Mexican director Alejandro Montoya Marin doesn’t want studios to hire him “because my last name ends with a vowel.” The director of the feature film Monday is a man who, regardless of ethnicity, “loves movies” and hopes to make the leap towards feature-filmmaking in the immediate future. Monday is certainly indicative of Montoya Marin’s unique voice. Created in the vein of Martin Scorsese’s 1985 comedy After Hours, the story follows Jim (Jamie H. Jung) who loses his job, his girl, and his home in one day. As luck would have it, Jim soon gets wrapped up with two hitwomen, played by Anna Schatte and Sofia Embid, who force him to execute a prominent Colombian drug dealer…who just happens to be dating Jim’s girl. Montoya Marin took some time to sit with Film Radar and discuss working with Robert Rodriguez, making a film for $7,000, and the issues involved in being a Latino filmmaker.
Working on Monday was a labor of love and a chance to prove “I could do action” after making the 2015 romantic short film Low/Fi. “I didn’t want to be known as the romantic comedy guy,” and when you get down to it, Montoya Marin finds he identifies closer to comedy; “I love making people laugh.” So he sat down to write Monday, a feature he hoped would entertain. Drawing inspiration from Scorsese he assembled what he considered to be a mix of “Lethal Weapon meets Pineapple Express.”
It was around this time that director Robert Rodriguez, creator of works like El Mariachi and Desperado, was working on the next season of his series, Rebel Without a Crew. The series follows Rodriguez, as well as five up-and-coming filmmakers who attempt to make a feature for $7,000. Rodriguez solicited filmmakers to apply to work on the next season, catching Montoya Marin’s eye. The story of getting on the show is “very boring,” according to Montoya Marin. He admits it wasn’t just a “Congratulations, you’re accepted,” but a process involving multiple interviews and submissions of his work. He says in the span of a “month in a half [to] two months,” the show narrowed down contestants from a top 50 down to five, one of which was Montoya Marin.
Working with Rodriguez was a dream come true for the film creator. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have said, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna have Robert Rodriguez mentor me.'” Despite fearing the adage “never meet your heroes,” Montoya Marin says Rodriguez was incredibly supportive and helpful during the creative process, dispensing advice and sitting down with creators to aid them in making their film. With such a limited budget, Montoya Marin was compelled to get “gritty” with Monday. He maintains, “It was very stressful” with many a sleepless night, “but at the end of the day it’s very fulfilling that strangers you didn’t know” were able to come together. “It was like…a family doing this project.” That’s not to say the set ran smoothly. One of the key components which distinguishes Monday is the emphasis on women. Schatte and Embid embody their characters with dominance and humor, but Schatte almost didn’t get the role. “The role was written for a man,” Montoya Marin says, with the relationship between the two assassins originally in the vein of a “psychotic” father/daughter relationship.
Montoya Marin explains, “When the [original] actor couldn’t come…we did auditions for 2 hours (per the rules of Rebel Without a Crew) [but] I did not see another male actor who would reach the guy I had in mind.” It was Rodriguez who said, “instead of just hiring a guy who will always remind you he’s not that good or he’s not reaching the point,” he encouraged Montoya Marin to try something different. The director decided to say “fuck it…let’s flip the role.” Initially, Montoya Marin feared his newfound actress would object to the feature’s vulgarity, but it was a fact she embraced. “I feel like cussing in the right moment is funny. I come from a Mexican household. They throw cussing around like tortillas,” Montoya Marin explains. He maintains he doesn’t want to offend audiences with the words his characters say, but he hopes it brings a smile to people’s faces. It is this vulgarity which makes Monday such fun, especially when Schatte’s hitwoman is referred to as a “prick,” a fun poke at the fact the character originally male as well as a subtle look at how insults are gendered.
Montoya Marin is frank as we discussed how much of a hot button issue underrepresentation is in cinema today. It’s a topic the director admits “I get into fights with people about” because though there’s “not a lot of opportunity,” he doesn’t want to be hired because “it’s trendy.” “Hire me because you think I can do a good job with this film, because I have something to say or a particular style that people might like.” He says movies directed by Latinos don’t have to specifically be Hispanic and the lack of opportunities isn’t enough to stop him. “If you see that you’re not getting the opportunities because of who you are, fuck them, prove wrong. My dad always said, ‘It’s cooler to slap someone with a white glove then going out and punch them. Prove them wrong.'”
Not content to rest on the laurels of Monday’s acclaim, Montoya Marin is already hard at work on his next feature. He’s hoping to develop a sequel to the action feature, reuniting his cast to show what happens in immediate aftermath of the previous film. ” I want to really experience the world and get crazier with the camera,” he says. He’d also like to develop his short Low/Fi into a full-length feature, and has dreams of creating an all-female action/horror movie in the vein of Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn. He describes the story about a group of women who “go to a log cabin to celebrate a bachelorette party and it gets crashed by redneck vampires.” He feels his work proves he’s ready for his big-screen debut, a dream he was initially resistant about. Up until a year and a half ago “I wouldn’t call myself a filmmaker.” For him, everything involved with film is a learning process and he urges other filmmakers to take the time to “watch more movies. Get out of your comfort zone. You like action comedy? Cool, but one day watch a Kurosawa film.” Like many film aficionados, Montoya Marin swears by the streaming service FilmStruck. “FilmStruck is awesome!”