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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
May. 30, 2011 | 4:19 PM

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An Interview with Pascui Rivas director of JEAN LEWIS

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In the film JEAN LEWIS, A once-famous Hollywood reporter is being moved to a retirement home and must leave more than her belongings behind. This film is part of the short film competition and screens before the feature film THE PRUITT-IGOE MYTH at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 17th and 18th.  Click here to get tickets. 

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How did you first become interested in film?

Film was always a part of my childhood. I saw my first movie in a theatre in Argentina when I was about five years old. The film was Bolero (Les uns et les autres) by Claude Le Louche. Minors were not allowed to that screening, so my mother who was a ballerina, convinced the doorman that it was important for me to see this film. I was able to appreciate it better as an adult, of course, since most memories I had of having watched it were accompanied of my mother’s voice explaining everything that happened on screen, because I couldn’t read the subtitles.

But it was obviously later in life that I became serious about making films. Sometimes one needs to meet the right people in order to truly hear “the calling”. It was around the third year in my film-directing program that I joined a group of filmmakers who would become my closest friends, and my relationship with them truly enlightened my approach towards cinema. I realized that if I weren’t a true fanatic of film as a discipline and a daily way of life I would never make it as a director, (that is a fanatic in the most radical sense of the word).

How did you get started as a filmmaker?

After directing many student films I was fortunate enough to win a very important screenwriting award in Argentina which comprised funding for my short film El Sereno (The Night Watchman). Upon completion, the film itself received important recognition both, nationally and internationally and it won the Kodak Film School Competition.

Shooting El Sereno was a pivotal experience, not only due to its huge production in which I directed a crew of forty throughout a twenty-one day shoot, but most importantly because of the length of the project. The film took a little over two years to finish allowing me to learn a great deal in the process.

When moving to Los Angeles it took some time until I got representation as a director. Until then, I managed to always carry a video camera everywhere, recording tons of material that I knew would utilize in my documentaries, as I did in my film Jean Lewis.

What films and/or filmmakers have influenced you?

The films I love and can continue watching repeatedly sometimes are not necessarily the ones that have influenced me as a filmmaker, at least not consciously.

I am very fond of John Cassavetes’ work, from an observational aspect. In The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, his depiction of West Hollywood in terms of both, its landscapes and character portrayals is very similar to the impressions I had of this city myself, when moving there and seeing it in broad daylight. The rusticity in his films, as also some works by W. Herzog, have helped shape my personal conviction that no radical differences exists between narrative and documentary genres. As much as I enjoy aesthetics that are very controlled and stylized (as in Another Woman by Woody Allen), I’ve also been very attracted to films in which the barriers between fiction and non-fiction are somewhat vague.
But it was the documentary Daguerr?otypes by Agnes Varda, through its intimate and poetic quality that allowed me to understand where my sensitivity was most alert. 

What inspired the idea for your short film?

I was immediately captivated the moment I walked into Jean’s apartment. Apart from her, no one had “trespassed” in almost twenty years.

However, more than her piles full of Hollywood regalia, or her vast library filled with signed books and unopened first editions, what I found most intriguing was a sense of truth inherent to her domestic objects. It was the simple things such as a halfway open drawer, a frying pan still in the sink or a bag of groceries sitting on the kitchen counter, etc. the elements that seemed to connote a brief “suspension of life”. In this sense, our things can possess immanence as they become much more than mere objects awaiting our return. They become not just a proof, but also a trace of our existence.

How did you get the funding?

The film is so small that I didn’t even attempt to get outside funding. I saved some money and invested in it myself. Actually, I haven’t found many organizations that support the small, personal documentaries.

How long did it take to get made?

The material was documented about five years ago, but I started editing it in 2010. The entire process, from rough assembly, music composition and final online took about eight months.

How have you gone about getting the film seen by audiences?

At present time, the film has not been officially released anywhere since it will have its premiere at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival.

I did however conceive the film’s duration to stay within the ten-minute time frame. For artists, it is amazing how easily it has become to expose our work on the Internet. I believe ten minutes is a healthy length for viewers to see the film online and feel confident to pass it along. Once the festivals circuit is exhausted I will fully take advantage of this incredible resource.

What are your goals and upcoming projects for the future?

I am currently writing a feature length script and doing research for another one, both of which I look forward to producing in the near future. Apart from this, I still have much more footage and interviews to edit which hopefully will be shaped into short documentaries, as I did with Jean Lewis.

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