Unexplained disappearances and UFO sightings are reported in northeastern Guatemala. Rober Daneri a frustrated college professor along with the production team of a sensationalist TV show embark on a supernatural journey to a place called Zacapa in search for a logical explanation to these strange events.
10 questions with UFO's in Zacapa director, Marcos Machado Loría at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, August 31st, 2016
1Hi Marcos! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Summer Festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to direct this film? I got into directing because I was inspired by popular films like Jonathan Demme's Silence of the lambs and the George Lucas' Star Wars saga, and I always dreamed to tell those kind of stories through cinema, Actually I've always liked all kinds of genre films and well structured stories and Ufo's in Zacapa had all that. So I read the script, and it was pretty easy for me to accept the challenge to direct it even though I knew it would be very difficult. With a story like that I was really able to exploit my creativity talents and interests and put the best of me on the table to overcome those difficulties.
2This is such an impressive debut feature film. What prepared you to make this film? Did you go to film school? Yes I went to film school in Cuba, it is a 24/7 film school, so I got to direct and write several short films during a 3 year period, and I also collaborated with more experienced directors as first Assistant director which gave me a lot of experience. But the truth is that I learned a lot directing Ufo's in Zacapa, and I hope I keep on learning on my next films.
3You're a part of the Best Picture System, an incredibly cool filmmaker collective. Can you tell us a little bit about it, how you got involved and why you chose to be a part of it? Producer Vilma Liella is the link to all this, I was in the first year of film school, and I remember one Saturday she came to my dorm, knocked and said, hey is that true you are a director, I'm looking for one, I have a team ready and we are shooting a short film today, I said ok, what's the story about?, and she said, I don't know let's make one up! We shot a three minute kung fu short and had so much fun, it was instant synergy so we kept shooting a short film almost every weekend rotating the roles on the team, and that's how I got into Best Picture System collaborating and having fun, and little by little the collective was consolidated, we are all cinephiles and love what we do, and we put a lot of passion into it, so it has being really easy to remain part of all this.
4I really loved this film, the tone shifts from serious, to mysterious, to funny, and dramatic. How difficult was it to straddle all those different emotions and how conscious was that for you to direct a film that played with so many different tones? I had it clear from the beginning it would be a very tricky script to handle, but we worked very hard with the actors and actresses to achieve those shifts, we rehearsed almost every scene and together we discovered the right tones. The most difficult part was to raise up a comedy that would end up very serious, but I studied a lot of reference films and director's that had deal with those kind of genre mashups and I think we managed pretty good at the end, I'm very satisfied with the final result.
5The script was written by Enrique Perez Him, another member of the Best Picture System team. How did you two meet and what was it like working together? We met back in film school, we have being part of BPS from the beginning and we have collaborated since then, we are both extreme cinephiles and we are not looking for authorship but to create collectively, we have similar approaches to cinema and are not afraid of genre so it's very easy to work together. I directed a segment on Enrique's first film called Puro Mula and I was also the data manager, later on the shooting he gave me the confidence to cut the first version of the film, since then I've learned so much from him, he is such a talented and productive filmmaker is one of my greatest and most immediate inspirations. I think what we do is more like playing together than working in a strict sense of the word.
6Daneri Gudiel (the lead) gives such a wonderful performance. How did you two meet and what was it about him that made you think he was perfect for the role. I also met Daneri at film school, we were classmates and I think I have never meet a person so intense and so charismatic, he is a natural born histrion, he is an actor in all body and mind, so passionate about his technique and style, during those three years of film school we spent nights and days talking about the actor's work, I learned so much from him that I felt really confortable handling him the responsibility to bring Rober to live. The role was practically written for him, and as you mention he did a wonderful job and I'm glad this was my debut film but also his first leading role, because we put a lot of effort into it and we teamed up to put together a great casting.
7This film has so many great twists and turns and I honestly had no clue where the film was going to go next. You really did a great job setting up expectations for one thing, but then delivering something much different. How important was it for you to surprise viewers into what they are about to get into? Ufos in Zacapa is a very mysterious story, and it was key that we as an audience were never ahead of the main character in terms of plot information, we had to discover at the same time, to know as much as him, because we need to believe when Rober believes just to find the truth together at the end, to be surprised, this is in my opinion what makes the plot so twisty, and the surprise at the end is the fair reward to an audience that has waited patiently for something to explain all of this nonsense and odd things they have witnessed through the film. I just had to take care of the point of view of the action, because the script was very well written.
8Do you believe in UFO's? I think the universe is so vast, and we are such a small part of it that it would be silly to think we are the only forms of intelligent life in it. But UFOs are just that: unidentified flying objects so they can be practically anything that you see on the sky, so I believe we can be fooled by these things anytime as it happens in the film. Maybe some of them are from other planets of dimensions and some of them are just strange clouds or drones, it is up to you to believe what you want to believe.
9I loved the character of Rober (played by Daniel Gudiel) especially the scene when he's teaching and when he's trying to convince his producer to get a drink. What's your favorite scene and how difficult was it to get? Those are great scenes, I must say that I enjoyed working with every actor on the film, of course I had a deeper work with Daneri because this is a character driven story, so he was practically in every scene of the film. I particularly liked the synergy that Alejandra Estrada, Domingo Lemus and Daneri Gudiel built up during the shooting, so those were my favorite scenes when they were together, I actually picked the aspect ratio on the film based on them, because I wanted to have a lot of two and three shots, I didn't want to cut from one to another, I wanted them to interact and be as real as possible, we practiced a lot with the Meisner techniques and I think we had that at it's best on the bar scene when Rober is abducted by the narcos. They are so connected and so believable, that's one of my favorites.
10What's next? I'm currently post producing an erotic horror exploitation short film called Golden, I'm planning to premiere it next October, and I'm moving to México, I think there are some vampires waiting for me there. We'll see.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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