This week’s filmmaker spotlight is on Director Alexis Morante of Matador on the Road. Morante’s film was selected to be part of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles screenings at Sunset Gower Studios this month. Learn about the film, Morante’s inspirations, goals and current projects.
Name/Position: Alexis Morante / Director
Film: Matador on the Road
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it.
My project is a final thesis for a MFA. We were overwhelmed when we started the distribution, getting more than 50 International festivals and winning 15 awards (including official selection in Clermont-Ferrand and LA Shorts Fest).
This is also a project of friendship. This short film would be impossible if we didn’t make it among friends. Also is a project of a talented cast. Four amazing actors playing the four roles on the road; especially the protagonist (Juan Diego), an experienced actor who won 3 times Goyas Spanish Academy Awards.
We could certainly say that this is also a project with a song of Enrique Bunbury. He’s a friend of mine but also huge rocks star in Spain and Latin America (getting bigger in USA at the moment). Enrique Bunbury gave us a son (‘Vámonos’ composed by José Alfredo) to culminate the story of ‘Matador on the Road’.
And finally the story of this project: on its way to Las Vegas, a Cadillac runs over something in the middle of the desert, breaking the engine. In the car travels a Spanish Matador, who has to make it to Vegas to perform in a Bullfight. However, this new situation with the broken car develops into an unexpected ending.
In Las Vegas glory awaits… but sometimes glory stays on the way.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping out with this film?
I am living and developing my career in Los Angeles. Most of the cast and crew of the short are based in LA, so the screening in Gower Studios will be very special for us, because we will get together once again. I really have to thank the whole cast and crew that made possible this short film. I also would like to thank some institutions and personalities that collaborated in ‘Matador on the Road’ such us ‘New York Film Academy’, ‘Canal + TV’, ‘Kukuxumusu’, ‘The Consulate of Spain in LA’, ‘EGEDA USA’, ‘Punta Paloma Studio’, ‘Talentia Scholarship’ and also Spanish rock star Enrique Bunbury, who donated a song for the final credits in the movie.
How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
Having ‘Matador on the Road’ in this special screening in NewFilmmakers is something to be proud of. When I was younger, living in Spain, I was dreaming to make film. However, I would never imagine my self living in LA and having a film screened in Hollywood. Now this is a reality. NewFilmmakers is a great opportunity to continue developing that dream of making movies. NewFilmmakers LA is good to meet new people, to get exposure my work in a big screen in front of an audience, to network. Being selected we also get many interviews for media like this one. Definitely, I feel that something is going on being in this program.
What inspires you?
I was in LA studying an MFA in Filmmaking. I had to make my final thesis. My home country is Spain, so I wanted to mix both cultures, American and Spanish.
Around that time, they were going to start celebrating, for the first time, bloodless bullfights in Las Vegas. They were bringing the best retired bullfighters in Spain to perform at the fights. I don’t really like bullfighting (because of the suffering the animal experiences), however I love the aesthetic of Bullfighting, the visuals, the tradition. Therefore I thought it would be a great idea to make a film about this kind of culture crashing with a total different one. An old fashion traditionalist bullfighter coming to crazy Vegas to take part in an unreal spectacle. This is a shock for him, a crash for both cultures (American and Spanish), all this framed in a real car crash. The story begins in a pink cadillac El Dorado driving through the desert. Just when we are learning about the characters and their goals inside the convertible, the car violently hits a cow. This is the real crash.
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
I’m not too sure about what influences I had for my film. I guess a mix of everything I like is there. It’s a cocktail of various styles. In fact, I could not tell what gender is my own short. It begins as comedy, later in the story becomes a drama, and overall it has the spirit of road movies. I’ll say things that come to my mind as references from around the short: the westerns of Sergio Leone, David Lynch and its symbolism, Julio Medem and his cows and visual poetry, the aesthetic of ‘Paris, Texas’, the humor in Berlanga’s films (Spanish comedy director); Almodóvar and his way of using aesthetically bullfighting culture, the American Road Movies, etc.
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
To be honest, I still have everything to learn about industry. In Spain we don’t have a real Film Industry. Every film that I’ve made is consider independent film. It happens the same with my documentaries and music videos. However, I’m really looking forward to knowing better the inside of the industry in LA, learning how it works, being part of it. In the end, making movies is the same in every level: telling stories that you have in your mind.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
If I could be sitting next to Clint Eastwood every day in one of his shoots, I will be more than happy.
What is the toughest experience you’ve ever had to overcome?
I would say shooting ‘Matador on the Road’ (my short selected for NewFilmmakers). I flew Juan Diego (the old protagonist who is one of the biggest actors in Spain, with 3 GOYA Academies Awards) to LA, and it was his first time ever coming to the US. The hardest thing to beat while shooting was the weather. Shooting in July in the middle of the Mojave Desert is definitely not easy. We had almost 120 ºF every day. And we were 4 days in there. Some of the people on the crew were exhausted and had to leave the shoot. Our Camera was on fire (not literally but almost), and we had to cool it down with ice cubes. However, we had great time together. I especially remember when we watched the semifinal of the World Cup: Spain against Germany. My main actor told me that he would only shoot if we could see the match. The producer found a lonely house in the middle of the dessert with Cable TV and finally we could watch the game during lunch break. Finally Spain defeated Germany and we made it to the final, winning the World Cup for the first time.
However, when you look back and think about those days of suffering in the desert, shooting with your friends, you really think it was worth every shot.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
I take always the best advices from my wife Elisa, she is a midwife (nothing to do with film industry). When I’m suffering for a shoot, creating a script, with producing problems… I always look at what she is doing in her job: she is bringing babies to life. Then is when I understand how difficult and important is her job. We just make movies.
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
The best advice I can give to them is: go make films. Don’t wait for a call, don’t wait for somebody to discover you… go out and shoot, edit and finish a short, music video, spec commercial and show it to everyone. And of course, if you have a short film, a perfect advice is to apply to NewFilmmakers LA.
Where can we expect to see you next?
I am based in Los Angeles trying to develop my career as a director.I have made more than 12 music videos in the last 2 years that overall have more than 10 millions hits in youtube. I have new music videos in working progress. We are about to release a feature documentary about rock star Enrique Bunbury shot in 25 cities through the States, in his last USA tour. And over all, I am developing what will be my first narrative feature.
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
Website of the short:
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just thank you. I really enjoyed with this interview… and let me send a big hug to my mom, who is missing me in Spain… I’ll be there for Christmas.