By: Daniel Hoyos | PHOTOS COURTESY Maggie Zulovic
- Los Angeles, California
Spanish indie film director Jamie Valdueza, discusses creating one of the best horror shorts of 2016 "Burned", working with talent Beau Knapp (Super 8), and Malika Monore (It Follows).
Burned is a short film about Jason who only trusts his girlfriend Lila, and together they go to meet a friend in desert. Can you tell us where the storyline come from?
The story comes out of an idea about trust, I wanted to turn the idea of a victim fighting for survival and understanding into a love story where we desperately want this couple to make things work but we discover that this is not an average relationship.
The two lead actors Beau Knapp (Super 8), and Maika Monroe (It Follows) give me chills in Burned. Can you take us threw the process of casting both Beau, and Maika?
First, thank you for the compliment. I’m glad that they gave you chills. The casting started when I gave the script to a director friend of mine, Jaume Collet-Serra, he was working on a film and had a couple of great secondary actors that were starting up and if I liked any of them that he could show my script to whoever I picked. I chose Beau, he was great and he was closer in age to the character. Beau read the script and loved it, so he was the first one to come on board. Maika came after, I was having problems casting Lila and three days before filming I had no one.
Beau proposed Maika, who was just finishing her second film but still wasn’t known, they were with the same manager. When I saw samples of her work I was blown away and couldn’t believe my luck when she wanted to do “Burned”. I had a terrific cast and with the help of our amazing casting director Lindsey Weissmueller, we got Meredith Monroe and Micah Hauptman which are top talent and the best possible choices. I was very lucky and happy with the cast.
Burned has a very unique look being set in the desert. Can you tell us about the location scouting for Burned?
It was pretty hard, I wanted a realistic feel of the area, and the only way to make it realistic is to go to these real people houses and film in them. An exterior of a house you can just see driving by, but the interior is a different story. Adam, the producer went door by door by the areas and houses that I thought could work and he went into people’s houses and sent me pictures of along with a report of how open were them to let us film there. It took him 3 weeks to find something worth scouting. He worked so hard and it paid off.
The menacing look, came from conversations with Harris the DP, we made the decision to film it in a blue winter light which it made the desert seem more sinister. We also decided to film everything needed to be handheld to feel real and let the actors free to improvise.
Meredith Monroe from, the TV series (Dawson’s Creek) also stars in Burned. When casting a film what qualities do you look for with actors?
Besides the obvious talent and that they fit the role, I love actor’s commitment to a story or a character. When I met Meredith she was fearless and ready to go wherever I would tell her emotionally. That’s one of the best qualities that you can have in an actor the commitment to explore a character in order to understand their story.
Congratulations on the successes of Burned. Do you think film festivals are still an essential part of marketing your film?
I think it’s the only way for independent filmmakers to have their film be shown and get people interested and if you connect and get lucky you might have a chance to make another film. I’m not sure that there is another alternative.
We often talk with up-coming filmmakers who are interested in breaking into the business. What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in filmmaking?
If you are obsessed with making films, go for it. Try to always be involved in films or filmmakers, offer to help even if it’s for free and eventually people notice your passion and hire you.
Burned would be the perfect short film to turn into a feature film. Do you plan on making Burned into a feature?
Some people told me the same thing, which it’s great to hear, but I never fully planned it as a feature. I do have a couple ideas of how the story will continue, I might write a long version of “Burned” after I finish with my current project.
Follow Burned on Twitter.