Sebastian Gutierrez has written movies like Gothika and Snakes on a Plane but recently, he’s directing some small, wonderful films that include some incredibly talented actors.
Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Danny Devito, Rosario Dawson and Carla Gugino are just some of the actors that have recently worked with Sebastian. His films, Women in Trouble and its sequel, Elektra Luxx and the very first movie to premiere on the internet, Girl Walks Into A Bar are mostly anthology-based and he says that’s a great way to get actors to come out and work for a couple days.
Elektra Luxx is now playing and it follows Gugino (in a continuation of her role in Women in Trouble) as a pregnant porn star who is trying to reinvent herself.
Girl Walks Into A Bar (watch it below) stars Zachary Quinto as a dentist who teams up with a feisty would-be assassin (Gugino again) to put the final touches on the plan to kill his wife.
I talked to Sebastian about his two newest films, his secret to casting and how he can shoot a film in 15 days.
Elektra Luxx, I wouldn’t say it’s a sequel but it’s kind of a trilogy that you’re making?
Sebastian Gutierrez: Yes. I think in Europe, they call a companion piece which is a pretentious way to say sequel. Women in Trouble, was a very experimental, low-budget, 10 vignettes that a group of actors and I put together to string together as a film to go to some film festivals.
Midway through, we thought, “Hey, it would be cool to explore these characters in different situations.” How they do in graphic novels or books. You can have a small character here, become the lead over there. Why shouldn’t we do that? Elektra Luxx picks up about month after the events of Women in Trouble and it centers more on the character of Elektra Luxx played by Carla Gugino. About half of the other cast members of Women in Trouble return and revolve around her sort of like 3 storylines happening at the same time.
You shot Women in Trouble in 11 days and Elektra Luxx in, I think, in 15 days? Shooting that fast, creatively that would everyone juices flowing, I would think.
Sebastian Gutierrez: Absolutely. It seems like it’s like it’s gonna fall apart at any moment. There’s like a 10% crew and the actors are also making the food. It’s like a family movie. It’s like, if you’re making a movie as a game. Can we explore these characters, can we have fun doing it but everybody be really professional and of the top of their game and get to play things that they don’t usually get to play.
Did you guys get a chance to rehearse before shooting?
Sebastian Gutierrez: I would like to say that it is very rehearsed but no, mostly the couple of weeks leading up. These actors are very busy actors as you can tell from who they are. If I can sit down with them a couple afternoons before we start shooting, it’s great. And if not it’s on the day that we do a rehearsal before actually shooting. Again, the beauty of working with video, because you’re not burning film, is that you can actually be taping stuff and get good moments here and there even when they’re rehearsing.
From your first film until now, how has your process of directing actors changed or has it?
Sebastian Gutierrez: I’d say I’m really impressed by actors it’s because they always make you look really good and as a writer, you know where the idea came from. So, if there was actor on set and the actor says, “Why don’t we try it this way?” you know where the road map is. You go, “I know the that I came up with this idea at 3 o’clock in the morning ‘cause I couldn’t figured out a better way and this person is now inhabiting this role and making it better. Let me see what they do.”
So, I’d say that as a director, the way it’s changed is entrusting the actors more and more to try different things. I’ve always had great respect for actors, it’s sort of like athletes, you’re sitting there with an athlete, he looks like a regular person and they do this thing that’s incredible. You’re like, “How did you do that?” And actors, really good ones, do that.
I’m sitting here and talking to you and I say “Action!” and all of the sudden these incredible things are happening that are like real life but they are more heightened and they’re actually very moving.
The best thing you can do is cast the right person and give him some guidelines and just let him go.
Now, let’s talk about casting because in this film and Women in Trouble and Girl Walks Into A Bar, you have such an amazing cast. Any director would be jealous to have them. How did you get them?
Sebastian Gutierrez: It was trickier with Women in Trouble because Women in Trouble literally was like a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland thing, “Hey, let’s make a movie.” Once we made that and we took it to festivals and the movie has a very limited release – then it gets legitimized as an actual movie even if we’re going, “it’s was just a little experiment.”
Now you can show that to other actors. A lot of actors in this movie I didn’t know from before. I was just fans and wanted to work with them. Now, you have something that you can show them and if you’re writing something that you can get to them that is different then the kind of stuff they usually do, they get very excited to do it.
This movie was shot in LA, a lot of these people live in LA, so it was very easy to come in for a day or two. If you’re not booked to doing something else ‘cause it’s not gonna keep you from doing anything else.
But I’d say word of mouth. Because the cast is so big from the first movie, these people have a really good experience, so actors talk to other actors and they say, “Is this is a worthwhile risk to take?” “Yes, you’ll have a good time and nobody will get hurt, so come on down and play.”
You work with Carla Gugino a lot and I can’t blame because she rocks. But what is it about her that makes you want to work with her again and again.
Sebastian Gutierrez: I’ve always like directors that have a company of actors. Because once you get to know people and you can have a short-hand with them, you see signs of them that casting directors or other director can’t see. So, you can throw them completely different things to play and even though it doesn’t seem like it’s their wheel house, you know they can take that and go. Can you play twins. Can you do a song and dance number? Sure. And these are things that are really scary but exciting for actors to jump of that cliff and try.
So, as a company of actors, Carla is definitely at the center. Making a movie like going off to war – there’s gonna be country for the next 30 days and I’m the dictator – I’ll be a benevolent dictator but everybody do as I say. You want people who have your back and who are comfortable with each other.
You have another film coming out online? Girl Walks Into A Bar. Can you tell me about that real quick?
Sebastian Gutierrez: That motive came directly from this movie. The producers of that movie approached me and they said, “Women in Trouble and Elektra Luxx, you’ve been doing these movies for very little money and these crazy 10-day schedules with really good cast. (a) How do you do that and (b) would like to make a movie for to give away for free on the Internet?”
And so I said, “Well, that sounds really interesting ‘cause it’s so crazy and yes, I’d be interested in making a movie for the internet, if it’s clear then it’s a movie.” I don’t want it could be just a camera pointed at somebody being funny. I wanna make the proper movie with dolly shots and steady cam shots and a plot and good actors and production design and production value.
So, we did this movie called Girl Walks Into a Bar which is coming out for free on YouTube.
That movie was shot with a Cannon 7D which is a still camera and it looks fantastic. Elektra Luxx looks better than Women in Trouble and this looks better than that. Technology just keeps getting to a point where you really have no excuse not to be able to go make a movie if you have a story to tell.
Watch Girl Walks Into A Bar here