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Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

An Interview with Fabian Euresti director of EVERYBODY’S NUTS

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Documentary filmmaker Fabian Euresti explores the hard choices his father, an immigrant farm worker, had to make to keep his job and a roof over his family’s heads. This film screens at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19th and 21st.  Click here to get tickets.

How did you first become interested in film?

I first became interested in filmmaking as a youngster I suppose, inasmuch as any moviegoer might be curious how the magic of cinema is created. If I take after my parents in the slightest, who are wonderful storytellers in their own right, then I really am a chip off the ol’ block. I grew up in 90s in a small town at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, about two hours north downtown Los Angeles. I was a senior in high school when I picked up my brother’s one chip DV camera. This was late 2001. My best friend, Gerald Rodriguez, and I were tossing around ideas for a movie plot. Even then, the landscape and our immediate surroundings were paramount in conceiving a story. An abandoned home on the outskirts of town gave our imaginations a license to run wild. The affordability and accessibility of DV made us feel we could actually do something. Those days were an early lesson on working with actors. Through our youthful and amateur musings on cinema, we were able to escape the doldrums growing up in rural central California. I do not remember the plot anymore. As undergrads, we continued our cinematic endeavors when we made two short documentary films for a History class. They were formally simple films with no titles and in camera editing. Actually, they were never “finished,” but instead we were graded on a rough cut. From what I can remember our grades were good. 

How did you get started as a filmmaker?

My interest in stage performance as an undergraduate student led to me applying for film school at California Institute of the Arts. As an English Lit and Theatre student at a local CSU, I was conscious of Hollywood’s track record concerning diversity. I figured then if I could have even just a bit of control as a content maker, writing and directing my own material, then I could maybe have more of a say in who’s in front of the camera. This may very well have signaled the end of telling stories with my own body and voice, but that I should be able to tell stories in any capacity qualifies me as being really fortunate. Furthermore, because cinema is a recorded medium, which nowadays can be widely, if freely, distributed, I find this very exciting. The theatre lives and dies on the stage. Cinema lives forever.

What films and/or filmmakers have influenced you?

Perhaps the most directly influential filmmaker is my mentor Lee Anne Schmit. It was not until I saw CALIFORNIA COMPANY TOWN that I was even aware of the film essay form. Going down the rabbit hole, I then saw her other work including THE WASH. James Benning once said Cal Arts is not a film school, but an art school that teaches film. His more recent work with landscapes and Thom Andersen’s essay work remind me how fortunate I am to have studied film at Cal Arts. This said, I greatly admire fiction films and those men and women who create them. Lately, I am really drawn to social realism, Andrea Arnold, and the Dardennes. Of course my interest in films and admiration of filmmakers extends far beyond…

What inspired the idea for your short film?

I was playing around with a camera that I had purchased to take location stills for my thesis. I discovered there was a setting wherein the camera shoots video at 30 fps. The next morning I took out my little tripod and started shooting around my house. The images came first and then a narrative emerged, which is not to imply the narrative is not factual. After the first day, the more I shot the more I kept thinking about my formative years there. And then I thought of my parents.

The semi-arid agricultural landscape of central California definitely dictated this story. The narrative of the film was first written in 1993 when my parents moved from McFarland to the house where they still live. The narrative has been rewritten ever since. Born and raised in Mexico, my parents met in Texas, married, and moved here for work forty years ago. With little education and knowing only Spanish, they worked in the fields. My father still does. The ultimate inspiration for EVERYBODY’S NUTS stems from having lived in Kern County my whole life. This film largely deals with my observations of my parents and their lives as far back as I can remember.

How did you get the funding?

All costs have been paid out of pocket. However, this may be the least expensive film I ever make actually. I was able to use the facilities at school for editing, color correction, and a final sound mix. The locations in EVERYBODY’S NUTS are in and around my parents’ home and there are no actors. The only performance is a narration in Spanish, which I perform. It was shot on a point and shoot digital camera I originally purchased to shoot location scouting stills. In actuality, most of the costs associated with the film came during post-production and sending the film out to festivals.

How long did it take to get made?

Photography started in early July of 2009 and I shot the film over two days. There were some re-shoots a week later. At the time I was concurrently working on DOS, POR FAVOR, a narrative short, which is my thesis film. A few months later in December, I was really busy with the production of my thesis film and so any editing work on EVERYBODY’S NUTS stopped. The film took a little more than a year to be finished. I was fortunate because as a grad student I had the luxury of time. There were no deadlines and I worked at my own pace, slow and steady like. I’m no hare.

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

One year has passed since I finished graduate school. I have been really fortunate in that my work has been getting into a few festivals here in the US and abroad. For now, these are the only ways I have tried effectively getting others to see the work. I am pursuing a couple of different options for distribution through online streaming. That said, after both films finish their respective festival runs, I will most likely make the films available online for anyone to view whenever they wish. I would much rather people see these films for nothing, than no one see them for a couple bucks or so. There is almost no money in short films, so I am happy for any exposure.

What are your goals and upcoming projects for the future?

I am currently editing two short docs I hope to have finished by mid July. I have a couple of experimental projects in mind as well. There is a documentary project in Simi Valley that has been on my mind as of late. Simi Valley, in fact, is the location of the first nuclear accident in American history. In the early 50s, an incident occurred at the Rocketdyne site in the hills above Simi Valley. Decades later, residents of a particular community near the accident site seem to be prone to cancer and other illnesses.

However, I am also looking into teaching opportunities. Although, I have never lived out of state and so this prospect is really interesting. But, because education has been a very important part of my life, I would very much like to help up and coming filmmakers. In time, I would be a very effective educator. Still, another perhaps more pressing goal is to direct a feature length narrative film. I am writing this script now. There is so much interesting and colorful history in this part of California that is largely ignored. When folks think of California, certainly they think of the Bay area or wine country and Los Angeles. But thousands upon thousands of acres of farmland and numerous rural communities abound in between. And our voices should be heard, too. The main character is a woman loosely based on my mother and her work experiences. I would really love to shoot in and around McFarland and Delano, home to the farm labor struggles of the late 60s.  I hope to be ready by next spring when grapes are ready for harvest. In any case, I just want to keep making work be it documentary, experimental, or narrative. I can and will excel at all three. To quote lauded indie film producer Ted Hope’s recent tweet, “I want 2tell stories that matter, represent the world we R living in, ConnectMoveEntertainInspire ppl, & encourage positv change.”

Written by Karie (site owner) on 06/07 at 05:11 PM