Antony Berrios was born in Downey, California, and raised up in the DIY punk culture, Antony Berrios has been writing story's his whole life and making films for well over a decade. Focusing on people living everyday lives whose stories often go untold, his work captures their unique vision to weave deeply personal stories that absorb their audiences. It is our pleasure to speak to Antony Berrios about his latest short film called, Tumble. His film was an official selection of various film festivals and we connected with Antony through Toronto Film Channel.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
I work as an editor for both documentary and television and had always known as a kid that I wanted to make films. I went to school in the Bay Area in the 90’s and got a great opportunity to work for Roger Corman before he retired. So I left the Bay Area and came to Los Angeles and worked for him at his Venice Beach studio. That was an amazing time. Getting paid to learn filmmaking. I worked as a trailer editor for him for 4 years. My first short film was an experimental film called “Other People” it was a film about a woman confronting her father about the years of abuse she went through from him. It was a project that screened at the DGA during a series called Vision Fest. I worked with the same music composer from that film on my new film Tumble. Dirk Serries.
What was the inspiration behind the making of "Tumble"?
This short film had a few inspirations but my main one is the work of Jim Jarmusch and Micheal Mann. Especially Jarmusch’s film Stranger then Paradise and Micheal Mann’s film Thief. So I was sort of trying to see if I could meld those two esthetics into one short. I was also inspired by the shooting style of Robby Müller. I love the street wiseness of Jim Jarmusch’s characters and the overhanging quirkiness of the actions they embody. The use elements like static shots, little camera movement and the use of the 50mm lens. A Gordon Willis lens of choice was a 40mm (equivalent to 50mm in the format we were shooting). Another inspiration to me is the filmmaker OZU. His use of the static shot and the framing things within natural frames in the environment was also a huge inspiration to me.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry?
This projects genre teeters on being a bank heist film but is based mostly on a character study rather than action. For me the best short films are the ones that leave you thinking and talking after you’ve left the theater. I like short films that might not be easy to pin down but instead they challenge you and asks you to invest into the journey that the characters are on. So because of that this film sort of straddles a few genres not quite fitting into any of them completely.
How difficult is it to fund indie short films?
Making a film now is so much easier than making films in the 90’s. The advent of the digital age and the ability to shoot a film and not having to pay for film development and all the other things that got in the way before means now everyone can essentially make a film. Cameras are smaller and chips are better in capture images so it’s boundless. I feel nowadays you can make film for 800 bucks and if you know what you're doing make it look like you spent way more than that. There is a great actors pool in pretty much every city with awesome talent to work with. The difficult part comes when you are trying to get your film onto the top of the heap of all the other thousands of submissions. And of course the distribution riddle is a hard nut to crack. The Ted Hope paradigm has changed but where things have changed new resources have cropped up for indie distribution. It’s just not the same. It's much, much harder to find that distribution but not impossible.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work? I already spoke about how Jim Jarmusch inspired me and of course OZU. So that brings me to directors like Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Alan Clarke. These three directors made films about the everyday lives of people living in the UK. What is great about them is that they gave a voice to people that would normally not have that voice. They told story’s of life's struggles. They created their own national cinema in a way a cultural document of how people were living and the issues they struggled with. In the United States with directors like John Sayles, Spike Lee., John Cassavetes, Robert M Young make films dealing with the struggles of everyday people and they as well inspire me. Especially the work of Robert M Young. How did your film go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew? There is a creative magic that happens when you can work almost telepathically with the people you pick. It’s an amazing feeling when things just click. It’s like being in a band improvising and riffing off each other seamlessly. That is the feeling I get when I work with a great crew. Especially my DP Matthew Skala. Considering all the things we DID NOT have, he made the look of this short film really stand out. I worked with Matt on another short film of mine called “A Nice Day For An Earthquake.” Cast wise I spent time looking for the right actors. I knew the work of Charlie Santore, who plays Sam. I knew he would do an amazing job with that character. He’s been an actor for many years but also works as a professional safe cracker to pay the bills. So right there I knew that would help him to jump into the character of Sam. All the other actors really fell into place, and I was so grateful for all they brought to their characters. My good friend Jeff Orgill, who is also a filmmaker, owns the Laundromat we shot at. The tough part was the hours. We shot late at night into the morning and for some of my crew and cast they all had to work the next day so it was very challenging on all them. So made sure everyone was fed on set really, really well. Every film has their own unique and challenging hurdles they have to jump over and a lot of times those hurdles make the film good.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film? Tumble is just getting out there now so we shall see. So far I’ve had nothing be really good feedback. What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent short films? I met director John Sayles years ago and his advice to me then is how I still feel now. You just have to make that film whatever film that is. There will always be 101 one excuses to not do it but you just have to get that camera and cast and do it. Don’t get bogged down thinking I have to have the best camera or best this or that. Just go for it and learn. Filmmaking is also about failing. You have to Fail to grow and learn. Just go for it. What is your next film project and what are you currently working on? I have a couple of projects I’m currently working on. I have a new short film called “To Bleed or Not Bleed” that is very loosely based about author William Styron and his battle with depression. And I have a feature film that I wrote with actor Bud Cort. Bud is an actor and filmmaker and played Harold in the film Harold and Maud. Why do you make films? We are story telling creatures and I dirifted to moving images. Photography, novels just seemed too static for me.