Marisol: A stranger turns the transgression of a young undocumented mother into a nightmare.
We speak to the director of the new horror film PET GRAVEYARD, about her April release
When Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols) came out in 1971, I was twelve. The name sent shivers up my spine.
Date: 14th April 2019
Director: Zoé Salicrup Junco
Producer: Lauren Sowa
Writer: Tim Eliot
Lead Cast: Emma Ramos, Tim Eliot, Rachel Lizette
Q: Introduce your film briefly?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: MARISOL is a short film that follows the experience of a young undocumented mother as she struggles to make a good life for her daughter, while calling attention to the dangers of giving power to individuals who hold inhumane political views, and the tension between local and federal governments. We had our world premiere at the San Diego Latino Film Festival on March 23rd, 2019. MARISOL will continue to play film festivals throughout 2019 and 2020.
Q: Give a background of your personal experience with the story, writing, production and marketing?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: When I first read the script, the character of Marisol really drew me in. She read vulnerable and valiant at the same time. She was relatable and inspiring. As a Latinx woman myself, Marisol felt like the kind of character I long to see onscreen. I immediately wanted to dive in as a director and explore and learn more about the complexities of her world. This exploration was carried through all the way to the very end of making this film. I felt like the deeper we could get, the more authentic she would feel to our audience.
Q: How was the film financed?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: Lauren Sowa, our producer, and Tim Eliot crowdfunded through Seed&Spark.
Q: Is there anything about the independent filmmaking business you still struggle with?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: I think visibility is one of the biggest struggles with indie filmmaking. Budget and time will always be challenges, but you can find creative ways around that. Now when it comes to sharing the finished film, that’s when you need the support of festivals, media, blogs, etc. Nowadays there’s a lot of content out there, so getting your film to be seen tends to be quite a challenge.
Q: How long was your pre-production?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: Pre-production was about a month or so.
Q: What was your rehearsal process and period?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: We didn’t really have a lot of rehearsal. We had casting and callbacks just to test out chemistry. For Marisol’s character I focused more on backstory, so I had several in-depth calls with Emma Ramos to discuss her character’s past, present, and even imagine what her future would look like. The goal was to establish a framework around her character’s world.
Anything Emma tried out on set, as long as it was within that narrative framework we developed together, would feel authentic to the character. For Frederick’s character and the police officers we did do a rehearsal, but it was more for blocking. Anytime I have more than two actors on a scene I start to get more technical with blocking just so we have a clear plan on the day of production and we don’t lose a lot of time figuring it out.
Q: You shot the film in just a few days. How long were your days?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: We shot the film in 3 days. 10-12 hour days.
Q: Did the tight shooting schedule make it harder or easier? How did it affect performances?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: Personally, I’m used to tight schedules. I try to be realistic about scheduling, so if I know ahead of time that the day will be tight I will plan my shot list accordingly; that’s probably the producer in me. Tight schedules tend to push filmmakers to really have a strong sense of the story they’re trying to tell. When you know exactly what you want, you immediately find solutions around schedule, time, etc.
Q: How important is marketing? Do you think a project can make any dent without it these days?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: Marketing is essential for any film. There’s no point in shooting a great film if nobody knows about it, where they can see it, how they can support it, etc.
Q: What was the experience like of working with a small crew?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: We had a small crew, but it’s what the logistics called for. I never felt like we were lacking crew. There were a lot of locations, plus we were moving a lot while shooting the car scenes. So keeping the crew limited allowed us to move around more quickly.
Q: The film looks stunning. How did you get such a good look when shooting so fast?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: Tine DiLucia, our DP, and I had a lot of conversations about the look of the film. I knew from the start I wanted to shoot anamorphic just because I wanted to take advantage of the cinematic look, especially when capturing the city landscapes. We also knew that the slight distortion and narrow frame for the close up shots inside the car would help us evoke that feeling of confinement Marisol experiences while she’s in the car. Most of the film is shot with natural light, so not having to lug around a lot of equipment helped us out a lot. In post we also had an amazing colorist, Marika Litz, who helped us bring out all those beautiful blue and green hues for example.
Q: What were the advantages and disadvantages in the way you worked?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: I would say the disadvantages turned out to be advantages in the end. Because so much of the film takes place while Marisol is driving, we had to come into the shoot with a solid shooting plan, but at the same time be ready to improvise in case we were pulled over by the cops for example, or the weather all of a sudden changed, or we got stuck in traffic. So balancing that fine line between being extremely over prepared and being ready to throw all plans out the window proved to be challenging but quite great to learn and grow from.
Q: What else have you got in the works?
Zoé Salicrup Junco: I’m currently finishing a short narrative film called “María” that shines a light on the deterioration of mental health in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María, specifically the growing suicidal rates.
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