Seven Questions For Migues Arteta, Director Of "Star Maps"
by Lydia Marcus
First time feature filmmaker (director/screenwriter) Miguel Arteta’s film, "Star Maps,"
had a bumpy start at its first Sundance screening at the Yarrow on Friday night.
Problems with the projection led to three false starts, with the third finding Arteta
blocking the projection booth’s window in an effort to stop the projectionist from
improperly running it in front of the almost capacity crowd. After thirty minutes
of delays the show was finally underway.
Featured in the American Spectrum, "Star Maps" is the story of one Latino family that
runs a combination map selling/flesh peddling business on different corners around Los Angeles.
Douglas Spain is Carlitos, a young hustler/star map seller by day who wants to be an actor.
The film also stars Effrain Figueroa, Lysa Flores, Kanner Jensen, Annette Murphy, and Martha Velez.
During the Q&A with the audience, a viewer asked Arteta if it’s true that star map sellers are
really hustlers, with Arteta responding tongue and cheekily, "I don’t know what you might have heard,
but each and everyone of them is."
indieWIRE: So the first screening at Sundance, a thirty minute delay,
were you freaking out?
Miguel Arteta: I was out of my mind. I’m a little embarrassed to have flipped out so much,
but to have the technical problems happen three times was very hard.
iW: I actually felt that there was nothing new that could be done new in Hollywood and this film,
from beginning to end, surprised me.
Arteta: Well thank you very much.
iW: Did you base the storytelling on telenovellas or soap operas at all?
Arteta: Sure, telenovellas were an influence and also I like television. You know, our major investors were the creators of "Dynasty" (Richard and Ester Shapiro). Their daughter Eden went to Wesleyan when I was in the film program and they have seen my short films and they loved the script. They have a great sense of humor about what they do, and they grew up in L.A. in the middle of the whole TV culture. They’re very liberal so they loved having some sort of Latino culture clashing with the TV world. They really went for it.
iW: There’s a scene with Carlitos and his sister and they say something like,
‘We’ve got to get out of here, we’ve got to leave,’ and you look at the situation on the outside where you
assume people would be happy to have a nice house and things provided for them. Where should these characters be going to?
What was your intent?
Arteta: Well, I didn’t want to have them living in a slum and be the idea that ‘We need to get out of the barrio.’ I think I wanted the idea that, ‘We need to get away from Pepe (their pimp father). We need to get away from somebody
who doesn’t have a sense of pride, who doesn’t know where they come from,’ and that’s why they needed to get away.
They needed to find their pride, they needed to not depend on somebody who has no self respect. That’s the problem
with our Latino culture, I think. As opposed to the wonderful achievements of the Chicano civil rights movement and
Puerto Rican civil rights movements and many other movements in the United States, on whole we don’t compare with the
African American civil rights movement in terms of knowing who we are and having a sense of pride. Rather than
complaining about present images that Hollywood puts on us, I wanted to make fun of that and say, ‘We need to find
a sense of pride in ourselves.’ And I wanted to push some buttons. I got a lot of criticisms about making a movie
about a father who prostitutes his own son – and that’s actually what we wanted to do. We wanted to stir people up –
and while I support it and I think it’s really important to have films with positive images like "Stand And Deliver"
and "Mi Familia", I think that we need to go beyond that and say that Latino artists can do challenging films, films
that push the stereotypes that Hollywood has imposed on us.
iW: Is Sundance something you were aspiring to when you were making the film?
Arteta: This was the lure to get money from people. It’s like ‘This is going to be a prestigious project.
We’re going to be at Sundance together. Give us some money. You’re going to have fun.’…This festival is great
in representing people that need to be represented… having voices that usually don’t get heard, that’s a wonderful thing.
I’m so proud to premiere here. It really is an honor.
iW: So what was the most daunting part about making a feature for you?
Arteta: It’s like jumping off a cliff when you make a movie like this. "Is anyone ever going to catch me?"
It’s a long process. It’s scary. I’m terribly, terribly, terribly in debt. Neither Matthew (Greenfield, Producer
and co-screenwriter) or me have parents with money. We raised every penny from scratch through our passion, and it’s
scary to think, "Do I have a future?" "Am I going to be able to survive?" Me and Matthew felt this one from the heart
and we just couldn’t go and do "Clerks" – two people in a convenience store telling dick jokes – we wanted to do something
that mattered to us, so we went for broke.
iW: What are you looking for in a distributor? What do you want from the company that’s
going to handle it?
Arteta: I want a distribution deal that really gets it out there – it gets a very good art house release,
but also on a completely different strategy at the same time, it gets it out to the Latino population. It’ll be
two different campaigns. And I want a distributor that’s open to doing that, working on those two levels, because
I think there could be two markets for it….I think that Latino films are going to break through, just like African
American films [broke] through in the ’80’s and I think the same thing is going to happen for Latinos. You know,
Robert Rodriguez, god bless him, he’s done alot for us. Gregory Nava did a lot for us. Movies like "Like Water For
Chocolate" have done alot. I think that this is going to be the year of Latino films, especially the whole idea of
magical realism in film. Audiences are starting to be open to it, and that’s something that’s ours.