I first became aware of director Sebastian Gutierrez when I watched one of his first films, She Creature. I’ve followed his career since that time and watched most of his other movies with interest. His latest, Elektra Luxx, the sequel to his ealier film Women In Touble, chronicles the exploits of former porn star trying to change her life now that she’s discovered she’s going to be a mother.
I caught up with Gutierrez during the recent SXSW Film Festival where his film screened to a packed audience, not once, but twice. Here’s what he had to say about the film, his creative process and working with his movie star wife Carla Gugino.
The Flickcast: This film is a sequel of sorts to your earlier film Women in Trouble, correct? Was your plan always to make a sequel to that film? I also heard you are actually going for a trilogy, correct?
Sebastian Gutierrez: Yes, it’s a trilogy. We felt that Star Wars, LOTR, etc. shouldn’t be the only stories allowed to spread out over three movies and thought we’d compete with them.
TF: If you had to tell someone who had never seen Women In Trouble what Elektra Luxx is about, what would you tell them?
SG: It’s about one day in the life of a recently retired pornstar as she tries to make it in the straight world.
TF: How did you approach making the film? Was their a complete script or was some of the film improvised?
SG: Complete script. This movie was done on such a tight schedule that the actors are very rehearsed and know their lines. Otherwise we’d never make it in time.
TF: Was the intent always to shoot HD or did you ever consider using film?
SG: I’m a total film purist but the speed/budget of this endeavor makes it prohibitive.
TF: Now that the film has screened at SXSW will you be going back and making any changes to it now that people have seen it? Or, is this pretty much the director’s cut?
SG: I’m not really planning on making changes at this point.
TF: What’s one thing you hope audiences take away from seeing the film?
SG: I want it to make their lives better.
TF: You’ve assembled quite a cast for this film, especially in the beautiful women department. How did you manage it given the smaller budget you had to work with?
SG: Sometimes — not always — the money is the least important component for actors. They are looking for characters they can sink their teeth into and dialogue that isn’t just exposition to drive the plot forward. I like actors like that and seek them out.
TF: Do you find it difficult to direct your wife, especially during the somewhat more adult scenes? Was their anything she didn’t want to do? Can you talk a bit about your collaborative style with her and your other actors?
SG: There’s not really anything very uncomfortable the character does in this movie. There’s no torture of children or drowning of puppies. So in that sense, not difficult at all. I like to work with the same people because you develop a shorthand and have more time to experiment with ideas as opposed to having to explain everything from scratch.
TF: When you first conceive a film, do you consider story or characters first and why?
SG: Depends. Elektra Luxx is completely character driven, as was Women In Trouble. So the exercise here is to try and weave a story based mostly on characters and dialogue, which presents its own set of pros and cons.
It’s great because you get to concentrate on the acting, and big action set pieces don’t eat up your budget — but it’s hard because you have a strong limitation that you’re constantly coming up against — you have to keep the whole thing moving without any easy outs. It’s all on the actors.
That being said, I love all kinds of stories and have certainly written and made movies where the story is the engine driving the thing.
TF: In addition to directing, you’ve written some larger “Hollywood” films. Would you rather write those studio films or direct your own, lower budget movies?
SG: I kinda like both things. I love writing, so I will always write. But directing movies is what I enjoy the most. “Larger” Hollywood is only set up right now to make very specific genres (R-rated comedy, R-rated Horror, Comic Book adaptations). It’s a steady diet I don’t particularly dislike, but I do miss other kinds of movies, and therefore those I have to go make on my own.
TF: Women in Trouble featured a large cast of women, well, in trouble. Why the shift to one central character for Elektra Luxx?
SG: I like the notion of spinning off characters from one story and following them in another. Graphic novels do this all the time and it makes me jealous. So I made my own version.
Truth is, there’s a still a large cast in this one — they’re simply presented mostly in relation to Elektra.
TF: What’s next for you? Any dream project you’re dying to do?
SG: Just finished shooting a new movie called Girl Walks Into a Bar. It’s got a really cool cast of characters played by Carla Gugino, Rosario Dawson, Danny DeVito, Zach Quinto and a bunch of other people. I’m really jazzed about it.