This week's filmmaker spotlight is on Director Alex Calleros of Stealing Time. Calleros' film was selected to be part of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles screenings at Sunset Gower Studios this month. Learn about the film, his inspirations, goals and current projects.
Name/Position: Alex Calleros / Director
Film: Stealing Time
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it.
The idea for “Stealing Time” came in February 2010, when I challenged my long-time collaborator, Michael Tucker, to write a short script based on several constraints. One of them was “Someone must say the words time travel.” He took that constraint and ran with it, writing a neat little time travel movie. The idea sat around for over a year before we actually produced it in spring 2011, as part of a film series for our website www.finite-films.com. We released the film online in July 2011, and got a great response from fellow time travel nerds that appreciate the genre as much as we do.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?
I’d really like to thank every single person listed in the credits. Making this film was so much fun, thanks to the incredibly dedicated and talented people who volunteered their time to make it happen. This film was shot for under $1000, so essentially it was a no-budget production. Nobody got paid, but everybody poured their all into it. I’m so grateful to everyone who made it happen.
How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
I’m really excited to watch the film with an audience for the first time. It’s such a gratifying and valuable experience to get to actually see how an audience reacts to your work. All the movies Finite Films has produced for www.finite-film.com have been distributed on the web, so us filmmakers who co-founded the production company haven’t had a chance to screen many of our movies in a theater. I’m so grateful that NewFilmmakers LA is giving us a chance to do that.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired whenever I see a film for the first time, and it makes me feel and experience very real, powerful emotions in a way that no other art form can really accomplish. It really is pure magic when a film sweeps you up and takes you on a journey. That’s I think what I’m always striving to accomplish, it’s sort of the ultimate goal for me as a filmmaker: can I create something that the viewer can get swept up in, that can give them that sense of movie magic that drew me to cinema from a very early age?
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
One of my favorite films of all time is a movie from 2006 called “Children of Men” which was directed by Alfonso Cuaron. It’s an incredibly intelligent, emotional, and powerful dystopian sci-fi movie that is as close to “flawless” as I can imagine. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
I also have a huge amount of admiration for really bold directors like Paul Thomas Anderson; I’d say his movies “Magnolia” and “Punch Drunk Love” have been huge influences on me.
“Stealing Time” sort of fulfills my childhood wish to make fun adventure films, in the style of all those classic Steven Spielberg films that made me want to be a director in the first place.
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since moving to L.A. is that if you want to be a director, one of the best ways is just to start making movies, any way you can. There is no clear “path” to becoming a working film director; you have to take the initiative and just do it, to prove that you are one. The lessons I’ve learned while creating self-financed, ultra-low-budget short films have been more valuable to my growth as a writer and director than any actual film industry jobs I’ve worked in Hollywood.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
I would love to collaborate with Joseph Gordon Levitt on a project. He’s a great actor, always chooses interesting projects, and just seems like an all-around good person. I think it would be a blast to collaborate with him.
What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?
This is sort of a big question; I’ve had to overcome a lot of different things in my life, but I would say that in the realm of filmmaking, one of the biggest, toughest lessons I’ve learned is that getting feedback is so incredibly important. Getting negative feedback can be very difficult. As a writer/director, it’s so easy to get excited about an initial idea, to have a vision for a whole movie in your head, and forget that it’s not just for you—it’s for other people. It’s for an audience, and just because you have a vision that excites you, that doesn’t mean that vision will translate for anyone else. You need to get feedback every step of the way, be able to filter and think about that feedback, and constantly re-write and revise. It’s a learned skill to be able to separate yourself from your work and not take criticism personally; it’s a skill I’m constantly working on.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
I don’t know if this is good advice, but it’s definitely inspired me to do crazy things; take on challenges I maybe wouldn’t have otherwise faced. It’s a quote from my good friend and collaborator Michael Tucker: “If it’s not impossible, why do it?”
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
Once you decide what you want to do, realize you’ll have to find the right path for that job. If you want to be a filmmaker—a writer and/or director—there’s not going to be a clear path. There’s no career ladder I’m aware of to “becoming” a feature film director. Everyone’s path is different. But I think the most important thing you can do is find a community of like-minded collaborators, and just make movies. Get feedback. Get better. Then get your stuff out there and show the industry who you are as a filmmaker. Of course, I can’t say yet how that path all pans out in the end, because I’m still working on it!
Where can we expect to see you next?
Right now the production company I co-founded, Finite Films, is developing a web series based on one of our short films “Anamnesis.” We’re really excited about this project and are about to go into pre-production on the first four episodes.
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
Check out www.finite-films.com for more on everything myself and my collaborators Ryan McDuffie and Michael Tucker have produced, written, and directed over the past year and a half. We challenged ourselves to do something rather impossible: produce 12 short films in 12 months, based on user-submitted constraints to our website. It was an insane year of non-stop filmmaking that pushed us to the limits of what we thought we could do, and it’s really gratifying to be at the end of it now and have 12 ambitious short films to show for it.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Keep an eye out for a web series tentatively titled “Anamnesis.” We’re really looking to push the envelope of what a web series can do. The series will be hosted on the site www.FilmSkillet.com (it will be a joint production of Film Skillet and Finite Films).