Álex Montoya’s Goya nominated short film Lucas, sees a seemingly reasonable transaction of pictures provided in exchange for cash, become an increasingly moral dilemma for its young protagonist as his complicity in the societal boundary pushing desires of his new benefactor grows deeper. Intrigued by this self-contained first act of what is a larger feature film project, we caught up with Álex to find out more.
What was the inspiration for Lucas?
Regarding the idea, I wanted to take the Catfish concept a bit further by creating a character (Álvaro) who realizes that the best way to create a solid fake identity in the social networks is hiring a good looking kid and taking the necessary pictures of him. The short film encompasses the first act of a feature film script that’s already in its third version. What happens next, right after the short film ends, is that the Skype girl disappears and the police find pictures of Lucas in her computer. She even recorded the Skype conversation with him, so the police start looking for him.
Aside from the questionable nature of his request Alvaro appears to be Lucas’ ‘friend’ up until the final act. Was it difficult to hit the balance of making Alvaro appealing enough for Lucas to return to, but still slightly creepy?
Not too much. Luis, the actor who plays Álvaro, is very charismatic, very charming. I proposed for him to base his character on the typical uncle we all have, who really tries to level with the kids, to talk to them in their language and shows interest and even winds them up by asking if they are dating someone, etc.. I would say the tone was set mostly by choosing the correct actors for the role. We tend to underestimate the impact of the actors on the tone and credibility of a film. If I had chosen another Álvaro or another Lucas, the tone would be very, very different.
Also, I insist that I’m not talking about paedophilia, but about a man with certain inclinations. Paedophilia, ephebophilia is a very wide issue and can get almost unbearable if you want to focus in its extremes. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in the cases that are bordering normality and that are much more frequent.
What was your casting process and how did you work with the actors to help build their performances?
We had a lot of luck with the kids, since we had not the resources or the time to do an extensive casting process. Most of them didn’t have any audiovisual experience, and curiously enough they came mainly from two opposed schools. Escuela 2, which strives for an alternative education, with a lot of emphasis on the arts and the Colegio Alemán, which is more classical and academically very demanding.
I’m very happy with their performances. They were so willing to learn, they listened so intently. The merit is all theirs, especially Javier, who is a natural. I still have a great deal to learn about directing young actors. I feel my indications are too precise, too restraining: I should communicate more during rehearsals, and then to confide and give more space to actors. I really want to change that and schedule more rehearsal time for the feature film, if that finally happens.
Did the younger actors contribute to the film’s dialogue?
Not really. A couple of expressions and that’s it. As I said, the next time I’ll try to add more of their stuff to the film.
What was the technical setup for the production?
We shot it in seven days, with an Epic-X. We shot 5K @2:1 (that’s 5120*2560 pixels) but with the intention to use the central 4096*1726 extraction. We used the extra area in post production to reframe, stabilize, and more importantly, to use subtle digital zoom-in when needed. We used a set of Zeiss standards 2.1, which vignetted slightly at 5K, but not within the final frame.
We had a crew of around fifteen people and used a small lighting kit that could fit in a big car. We used mostly available light and fixtures in frame. We could accomplish that by studying the locations before shooting. We shot mostly handheld with an Easyrig and used mainly wide lenses because I like having the camera near the actors, in the middle of the action.
The new trailer (and by implication the feature) has a much darker tone than the short. Was that always the plan or did completing the short prompt that shift?
I feel that the completed film is a bit too explicative and bright. The brightness was looked for, since I felt that kids don’t usually feel depressed for very long. They naturally like fun and movement and play, but after watching the whole thing I believe there’s some margin to tone it down. Secondly, the short film intentionally eluded the most sordid elements. That was mainly because the story focuses on the relationship between these two characters but also because it was a short film and I had to settle a bit if I wanted to get it done. The feature film script is more daring.