By: Ellexia Nguyen
Edited By: Colleen Page
Set in the heart of Los Angeles, “Soledad” tells the story of a lonely limo driver, Victor (Jesse Celedon), who forms an unlikely friendship with his client, Raquel (Montanna Gillis), after saving her from being raped by Preston, her prom date (Chase Austin). “Soledad” received Honorable Mentions for the Narrative Feature Film competition as part of the 2015 Dances with Films Festival in Hollywood, California.
Shot on the RED Mysterium digital camera over a period of 14 nights and 3 days, first-time filmmakers Eduardo Maytorena (producer, co-writer, co-director) and Wayne Mitchell (producer, co-writer, co-director) team up to make an ambitious film that stars one of their highly-regarded friends, Jesse Celedon, which The ART Of Monteque spotlight in a later interview. The Art Of Monteque sat down with Eduardo Maytorena, Wayne Mitchell, actress Montanna Gillis, and actor Chase Austin to talk to them about their film “Soledad” and their experience in the process of making the film.
As the producer, co-writer, and co-director, what inspired you to pick this story premise for your film?
Eduardo Maytorena: My goal was to develop a story that would showcase the entire range of Jesse’s talent. On the outside he’s a pretty intimidating presence, but on the inside the guy is a Teddy Bear with a compassionate heart and incredible sense of humor. Taxi Driver has always been one of my favorite films so the idea of re-approaching the theme of solitude using the limousine as a metaphor for loneliness seemed a perfect fit for our goals with this project.
What message do you want the audience to take away from this film?
EM: There’s a few. A life is best lived with others is first. Also, it would be great if people would look at those in the service industry differently as we never know the silent heroes that we may be crossing paths with everyday.
Between co-writing and co-directing, which one was more challenging and why?
EM: They each presented their own set of challenges, but I would lean towards writing. When you have choices you agree on, it’s all hugs and kisses, but when you hit that wall and neither one of you want to budge, it can test a friendship. We hit that wall a few times and hopefully we’re stronger because of it.
If you could co-direct a feature film with a famous director, who would it be and why?
EM: I’d want to work with Gasper Noe because he has no rules and his films are like a party. But I love Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese and Spielberg. With all that being said, I think without question, it would have to be Quentin Tarantino. Why? He’s the best writer/director alive.
What’s your next project?
EM: I have a few but I’m most passionate and excited about Perdido, it’s based on a true story and a cross between La Bamba and The Karate Kid. Jesse and I have been fleshing it out of over some mezcal and tequila the past few months and we believe we have conceptualized another story that’s special, unique and important to share.
Let’s bring Wayne Mitchell into this conversation, who is the producer, co-writer, and co-director on the film. Can you briefly describe the collaborative process as a co-writer?
Wayne Mitchell: After Eduardo and I had finalized a premise, the structure fell in to place quite naturally. I knew we had to see this guy (Victor) in one of his ‘normal’ days that lets us know what kind of solitary (Soledad) life he has. Then we need to see the events that would make him break out of that shell and risk ultimately his freedom. In making the choices that he does, we learn more about him and we start to scratch away at this almost habitually guarded persona. We both saw eye to eye about it and after we decided on the path Victor would take, then it was a matter of writing the scenes that would take us on that journey.
How many drafts did you go through before shooting the script?
WM: It was never a situation of different drafts, but more about different scenes. The path that we wanted him to take was pretty clear to us from the beginning. There are a few scenes that are pretty much the same as they were first written, but there are also the scenes that we kept throwing against the wall over and over. Why are we saying this? Does anyone even give a shit? And then it comes down to the editing of the film. Yes we filmed it, but do we really need it? As William Friedkin says, “Cut the shoe leather.”
What was your biggest challenge in making the film?
WM: Everyday was challenging. Being a first timer, you have to rely on your gut. Yes, I had a partner, but often that can be another hurdle to overcome because you have equal say in the matter. If you’re not seeing eye to eye then no one else can do anything until we decide it amongst the two of us. And we’re talking about a subjective medium. Then there’s the other times when an issue or questions comes up and I haven’t the foggiest idea, so I refer to my partner.
What was the overall budget of the film?
WM: A little over a hundred thousand, and slowly increasing.
Who is your favorite screenwriter and why?
WM: I won’t say favorite, but I recently read Aliens and Avatar, and nobody writes stories like James Cameron. There’s a reason he’s got the two highest grossing films of all time. He understands spectacle better than anyone, but he also understands that the story has to speak to the collective core of what it is to be human. The primal elements. And it’s all on the page first and foremost. He’s also a wordsmith. When reading Cameron I keep my dictionary app on at all times.
Montana Gillis, played Raquel in the film. Can you tell us a little bit about your character in the story? What attracted you most to the role?
Montana Gillis: Raquel is a genuinely sweet and innocent girl. She didn’t come from the wealthiest of families nor the most popular friend group, so going to prom with Preston (popular, rich, and handsome) is a very big deal to her. I think as the night unravels, she sheds some of her innocence and breaks out of her shell. She yearns for adventure and starts to break some of her own rules. I was very attracted to Raquel’s strength as she grows from such a traumatic event in one evening. She does a wonderful job at prevailing on through the night, creating making it her own, without letting how badly she was disrespected and treated hinder her happiness. I think that is something everyone can learn from and admire.
As an actress, do you choose characters that you can relate to or go outside your comfort zone to challenge yourself?
MG: It’s funny because originally, I was most drawn to the role of Raquel because I related to her. I had always been the kind of actress who felt most comfortable playing herself, or a character that largely embodies distinct parts of my personality. However, as the filming process went on, I noticed Raquel and I had a few things that were very different that I had to stop myself from fighting. I wanted to be strong in moments where she was fragile, and I as an actress had to learn to not fight the character and simply grow with her and as her. It was a learning experience and I think I now evenly gravitate to both relatable and non relatable characters. They each have challenges of their own.
If the opportunity arises, which famous actor would you like to work with and why?
MG: At the moment, Miles Teller. He’s pretty captivating.
Last but not least, let’s leave out actor Chase Austin, who played Preston the prom date, talk a little bit about his character. What attracted you most to the role?
Chase Austin: Preston is complicated. Growing up privileged, with an older brother who has such a strong personality, I think Preston struggles with his own identity. I think he tries to look up to and be like his older brother since his dad is not very present, but ultimately deep down knows that Jordan is really not a very nice guy. I truly believe that Preston, like any teenage boy is struggling to find himself. He is busy trying to behave in a way that is cool and epically fails. I feel like he knew how wrong he behaved and was incredibly remorseful in the end; knowing he had made some seriously bad choices. Victor’s speech really hit home to him, especially in the confrontational scene with Jordan and the gun. Suddenly, all the pretending to be something he wasn’t just really seemed moot.
Do you choose characters that you can relate to or go outside your comfort zone to challenge yourself?
CA: As a young actor, first and foremost I am hopeful to audition and be offered a role. Ideally, I think I see a little piece of me in any role that I play. When given a great script, like “Soledad,” great writing is always beneficial when developing a character. So many clues as to who the character is was provided by the writer(s); it’s my job and challenge as an actor to add even more layers and provide more depth to the character. I love going outside my comfort zone to explore a character that essentially is nothing like me.
In closing, if the opportunity arises, which famous filmmaker would you like to work with and why?
CA: Wow! So many great filmmakers…. the inner nerd in me would have to say either Bryan Singer, J.J. Abrahams or Joss Whedon. I have such great respect for all of their work especially in the super hero and sci-fi genres. They have all taken huge franchises, i.e., X-Men, Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, etc. and given the fans exactly what they desired. I have played a super hero/villain for Disney (Mighty Med – Experion) and would be in seventh heaven to be able to have that kind of role on the big screen! The fight and stunt scenes alone are so much fun and just adds another dimension to a role and a fun challenge for an actor.[TAOMR]
SOLEDAD 84 min