Page 2 of 2
Your movie is a contemplatively paced movie based around subtle incidents, and much of the dialogue is subtitled. How’d you fund it?
The thing is that it’s a way cheaper movie than one might think. I don’t want to get much more specific than that, because then the budget becomes this thing that everyone focuses on, whereas it’s actually pretty irrelevant. But I will answer your question! I did a Kickstarter campaign that wound up covering everyone’s airfare, and then the rest was a combination of some money that I’d saved up at a desk job, as well as some that I’d made by selling Bummer Summer. I’m not big on fundraising. I love sharing the work with audiences and I’m delighted when people seem to identify with it, but the bottom line is that they’re personal projects and so it seems appropriate that I should have to pay for them. Even doing the Kickstarter thing was an uncomfortable experience, because it was really just my friends and family that were donating and they certainly don’t owe me anything. That being said, I’m sure that if someone with the means actually did offer me money with no strings attached, I’d take it in a second.
I and the person I watched the film with both assumed the shot through the cab windshield, about 25 minutes in, was a Happy Together homage. What did you watch, and take cues from, for this story of a guy who’s a little lost on the other side of the world?
Ha, that definitely wasn’t intentional. I mean, it’s a fine idea, but Wong Kar-wai is on such a different level stylistically that an homage would never have occurred to me. I did watch Happy Together pretty early on in the writing process, just because I hadn’t seen it and it seemed like an obvious choice, but I don’t remember being influenced by it in any specific way. Maybe the bright colors, I don’t know. It’s hard to talk about influences because most of the time they’re too subliminal to actually pinpoint. I actually watch a lot of Argentine movies as part of my weird, unfounded obsession with the country, and a lot of what they produce is incredible.
For example, I paid close attention to Celina Murga’s Ana y los otros while writing my movie because the plot has a lot of similarities. Well, it’s not too similar, but enough so that I was able to look at what was working and learn from it. And then a few years before that I saw a movie at Lincoln Center called El otro by Ariel Rotter. At the time I don’t remember getting too excited about it, but I found it online and re-watched it recently when I was just starting to edit and it blew me away. I was actually glad that I hadn’t seen it right before shooting because I would’ve stolen everything from it. But in both of those movies you have these mysteriously despondent protagonists who are away from home, and there’s a lot of ambiguity about who everyone is and what happened before. To me, that’s the most important lesson that I’ve learned so far as a filmmaker—is how to use ambiguity in a hopefully interesting way—so I guess the fact that I shot my movie in Argentina just makes it one big homage to the stuff that I took cues from.
I should probably also ask you about the significance of the title.
I just think it’s funny. The protagonist is figuratively choking in the sense that he’s blowing it with everything that he does, and then the movie takes place internationally. That’s all there is to it. I think I’m attracted to more joke-y titles because I want people to know that I don’t take myself too seriously. The stupid part is that I made this bilingual movie, and yet the title is untranslatable. Everyone in Argentina was completely baffled by it. I think that they thought it was pretentious, whereas it’s actually just a corny joke. But the movie has a couple of small things in Spanish don’t quite translate either, which I like. It feels appropriate considering the subject matter.