Club Kids Take Manhattan: A Conversation with Manuel
Toledano, director of "Shampoo Horns"
by Aaron Krach
Not many people get the chance to make a feature film only two months
after graduating from film school, at the age of 21, and with a budget of
more than $1 million. But that’s what happened to Manuel Toledano, a
Spaniard transplanted to New York City. The resulting film, “Shampoo
Horns” is a bizarre mix of fact and fiction about drugs, dreams, and club
kids. Toledano tapped into Spanish resources to complete the film. The
unconventional narrative defies the traditional, indie niche market, yet
will open in New York City tomorrow
“Shampoo Horns” is a hard film to pin down; one part “Spinal Tap”,
another part Fellini, but ultimately Toledano’s. indieWIRE caught up
with the Toledano, during a “crazy week” before the opening.
indieWIRE: Some people slave over their scripts for years. Explain how
“Shampoo Horns” got off the ground so quickly. And how did you meet
Manuel Toledano: For me it was really fast. I just got out of school. I
thought I was going to be making coffee for years. I graduated from NYU
in June 1995 and got the contract to shoot the movie 2 months after. In
Spain, he [Querejeta] is like this really big guy. He has made about 60
movies. He’s got Palme d’Ors in Cannes and Academy Award nominations.
He’s been around forever. He had just opened an office here to try and
sell his movies better in the states. Someone from his company saw the
short film I made at NYU called “Soledad, Soledad.”
I won a Mobil award at NYU, and after that they really help promote you.
So I went out to L.A. to meet these producers. They always tell you to
bring a script and so I brought this 60 page, mockumentary script. And
everyone said, “Well maybe the next one.” But Elias liked it, even
though it’s nothing like his movies. But he saw a human side to it.
iW: So he came in as the producer and found you the money?
Toledano: Right. The way it works in Spain, there is the government
sponsors and the national T.V. station, Canal+. With some other
investments we got into it right away.
iW: The premiere was at last year’s Berlin Film Festival. Why has the
distribution taken so long?
Toledano: The problem is that Elias’s movies have never made it big in
the States. So the people that were working for him were making mistake
after mistake after mistake. They were showing it in private screenings
for distributors which really freaks them out, ’cause they have never
seen people like this. It was going to play at Sundance, but we didn’t
make it because there was a problem and the producer didn’t want to rush
it for a festival. But in Berlin it did really well. It was jam-packed, but they
didn’t have any distributors there. They didn’t even think of it. We eventually
found Mike Thomas, the original co-founder of Strand who is helping us out.
It’s coming out in May in Spain. It’s already come out in Greece —
Because of Mykonos. They bought it right away and wanted it to play
before everyone left at the end of summer. We played at the market in
Cannes. It was really weird because the countries that usually buy your
film first are England, Germany, Japan but for us it was Greece and
iW: Alfredo Mayo, the D.P. is amazing. How did you find him?
Toledano: From Elias, the producer. He’s probably the person I learned
the most from. The way he works, the little things. He lit entire scenes
with flashlights. He has done some Almodovar films, “Tie Me Up, Tie Me
Down” and “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.”
iW: Not many directors have had the experience of working with a cast of
club kids. What was it like?
Toledano: The cast was great and hell. When I wrote the script there
were three main stories and there were already main people attached to
them. But some of the small parts there were changes ’cause I couldn’t
get a hold of them, or because they wouldn’t show up. Some of them were
great, but some of them when they read the script they thought, “this
isn’t me.” Their egos. . . Then there was the whole drug thing. And back
then was the good time for them in the clubs. I had two people hired on
call, just to call and find people to make sure the cast was at a
certain place at the right time. For a month and a half I was a Dad and
they were my kids. For my next film I just want actors who want to act.
And not just people who want to be in a movie.
iW: How do you have a costume and make-up person for all these club
Toledano: Well the costume person was only doing 20% of the costumes. But
the costume person had to go door to door and talk to the actors and
pick out what they wanted to wear and bring it to me. Then they had to
basically kidnap the clothes for a month and a half. But everyday they
would bring a new accessory and I would say OK, you can wear that purse
but in three weeks when we do the second part of this scene you have to wear
that same purse. Then they would say they lost it and we would just have to go
on. Make-up; at the beginning everyone wanted to do their own make-up.
Of course when they saw the one’s who were getting their make-up done
and getting the princess treatment, they all wanted to have their
make-up done for them.
iW: How do feel about the whole club kid murder/Peter Gatien drug
supermarket trial controversies?
Toledano: I wanted to avoid the controversy for two years. But after a
year and half of not being able to sell the movie… — and there’s things
like the “Party Monster” documentary about Michael Alig at Sundance and
Michael Alig events are selling out — we decided to use it. And
unfortunately that’s the way to get people to go and see it.