A would-be expatriate from the US takes his second stab at life in Buenos Aires. Watch as he drifts between halfhearted attempts at work, a feeble romance with his fellow N. American housemate, and the fruitless search for a mysteriously absent ex-girlfriend.
10 questions with The International Sign for Choking director, Zach Weintraub at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016
1Zach! I really dug your film. What was the initial seed that made you want to make The International Sign for Choking? I spent a semester in Buenos Aires during college, met someone there, got pretty in love, then had to leave. I started joking that I would set a movie there just to go back. And then that impulse was the inspiration for the movie, because it's about this guy doing that exact thing. But I was doing it IRL too. Very sneaky.
2You acted and directed this film. What do you think is the toughest part about directing yourself? Are you a good judge of your own performance or do you ask someone else? Yeah, judging the performances is the hardest part for me. Not just my own, but the whole scene feels very hazy after a take because (a) the takes I'm doing are usually a couple of minutes long and (b) I'm trying to focus and be in it and can't really take it all in as a whole. I ask everybody's opinion pretty often. There are only a couple of people in the room so it's low-key. And if we're all responding well to a take then I'll watch it back to make sure.
3What was it about Buenos Aires that made you want to shoot there? I like Buenos Aires a lot, but I don't think that there's anything about the city in particular that made me want to shoot there. The setting for the movie is really just "a foreign place" - but I borrow a lot from direct experience and since most of my "foreign place" experience was there it just made sense. And actually my first movie played there in between me studying there and shooting this movie, so that turned out to be crucial. I knew some people there already and they were super open to helping me out. I'm fond of this movie for all of the awesome people there that made it happen. We would've been fucked otherwise. I miss them.
4This is your second feature film. What are some things you learned while making your first film that helped you on this one? Oh damn, so many. The big thing was probably just the confidence that it would all form a movie in the end, because it frequently doesn't feel that way during shooting. But yeah, a lot of things. I mean, the entire foundation of my style - the way I stage things and shoot them - it changes every time but the roots of everything are all there in the first movie.
5You're one of the three filmmakers that make Newhard Entertainment. How did you guys meet and why did you guys create Newhard? We met in film school. Newhard just happened because we needed something to put at the beginning of the first movie we made. It's nothing special. It's funny, I don't know why people have that impulse to have a logo at the beginning of their movies. Just because it's convention? Maybe it's legitimizing? Might be sweet to just have no logo.
6Your lead actress (Sofia Takal), and cinematographer (Nandan Rao) also both worked on another film on Fandependent called Devil Town. What was it like working with these two? So good. Too easy.
7There seems to be a new indie scene out there that you are a part of. There are so many of you filmmakers that help act or shoot someone else's stuff and then you use them when you're making your own project. It reminds me of all the independent guys in the 70's who all collaborated together. What's it feel like to be amongst such a creative collective of filmmakers? Well, it was starting to feel like that for a second, but... I don't know anymore. Maybe if I lived in New York, which I can't really do. I used to, and sometimes I miss being around so many people who are all very excited about the same thing. But I'm too stoned-out and lazy to live there. If I want to have any chance of getting anything creative done then I have to live in a place that requires less effort to get by.
8What's the film that made you want to be a filmmaker? Probably just all horror movies.
9What was the biggest challenge making this film and how did you solve it? What I write tends to be based heavily on available resources - people and places that I know. So a big problem with this movie in general was that even though I was familiar with Buenos Aires I still didn't really have that location bank in my head to pull from. But I can't really take credit for the solution to that problem aside from my deciding to show up a month early. Having that lead-up time allowed us to really hang out and get to know people that wound up hooking it up big time with all of the cool locations in the movie.
10What's next? Well since this movie I've made two others: You Make Me Feel So Young and SLACKJAW. As far as what's next, refer to question 8!
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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