Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Making of the Indie “The Shifting”

Making Low-Budget Doesn’t Mean Low-Quality
“When a myth is shared by large numbers of people, 
it becomes a reality. ”
- Lawrence Blair, Filmmaker/Anthropologist, Ring of Fire (documentary, 1991)

Filmmaker/Director Julio Saldariaga’s formula for making independent films requires that his stories convey a powerful, positive message no matter how low the budget. “The trick,” said Saldariaga, “is to deliver a self-help, aha movie and keep a commercial appeal.

Saldariaga has always been fascinated with the Japanese psychological concept known as the 100th Monkey Theory. It presupposes that once a majority of a species understands a concept, idea, or way in which to perform a task, the said minority will automatically gain the majority’s understanding of this concept through a form of mass consciousness… hence Lawrence Blair’s quote on how a myth becomes a reality.
Lizette Molina as Marcela

Saldariaga’s new drama, The Shifting, is a story that follows the life of Marcela (Lizette Molina)  who lives in a rough part of East Los Angeles as she comes to grips with her traumatic past. In the year 2012, Marcela reads a transformational book, “Dile Yes A La Vida” by Chris Lee, and begins to follow the book’s six steps toward taking responsibility for her life. Marcela goes against the elder tradition of never addressing taboo issues such as rape, incest, and molestation. But the Pandora’s box she opens will likely get someone killed. Her challenge is to stop her boyfriend Manny (Carlos Acuna) from murdering the man who raped her at a very young age. The accused is now a beloved, up and coming politician, Councilman Joseph Delgado (Mauricio Mendoza). So in the midst of her deepest aha moment, will the entire world be destroyed (in 2012) as many believe? For certain her world, as she knows it, will never be the same.

I was intrigued after watching the movie trailer. I thought, how in the heck do you spin one woman’s tragedy, the mass hysteria ensuing all around her, and the threat of 2012 being the end of the world, into one compelling plot?

Latin Heat interviewed director Julio Saldarriaga along with cast members Mauricio Mendoza (Encounters, Resurrection Blvd.) and Yeniffer Behrens (Unknowns, In Plain Sight), who also wears a producer’s hat.

LatinHeat: It is so hard to make a profound point inside a universal/commercial story for all audiences. Do you think you’ve accomplished this?

Julio Saldarriaga: We succeeded because we never took our focus off the primary message. We managed to modernize an old psychological theory, and we applied it in East Los Angeles in 2012… the year in which many believe the Mayans foresaw the end of the world.

LH:  Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of the film. What was the budget?

JS:  The hard budget is $200,000. But if you work in the talent deferrals we’re talking about a film, from concept to finish, that’s closer to $450,000.

The film is in collaboration with my company Filigrana Films, an independent production company with offices in Los Angeles and Bogota, Colombia. Our focus is to develop, co-produce, and co-finance content with the right message. We are currently working in partnership with various Latin-American production companies.

LH:  Where are you with the film?

JS:  In the final stages of post production, editing, and working on the sound.  By mid-February, we anticipate being 100% done! 

LH:  When and where will The Shifting’s worldwide premiere be held?

JS:  At the Festival Internacional de Cine in Guadalajara this spring (March 2-10 2012).  We are also planning another worldwide premiere during the summer at another festival.

Yeniffer Behrens
Yeniffer Behrens (YB): We went to AFM and the response was amazing!  Everyone wants to see the movie. We now have a long list of distributors who are waiting for the screeners. 

LH:  Yeniffer! You not only co-star in the film, you’re also a great film marketer!

YB:  This is where I also jump in as co-producer by creating buzz and marketing. It’s easier when a film has all the winning elements and commercial appeal! This is the fourth film I’ve produced. I love the creative process, the collaboration, and connecting people. The movie is based on a book by life coach Chris Lee and we will tap into the billion-dollar self-help market. It is not the most conventional marketing strategy but it is very specific and niche oriented.

LH:  Mauricio, how hard was it to play the role of a man who has a really bad secret from his past and is about to be exposed?

Mauricio Mendoza as Councilman Delgado
Mauricio Mendoza (MM):  It was gratifying to play a role of this caliber, and it was all accidental for me. Julio had hired a Mexican star for the leading role and he was let go a day before they started shooting. A friend of Yeniffer’s gave my name to the casting director. I went in at 8 PM that night, was the last one to audition, and Julio offered me the role on the spot.

LH: Julio is it coincidence that you have so many Colombians working on this film with you?

JS:  It was my idea from its inception to make a Hollywood movie with Colombians living here. The music is Colombian, the actors are Colombians… it’s really cool. We kid that it’s the Hollywood Cartel!

LH:  How hard was it to make this film?

JS: Financing was the hardest. Getting people to believe and let me use their money. It was tough because it was important that this film become a successful business model that I can take back to investors and be able to duplicate. We don’t have to make millions like the Hollywood standard, but we can have a stream of good movies where everyone gets paid and we generate enough of a profit to finance the next film.

LH:  Why did you go the indie route instead of the making the regular rounds with the studios?

JS:  We discovered we had something to show that was different from everyone else. We have a low budget movie titled 2084 on Time Warner Cable that we made for the owner of Digital Jungle. When TWC saw the quality of what we achieved for so little, they said it was better than what big studios do sometimes with gigantic budgets. So we ventured out on our own with The Shifting and it’s working.

LH:  Julio, we’ve seen so many low budget films that frankly look low quality. How do you accomplish a high quality film with little financing?

JS:  It’s the quality of the story. It has to shine. The story has to be solid and you can overlook the low budget. A good story on the screen is as good as any other high budget studio film. We should not use the excuse that because we didn’t have money, the film stinks.

LH: One more question Julio. How did The Shifting change you as a filmmaker and as a man?

JSThe Shifting helped me realize the consciousness and awareness that we as humans are achieving. Now more than ever, I believe that we are closer to a big change and more people are aware of it! The film is a perfect example of the 100th Monkey Theory in bringing about the war between the old selfish instructions and the new self-awareness.

LH: Thank you, Julio, Yeniffer and Mauricio.

Will Marcela find peace with her past without her rapist getting murdered? Is 2012 the end of her world?

The Shifting is a Filigrana Film inspired by Chris Lee’s book, “Dile Yes A La Vida.”
Stars Robert Romanus, Mauricio Mendoza, Carlos Acuna, Melina Lizette, and Yeniffer Behrens
Julio Saldarriaga, Director
Gilchrist Macquarrie, Writer
Annette Bigles, Screenplay
Andres Barahona, Chris Lee, Eddie Ruiz, Producers
Guillermo Franco, Set Photographer

Festival Internacional de Cine Guadalajara:  http://www.ficg.mx/    

Latinowood, The Making of The Shifting, (c) 2012, All Rights Reserved.
Edited by: Casandra Moreno Lombera