Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Films: Tlaloc

Tlaloc by Sabrina Doyle
Los Angeles (Milwaukee Premiere) 
Running Time: 3  Minutes
Screening Time: Oct 26th 5:15pm

Tickets $10.00 Buy Tickets Here:

Los Angeles, the hottest day of the year. A Mexican migrant worker struggles to operate a heavy jackhammer. He wipes his brow with his bandana, and watches enviously as restaurant patrons sup champagne in nearby shade. Stoical, he continues working, but the heat and dust just get more and more oppressive. Relief comes in the form of a prayer. A prayer to Tlaloc, the Aztec rain deity. The weather breaks, and rainwater pours down from the heavens. The restaurant patrons rush indoors, while the worker carries on working, cooled and joyful. Tlaloc smiles, pleased at his work.

TLALOC contains a subtle social theme, but mostly it's a story about one man and the moment of grace he is granted - set to an uplifting original score that recalls the tribal beats of ancient Aztec civilizations.

Director Statement
TLALOC was inspired by my Father's first job - as a jackhammer operator - when he came to the UK from Ireland in the 1970s. It was also informed by my own observations when I moved to LA from the UK. I've always watched builders and manual workers with interest because they remind me of my Dad, a builder for most of his life. Arriving in LA, I was blown away by the heat, hotter than I'd ever known. I couldn't believe anyone could work under that midday Sun, and yet all around me were Mexican migrant workers laboring in sweltering conditions. I admired their resilience and tenacity, but I also wished the weather would cool down just a little to make their day more bearable. From that, came the idea of a prayer to an ancient rain god. A prayer which, in this short, is answered by a refreshing downpour.

TLALOC is an American Film Institute cinematography project, designed to tell a story through entirely visual means. With that in mind, cinematographer Stephen Paar and I chose two film stocks: Kodak 5207 and Fuji Vivid 160. Our opening image uses a gold filter, supplemented with lots of dust, to set up the dry, hot look we were going for. Once the rain god, Tlaloc, responds to the worker's prayer, we switch to Fuji Vivid 160 tungsten-balanced film stock for a cooler look. We tried to create a stifling feeling for the first half of the film: by short-siding the worker, placing him in awkward frames, and over-cranking the image. In the second half of the film, we liberate the camera with a euphoric hand-held move circling around the worker. The Tlaloc sequences were shot using a strobe light to simulate thunder.

I hope people walk away from TLALOC feeling joyful and liberated. Life provides us with answers to our problems, and sometimes happiness comes from unexpected sources: in this case, a simple rain shower.

Production Notes

"Imagining Tlaloc"

With Production Designer Vicky Chan, we researched images of the Aztec rain deity, Tlaloc. We found out he had bulging eyes and long, protruding fangs. From this, we realized our rain god had to be more awe-inspiring than benevolent. Capable of destruction as well as creation. Feared as well as revered. We decided to show Tlaloc in both human and statue form. Our actor, Chuy Garcia, has all the loftiness and nobility necessary for the human embodiment of Tlaloc. Vicky was wonderfully inventive when it came to creating the Tlaloc statue. She fashioned him out of papier-mâché, then painted him blue and gold. Make up artist Kelsie Gygie colored Chuy's face with a paste she made herself: out of a clay face mask and crushed blue eye shadow. A major inspiration for the visual style of Tlaloc was the Smashing Pumpkins' first music video, Siva, which uses tribal images very effectively - both painted human faces and primitive-looking statues.

"Casting The Worker"

David Saucedo, who plays The Worker in TLALOC, came to the audition entirely in character. We didn't even realise he was American because when he introduced himself to us he spoke in broken English. Holding auditions for an MOS project is challenging. You don't have dialogue for people to read, so you have to rely on physical action and space work to judge performance. The moment we knew we had to hire David was when he spat on the ground (this spitting action actually made its way into the final film). Later, he told us that he'd been determined to push himself during auditions: not relying on the obvious, but finding specific and unexpected behaviors that would be revealing of character. David's commitment to his character extended into production. Before shooting, he observed Mexican migrant workers attentively, noticing many carried bandanas inside their hard hats to wipe off sweat from their faces. This detail, once again, made it into the final movie. David is a shining example of how an actor can augment a director's vision.

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