Live and Die in East LA being a crime drama, is that a
genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites? And what do
you think makes your film stick out of the crowd?
I can’t say crime dramas are my absolute favourites but I do
enjoy them. What makes my film unique, I think, is the film’s ability to
be suspenseful, captivating and artsy… besides just being entertaining, To
Live and Die in East LA inspires thinking without being too on the
nose… and this is something that lacks heavily from contemporary
Live and Die in East LA repeatedly rewinds its story and takes a
different direction, storywise - now what's the idea behind that?
it’s like life… I was always fascinated by conversations such as is
the outcome of our life predetermined or is it the sum of our choices?
Questions like this have been entertaining humans for centuries and have
always led to exciting and debatable subjects. I wanted to create a story
around this concept by utilizing resources that Los Angeles naturally offers.
sources of inspiration when writing To
Live and Die in East La?
I was partially inspired
by movies like Amores Perros, Nightcrawler and Run Lola Run.
A few words about your
overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
my directing and writing are instinctual. I don’t necessarily follow a
given pattern. I change, often. And I prefer to naturally adapt to my
environment. I love discovering shots and sequences on location.
also play the lead in To
Live and Die in East LA - so what can you tell us about your
character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you
written him with yourself in mind from the get-go?
that was out of necessity… and I will use this opportunity to confess
now… one thing I learned from this production is that I am NOT an actor.
Acting is very hard and it requires lots of work and discipline. Being
behind the camera and directing actors is something that comes much, much
more natural to me.
talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
utilized the resources that were available to me. I took what I could and
made the best I could out of it. It was pure joy working with my actors. I
learned a lot from people like Robert LaSardo, him and I could talk for
hours at times. He just called me the other day and we were on the phone
for over an hour. Also, Richard Cabral is someone who I respect highly.
Most of my actors have endured challenging lives, and having grown up
during the Yugoslavian war, I felt a deep connection with them, like
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
determination to make this film was such that I believed that nothing can
come my way that I cannot solve… and that mindset was tested on our most
expensive filming day… my producer calls me that morning to tell me that
the studio is kicking us out last minute… The reason? Ridley Scott has
rented the studio to film a Verizon commercial!! I went straight to the
owner of the studio and I didn’t have to say much, my energy did the
talking, and people respond to energy. The owner ended up rescheduling
Ridley, even though he was paying about 15x more than we did. We filmed
our scene and I became a very good friend with the owner. This example
captures the spirit of my production.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of To
Live and Die in East LA?
People responded well to
the film. Which was a bit surprising as it doesn’t follow a traditional
Hollywood formula. Established directors and producers reached out to me,
which was a surreal experience because I’m always the one who cold
e-mails people. We don’t have much marketing however, I believe if we
manage to gain traction people would be curious and would enjoy watching
this film… I’m going to copy paste a message I received from an
established director - “Attila, you don't know me but I wanted to
introduce myself. I don't usually do this, but I'll explain. I'm on the
program committee for the Oldenburg Int. Film Festival and I've been
screening films for the festival taking place in September. I just saw
your film and think it's fucking amazing! I can't remember the last time I
saw a film that was gang banger/personal drama/coming-of-age film all in
one, and every fucking part of it works. This is a true personal and
visionary film and I loved it. You're an amazing filmmaker for pulling it
off. It's always a little frightening when the director is also a main
actor, but you're terrific; the entire cast is. Listen, Oldenburg is a
five day fest and they get over 600 films every year, so the odds of
making it in are small, but I'm going to recommend your film in the
highest possible way, and I'll tell the festival director he's a fucking
idiot if he doesn't take your film. Fucking awesome film, man. I can't
wait to see what you do next. Thanks for a great experience.”
Any future projects
you'd like to share?
I’ve three screenplays (one was a
finalist and the other two semi-finalists on prestigious screenwriting
competitions). One is a sophisticated action, another an MMA drama, and
the third an action horror. All three have their own unique worlds and
messages that go beyond just entertainment.
What got you into the filmworld in
the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
father wanted to be a film director. But then the war happened and he was
forced to the battlefield. However, even before the war he ran a
succesfull VHS company and since I can remember we were always exposed to
movies, music, and art. My father was constantly describing and explaining
for example movies like Kurosawa, Bunuel, or Tarkovsky to a four year old
me… so yeah, lots of subconscious influence came from that period of my
life. I like learning by doing… but I was fortunate to have had very
good mentors in my life such as the Soviet Nobel nominated poet Yevgeny
Yevtushenko, and now film producers like Michael Shamberg, Nicholas
Tabarrok [Nicholas Tabarrok
interview - click here] and Peter Bilingsley
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to To
Live and Die in East LA?
I wrote screenplays, I
filmed several short films, some even played at festivals. Then I ventured
into feature films. I made two feature films with a $150 camera all by
myself, pretty much. That was my film school that began back in 2009 and
ever since I’ve been bettering myself.
Going through your
filmography, you seem to feel equally at home in front of the camera as
behind it - so which side do you prefer, actually, and why?
and foremost I’m a director then a screenwriter… not an actor.
would you describe yourself as an actor, and how as a director?
was out of necessity, we couldn’t afford a real actor. As a director,
I would say I am someone who bridges the gap between artsy and commercial
films. The director that I would compare myself to would be a mix between
James Cameron and Luis Bunuel, haha.
filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
history, drawing, mythology. My hero is Achilles because he sacrificed his
life for his dream.
Currently: Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A
Space Odyssey, Aliens, Braveheart, Nightcrawler, Amores
Perros are movies I could watch on repeat… Billy Wilder movies etc… (there are many more but just listing a few now).
... and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Contemporary mainstream popcorn films… Marvel
and the like are not very interesting to me.
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
(Reach out and say hi!!)
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
just very much appreciate what you are doing, Michael… helping movies
such as mine in my early stages, gain traction. Thank you very much,
for the interview!