitzcaraldo, Fanny and Alexander, Re-Animator, Straw Dogs, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, Microcosmos, Winged Migration, Paris Texas, Repulsion, In the Mood for Love

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
Martha Higareda. Captivating. When you see her, you’ll know why. During the casting, some of the producers didn’t think she could handle the action. She took me aside and said fiercely, ‘Zev, I’m small yes,….but I’m Strong!’ She convinced me every step of the way, and everyone else for that matter. She’s a force of nature.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
On unemployment.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
Lena Olin.

Have you ‘made it’ yet?
Hell no.

If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say ‘Yes, wow. I have totally made it!’
Make Citizen Kane at the age of 25.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?

You’re told that your next movie must have one ‘product placement’ on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
Mr. Zogs Sex Wax.

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?
Trim it. Drop out the sound effects. Resubmit.

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’m not taking it on Borderland, and I co-wrote and directed 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?
As the credits roll, you’ll fall to your knees, a quivering blob of jelly, and ask ‘What would I have done?’


Zev Berman's Borderland will have its world premiere at the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival. Visit the official site right here and visit BSide.com for even more info!

link directly to this feature at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2138
originally posted: 03/08/07 23:07:38
last updated: 03/08/07 23:08:22
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