It was an Antonio Banderas action film that inspired filmmaker and actor Eduardo Castrillo to get into the biz, the WORTH star tells.
Tell us about your beginnings. Why filmmaking?
Well when I was kid I actually didn’t have any aspirations to be a filmmaker. You hear stories about Steven Spielberg running around with his Super 8 making little films with his friends and that wasnt me at all. I was more getting into trouble, getting into fights in the school yard, walking around with no guidance right up until High School.
I saw Once Upon A Time in Mexico in theaters and thought it was the greatest film I had ever seen and wanted to do that. After that I would spend countless hours watching movies, drawing comic books, doing anything I could to tell stories. I took classes at a junior college, got a internship at a local production company, and then finished up at a film school in San Francisco where I met a lot of the crew I still work with today.
Work a few different jobs on the way?
Oh yeah, my first job was when I was a teenager working for a catering company that hosted weddings. Did everything from setting tables to cleaning up the bathrooms after drunken wedding guests. Then when I was at film school I worked part time at Best Buy.
Going to school and working a job can be hectic, but then trying to fit in a film schedule in addition to that is damn near impossible. Honestly if it wasn’t for my manager Tom McClain(may he rest in peace), I wouldn’t had made it as far as I did. He did everything he could from giving me weekends off in the summer, to even helping me build my first film sets, I was lucky to have that support coming up.
What would you say was your ‘break’? when did you know it was working for you?
After my first feature film, The Last Wolf of Ezo, was finished, I had become exhausted. I was tired, depressed, I wanted to quit school and didn’t know if it was something I could keep doing. Then my mom gave me five hundred dollars one day and told me to go start something new. Didn’t matter what it was, just to get shooting again. So I called a few friends of mine and we started my second project, which became On The Court. It started as a little shoot on a basketball court to becoming arguably my biggest project so far.
We landed a distribution deal for it, with dvds landing in shelves at Walmart to it currently streaming on Hulu. It was surreal. There was a moment where I was working in Nebraska for two weeks, and when I was there I saw a video rental store. I didn’t know they still existed. I walked in and saw On The Court right there in the New Releases. It was a dream I got to live that I didn’t think I ever could. That moment I knew you could really live out your aspirations.
How do you think you’ve improved as a filmmaker since then?
I think the best way I improved as a filmmaker is just in the people who I surround myself with now. I work with my friends and family. There was a lot of talented people at my film school and i’m very lucky to get to work with the best cinematographer and the best sound engineer that graduated from there. I’m still learning, but knowing I can trust my team and my actors, it makes it easier to make decisions.
Is there one project you’d call your calling card?
I would say Worth is my calling card. We really worked hard to tell that story and I’m very proud of what we did.
Do you find, when production companies or studios call, they’re looking for you to direct because they’re chasing a certain ‘type’ of filmmaker’? Or has that not been your experience yet?
A lot of times when I get a call to work on a project that isnt my own, it’s someone looking to just get a job. Take it from A to B to C. They don’t want to hear about your ideas with D,E and F. With that experience I now rarely work on freelance projects. Unless it’s something I really believe in. If I like the people involved and think it’s going to be fun, then i’m there!
Tell us about Worth?
Worth is a passion project that came out of being in a fight gym so many years of my life. Being friends with professional fighters and learning their stories, the script started to develop itself. The film is about a young Muay Thai fighter named Ricky, and his experiences of trying to balance life in and out of the ring. It’s a story i’m sure seems familiar, but I wanted to cover things that are common to the fight world but ignored in cinema. Things like fighters having to sell tickets to their own fight, or how much weight cutting actually effects you.
Is it a genre you like playing in?
I really love martial arts. I love the movement. I love the energy. It’s definitely something I will do more of in future films. Worth was a very dramatic martial arts story, I would love to see what I could do with a lighter tone, even borderline comedy.
How much time did you get to spend with cast beforehand, to make sure the chemistry was down pat? Much rehearsal time?
You know there wasn’t a lot of rehearsal time before shooting, but every one of the cast I got along with very well. I worked with the majority of them before so we built a relationship already. Johnny Gilligan is magnificent in his role and I knew with him leading the fight team of the cast, we were going to be okay. The two people who I was new to working with were Willie Barcena and Tony Todd. I got to rehearse with both of them before shooting and I knew right away the chemistry was there. They are still both really great friends til this day and I hope to work with them again soon.
Is there anything in this film you found particularly hard to do? Maybe something you didn’t quite master?
Anyone on the set of this film would tell you the fight scene was the most difficult part of the film. And I would agree. I had to train for a year to get ready for it, be in front and behind the camera, and actually get kicked and punched! Not only that, the morning of the shoot, we had to set up the ring! The film crew! Who have never set up a boxing ring before. It was crazy. We lost a lot of time with that, but luckily on the second day there was another ring crew there to set up and help things run more smoothly. It’s all about adaptation though, if you can adapt to your surroundings and all the changes going on, you can make it in film.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been working a lot in the horror genre. I’m on set now for a film called Dead Ride and it’s been a thrill to be on honestly. I feel like my collaboration with the actors and my cinematographer is the best it’s ever been, and this film is so beautiful yet so frightening. I wish I could say more but I’d hate to ruin the surprise.
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