JC Falcón has just finished shooting his new movie People You May Know and he is already thinking about upcoming projects.
“I never dreamed about Hollywood”, says the director born in Gran Canaria. Now, he is based in Los Angeles, where he arrived three years ago to work away from the economic crisis that Spain is currently going through.
In our conversation with him, we discussed his new film, the first one shot in the United States, the differences of shooting in both countries, and the current situation of indie cinema.
How have these weeks of shooting been?
It has been an adventure, as we only had 14 effective days of shooting. It was a challenge for me, being the first time that I shot a feature film in the United States, in a more professional manner and with a larger team.
We did a great planning work. During the weeks prior to shooting, we went through everything in the movie so every member of the team would know what exactly his or her task was. We did not have time to arrive to the set and start thinking about what we were going to do. We even rehearsed with the actors beforehand. The idea was to get to the set, assemble the camera and start shooting.
It was a very positive adventure in every sense, a great school for me. When you are working in a language that is not your own, with another structure, you will always learn a lot. Now that it is over, I can say I had fun. We did it!
How do you jump into this challenge, into shooting a feature film in two weeks in LA?
To be honest, I came from Spain because, after premiering my movie La Caja in 2007, in 2008 the famous crisis began. And if the movie industry has always been bad, from 2008 on it was almost non-existent. I saw that there was no possibility for me to find a job there and I decided to play my last card going to Los Angeles. I always said that, if they let me make my movies in Spain, I would be the happiest man on Earth, I never dreamed about Hollywood. I came with some projects in mind, and during these years I have been working on them. But they were ambitious projects and, in this business of ours, deadlines are slow. The wait was killing me! Also, I was in a foreign country, without my family and friends’ support, and that makes it more difficult. Until one day I changed my mindset. It is like they say, “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain”, so I though about outlining a project in which I had a 99% certainty that I could make it happen. And I came up with this story with only a few characters, in which the elements that form the plot do not require a large production. It is basically based on the personal story of these characters and on the dialogue. I was lucky enough that the first people I presented the project to loved the story and, from that moment on, I got in touch with Guillermo (Escalona), with La Panda, and with Pau (Brunet) and we started the process. This was last summer, in September-October we started working with La Panda and, in only a year, the project has been defined.
Tell us about the movie, the story that it tells… You compare it to 500 days of summer and Obvious Child… Is it this kind of dramedy?
Yes, it is a dramedy, as I say, like life itself. Life is not always a comedy and it is not always a drama, it is a mix. And in my projects, I like to play with that.
It tells stories based on relationships, disappointments, frustration and, at some point, even about the lack of trust that you may have on the people who surround you. All this mixed up in characters who are around their forties, when people start rethinking their lives. It is late for some things and way too early for others, you are in no-man’s land. And, the way society faces it nowadays, it looks like when you turn 40, you have to be reaping fruits instead of sowing them. If you have not achieved this by that age, you can feel frustrated and get into a bunch of insecurities that are difficult to deal with. The movie talks about all this through these four friends. There are two parallel stories that converge and diverge in the lifestyle and situations of the gay world and the straight world. In the gay world, there is a moment when it is conceived that it is more difficult to settle, it is more difficult for people to commit and there is a fear to that commitment. And when it comes to the straight world, you get to a point in which you need everything to be happy, in this case, starting a family, having a child, but ultimately this does not make a difference. If the essence that keeps a couple together, love, trust, is broken, everything else will be destroyed.
How autobiographic is the movie, how much of you do these stories have?
I have heard from other writers that “you should not tell a story to a screenwriter if you don’t want to see it in a movie”. In this case, this movie is, not only autobiographic, but made of little pieces from everyone who has surrounded me. There are a lot of stories that worked as an inspiration and many others that appear exactly as they happened. I have told many of these friends “Do you remember when you told me that or that situation we lived together? It is in the movie”. The film is well stocked with this kind of experiences and they are excited and expectant to see what I have done with that.
We read in the PYMK dossier that movies with gay themes are currently having better international sales than the other ones. Why do you think this is? Is there a peak of this theme?
I think it is getting normalized. People have fewer reservations when it comes to going to a gay film festival or going to the theatre to see a movie with a gay theme. There are less reservations and much more visibility. This generates more following and impact. I have tried to run from the gay stereotype. I wanted to make a completely normalized movie, in which there is a gay character who meets with a straight character, but where their sexuality does not matter at all.
And the city? What is the role of Los Angeles in this movie? I understand it is an important part of the marketing strategy…
It is not the physical city, but its essence, the feeling that living in Los Angeles implies. The movies does not show the city all the time, it is quite the opposite. However, it breathes this attitude. Sometimes, there are very angelinas attitudes that we all know. But there is also a soul and sensations that people who live in LA develop. It is a different city, it is special. You can feel very lonely at some point, you love it one day and hate it the other, it is a city of contrast. I was a little scared to write a movie, not only in English, but also about a city and its citizens being a foreigner. It felt bold. But it shocked me in a positive way that people who read the script said that it is very angelino, that it breathes the essence of Los Angeles.
In our interview with Elisa Lleras, we mentioned the VOD and the possibilities that it gives to smaller movies. How important is this platform to People You May Know?
Nowadays, these platforms are great for movies like ours, that a few years ago would not have had any opportunity unless they ended up in hands of a distribution company. Especially because, even if a small production company broadcasted it in a couple of theatres, without money to promote it, it would end up in nothing. However, these new platforms have the same repercussion or even more than theatre distribution. It is one of the best ways out for low budget movies. I love them; I appreciate them and they have a great following.
You have made movies in Spain and now in the United States. How different is filmmaking in both countries?
Once you are in set and have said “action”, the essence is the same. Even so, here the structure, all that surrounds a production, is much more strict. The tasks, the jobs of each member of the production team are very protected by unions. In Spain, screenwriters are often unprotected and actors are sometimes neglected. I was shocked by the meticulous way they have to deal with some issues here. Back there, we have a more relaxed way of working, more permissive in some moments.
Also, I really like to work with the actors, do previous rehearsal work and preparation, and they are not used to that. American actors are not used to be directed, they are used to the fact that directors indicate the physical directions of what needs to be done. And when I brought up that we were going to rehearse, they were a little surprised. They are very used to solving the situation themselves and I am not. Together, with their contributions and mine, we got the movie off the ground. They told me how happy they were with the experience. And I am delighted with our cast.
Looking to the future, what is coming both for the movie and for JC Falcón?
Regarding the movie, the producers are negotiating distribution through different ways. We expect it to be finished by the end of this year so it can be premiered at the beginning of 2016. Depending on the exhibition platform, we will see if it goes to festivals or to some platform on the Internet. We have a lot of confidence in the project and I think we have a golden boy. From the beginning, I thought that whoever came into this project had to love it because, for now, no one is going to be rich because of this movie. And, indeed, everyone who worked in the project enjoyed both the script and the preparation of the movie, and they are in love with it. And when there is so much love, everything goes well.
As per myself, I am working in a project, one of those that were on the table, which has taken two years to get ahead and I hope it will finally happen in 2016. It is an American movie that would be shot between Los Angeles and India, a comedy I am in love with. It is a story about old legends, Hollywood divas that travel to India and, there, the wild happens.
It sounds to me like The Best Marigold Hotel…
Somehow, it does. When I saw that the movie was coming out, especially the first one, I thought, “they got ahead of me!” But at the end, it has been good as it put into orbit, it put into fashion the movies lead by elderly actors and actresses. It seems that when you turn certain age, they do not write characters for you anymore. And this movie was written exactly for whose people. The two stories have nothing to do with each other but it really helped to show that there are great stars waiting, wishing to have something written for them.
What makes a movie indie: the theme, the director’s look, the budget…?
It is a little bit of everything. The director’s look is, in a lot of cases, and certainly in mine, influenced by the
budget limitations. From that point on, an indie format has been created. There are movies with this indie touch that have a budget that of 7 million dollars. But, really, an indie movie is one that you need to make with 400, 500 or 600 thousand dollars, in which you have production limitations that force you to be not only creative but also decisive. As a director, it forces me to visually resolve in a way that I wouldn’t in other situations, and to have a different look of the story I want to tell. And, above all, these limitations give you the freedom you don’t have when you work for a studio and you are subject to the standards and the directions of the production company. In an indie film, they respect much more the director’s and actors’ creative freedom
What would be your advice to a director who is starting his or her career, either in Spain or in the Unites States?
The advice is quite different in the U.S. and in Spain. But I think that what I have done this last year is a formula that I would apply to myself if I were starting: do not wait for the super project to arrive because you will waste your time waiting. Nowadays, we have plenty of opportunities to make more affordable projects and make them ourselves. Embrace your story and tell it with the tools you have available. Write; go to the street and shoot.