Alone is about Laura Garland who has lost her husband in the war. She is also pregnant. She lives in a big house which is divided in two. Government pursues her claiming she must occupy the whole house, if she doesn’t, they will take it from her. Laura leases the house to Ricky, an outlaw that will bring new trouble in her life. At least she has another plan. It is our pleasure to interview the director of the film, Jose Maria Cicala.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on? I started my artistic career as a fashion, entertainment and advertising photographer thirty years ago. Where I had the chance of shooting famous argentine actors and international talents as well, such as Al Pacino and Cher. After many years behind the lens, encouraged by the actors I used to portrait, who always highlighted the environments and art direction I created for my photographs, I started my film career, by directing ads and videoclips of well-known artists. Alone is my first feature film.
What was the inspiration behind the making of Alone? I co-write my scripts with my wife, who’s also an actress, Griselda Sanchez (she plays the character of Suplicio in Alone). One night, while she was pregnant, she had a nightmare that she woke up thinking about, and I told her: this is a great idea for making a movie! At that time we were working on other script projects but this idea was so powerful that we let the others rest and started writing Alone.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry of Argentina? It’s a great challenge, Argentina has a great talent potential, amazing film locations, lots of actors, professional crew, musicians and talented post producers. I spent a lot a time on pre production, which is not very common here, usually directors and production companies of independent films, spend 2 -3 months top on pre producing a feature film, same thing happens with post production. I dedicated half year pre producing Alone and one whole year on post production, and that was a big challenge, not only financially, it was like building a new way of making cinema in this territory. Of course the biggest challenge is the unstable economy in this country, but it’s something we are used to live with, is part of our story, I think that makes us stronger and passionate about what we do.
How difficult is it to fund indie films? Very hard! But it is also part of the great challenge of making indie films, I like using what I call my natural resources, I have my production company Shock House, where I keep lots of props and décor, I collect antiques, and I like using that in my films, I think is great to re- use, recycle, it challenges creativity as well. Time is your best friend while making indie films, to dedicate the larger amount of time you can to pre produce a film, involving as a director in every area, I think it’s fundamental to take care of the budget. Of course you need private funds in order to make a film, but here in Argentina we also have Incaa, which is a government fund.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg. How not to be influenced by these great three!? From Kubrick, he didn’t went to film school, and started his career as a photographer, that encouraged me a lot when I started to make movies. The Shining I think it is my all time favorite movie. David Lynch has a great sense of the dreamlike and symbolisms, I like working with the unconscious, as I told before, Alone came up in my wife’s dream! From Cronenberg, I love the universes the builds in his movies, all those fantastic creatures, that not only have a great aesthetic content but a meaningful - psychological background, I also love his rawness. How did your film go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew? Spending months working with the same team in what it is sometimes hard circumstances such as heat, cold, long shooting days, extreme film locations is not always easy of course, but I think it is just like any other team work. Coexistence can be hard in different industries. I like surrounding myself with people I worked with many times and with which I know I have great chemistry but I also think it’s important and challenging meeting new people and giving the chance to new talents. I had good and bad experiences, I find it difficult working with people who don’t love cinema (it’s strange to think about that, but there’s a lot of people who work in film industry that doesn’t love what they do, as it happens in other works). What is your plan for further distribution of the film in order to reach a wider audience? When it comes to indie, it’s difficult in our country to have your movie in many theaters as they’re always booked with mayor production companies and commercial films. We are working hard to reach as much audience as we can, screening in art theaters all around our country and in festivals worldwide. Alone was almost released by a mayor distribution company, that wanted to release a different cut, and it was something I could not accept for my first film. I preferred to make a smaller release but with the original cut than get to wider audience with something I’m not.
What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent feature films? Trust your insticts! Treat your movie with the dedication that deserves. I’m very happy I went for my director’s cut. Winning in festivals such as Montreal Independent Film Festival, it makes me feel like I made the right decision. My company, Shock House are a small but hard-working team offering movies we believe on. I think that’s the key.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on? Regarding Covid, my second film is releasing very close to my first feature. This film is called The Shadow of The Cat, starring Danny Trejo. Had its official release at London Fright Fest last august and now is releasing in Argentina. I’m post producing my third film at the moment, a comedy called Lennons, and developing a horror film called The Grandmother. Why do you make films? Because films are my passion since I was a little kid, I remember watching with my grandmother Gone with the wind and fell in love. Since I started making movies I feel like I’ve not enough time to make all the movies I wish I coul