I know we've talked about it before [click
here], but do bring us up to speed: Your new movie
- in a few words, what is it about?
In a few words, The Sacrifice is the story of a
family chased by an ancient Indian demon that wants to kill its children.
But The Sacrifice is also more than that. As
cliché as it may sound, The Sacrifice
is a character-driven movie. Yes, in spite of being a genre low
budget piece of entertainment, it is very much driven by its characters.
It's the story of a conservative carnivore husband with a
liberal vegetarian wife, and how, against all odds, it's the latter one
who is the strongest and saves the day with her drastic measures. It's
also the story of a clash of cultures (Indian and American). It's a story
of sacrifice, that tests how far we all are willing to go to defend our
families. It's even the story of a midlife crisis of a woman who's
jealous of a younger one, and arough cop that has a hard time coping with
the sensitive times in which police actions are judged by the media.
Without all these characters and their conflicts, The Sacrifice
be that much; or maybe, it wouldn't even exist.
The Sacrifice at
heart is about a slightly dysfunctional family - is any of the film based
on personal experience, and to what extent can you see yourself in the
movie's main character Tony (or any of the other characters for that
Always... as an independent
producer/writer/director, there's always a bit (or a lot) of one or more
characters that are based on myself or people I know. Since I will not
talk about "people I know", then let me just say that more than
one character in The Sacrifice
has traits of me. The practical no-nonsense approach to solving problems that Tony shows facing the
enemy; but also the cold-blooded calculative way in which Sheila (Tony's
wife) ends up manifesting as the movie progresses. I could confidently say
that anything vicious and twisted is based on me, and anything nice and
gentle in "people I know"...
Sacrifice tends to get quite violent - so do talk about the gory
bits in your movie for a bit, and how were they achieved? And was there
any line you refused to cross on that front for other than budgetary
I'm a big fan of mechanical
effects, so all the gore was achieved resourcing to the skills and talent
of Valerie Vanderkolk (special effects make up) and Robert Veach
(mechanical effects). There are digital visual effects, but none of them
were applied to resolve gory scenes. David Pellenz did a wonderful job
providing visual effects that the audience might never notice are there
(matching sunny days with snowy days by adding digital snow, masking
regular cars to make them look like patrol cars, etc, etc).
Back to the blood and guts, the only restrictions I
imposed on myself were related to my desire to build up instead of
splattering the audience from the get-go. So, if the first crimes are more
subtle, that's just a way to build up gore until things get really sticky
at the end. And, as you very well know, things do get explosively sticky
at the end...
What can you tell us about your directorial
approach to your story at hand?
wanted to tell a fantastic story with the conventional realism of a gritty
cop movie from the seventies. The action scenes you refer to in your
review, are the result of my endless admiration for movies like The French
Connection or Bullitt. Megan Etlinger's cinematography is sober and
purposely devoid of unnecessary flamboyance. We wanted the audience to
feel inside a regular everyday drama, as a way to kick the audience in the
teeth with horror when they are in the middle of a relaxed smile...
Do talk about your key
cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?
you know, most of the movie is centered around the character of Chicago
Police officer Tony Salerno. It was very difficult to cast. We did
numerous auditions, and even when very good actors showed up for it, at
the end of the casting process, we still didn't have the right actor for
the role. I was honestly quite worried. I had written a character driven
movie, based on a driver I couldn't find... And then, I was introduced to
Franco Steeves. In our first meeting, I thought he looked the part, but I
also thought his personality came across as someone pretty much opposite
to Tony Salerno's character. That was a challenge that I took with
caution. I'm so glad we took that chance. Franco turned into Tony on cue.
He is an intelligent actor who understands the nuances without even the
need to talk about them. He did a wonderful job.
When it comes Sheila (his wife), the story is
completely different. I wrote the character for actress Elizabeth Abraham,
with whom I had worked in previous projects. I borrowed Elizabeth's deep
sweet voice, big bright dark eyes, and calm personality, and infused them
all into Sheila's characters. Notice I said "deep/sweet",
"bright/dark". I wanted to create a character that is rich in
contrasts and crafting it around an actress I knew, was the best way to
achieve it. Similar was the case with the character of Nancy Clark and
actress Jennifer Lenius. In this case, I had worked with Jennifer in
Bachelors Grove for the first time. I had notice her amazing talent to
change her personality on cue (something priceless in filmmaking). So much
I wrote this character for her, that when we premiered
last summer, I called her "Nancy" when I greeted her. Of course,
she didn't understand what I meant, until I sent her the new script months
later. Victoria Flees played officer Stacey Palmer. Palmer is Tony's
partner, and she might (or not) have an affair with him. I needed an
actress that could portray someone so lovable that audiences would side by
her no matter what. Victoria achieved this by infusing humor and
intelligence to the character. Finally, let me say a few words about the
kids. You know, everything they say about working with children and
animals being the big "no-nos" of any movie making process... not true. At least, not in this case. Arman Bajpai and Aditya Kukreja play
little Indian brothers Samir and Pran. They are wonderful at transmitting
that sense of fragility, mystery and even humor that keeps you liking them
and afraid what might happen to them all the time. Also, young actresses
Grin and Giuliana Islas (yup, she's my daughter) played sisters Carla and
Antonella Salerno. Each one of them has different function in the not so
functional Salerno family. Their spontaneity and fresh performances bring
drama and humor in all the right places. I had a blast working with this
cast, e specially with the children.
you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was family all the way throughout a very cold and rough winter. I
have a system tailored to our limitations (budgetary mostly) We never
work more than 8 hours a day, Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, this
implies spending an entire winter shooting. In that long period of time,
we became family. My co-producer Debra Fleming and my wife (associate
producer) Marisel Islas motherly took care of all of us by catering us
home-made hot meals, and very popular desserts. Of course we did
have long icy exterior days in which we had to manage to brave the
weather. In particular the day we shot the chase and fight scene in the
alley, it was a low temperature record for Chicago. We really really froze
our butts, but the family ties kept us warm enough to achieve all the
shots. Stunts by Brian Connelly and his team, and the meticulous
instructions by our police consultant and associate producer Elizabeth
García made a very difficult day easier to carry and we finished right
$64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the
The Sacrifice will
have its world premiere Saturday September 5 at 10pm at the Montevideo
Fantástico Film Fest in my country, Uruguay.
The US premiere will take place during the Chicago
Horror Film Festival, Saturday September 26th at 3pm.
And the general free release to all audiences will
be on Halloween through my YouTube channel newalphastudios. Beyond that,
there are plans to release a DVD editions in a 2 pack with
Bachelors Grove, probably by the first quarter of 2016.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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The links below
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Anything you can tell us about audience
and critical reception of your movie yet?
really, since at the time of this interview, the only showing has been a
private screening that we had in August. Of course, the place was packed,
and not everybody there had been involved in the movie. What I could
observe was several big scares that effectively shook the viewers...
That's always a sadistic delicious pleasure...
projects you'd like to share?
taking a little break right after shooting two movies back to back. My
plan is to spend this winter writing a couple of scripts (one in English
and one in Spanish). I have some ideas, but nothing concrete enough as to
Your/your movie's website,
Facebook, whatever else?
My Facebook page:
The movie's Facebook page:
Anything else you're dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
movies we've been making in Chicago for almost 20 years are possible
because many folks believe in the pleasure of enjoying the ride over
arriving at any particular destination. Executive producers Steven Walanka
and Ned Ricks (also actors in
Bachelors Grove and
The Sacrifice) have
joined forces with me to make our and many others' dreams possible: to
tell stories and have a blast in the process. We welcome more dreamers.
The doors are open.