SXSW Winner, Tamara Hernandez Makes "Men Cry Bullets"
by Amanda N. Nanawa
Only a month ago, “Men Cry Bullets” made its feature debut at the South
by Southwest film festival and walked away with an award for best
narrative feature. No one was more surprised than the film’s
writer/director/music supervisor Tamara Hernandez. With previous short
films to her credit — “Baby Fat” (1995) which screened at Sundance and
“The Slap” (1995), which showed in both and Sundance and Cannes, “Men
Cry Bullets” marks her directorial feature debut.
The film explores a relationship on the brink of a meltdown. Billy
(Steven Nelson) is a naive young man who finds love in the wrong place.
The conventional gender roles are reversed once Gloria (played by Honey
Lauren) enters his world and peels away his self-esteem. The
relationship is complicated by the arrival of Gloria’s conniving cousin
Lydia (played by Jeri Ryan of “Star Trek: Voyager”) who, like Gloria,
charms her way to get what she wants.
With one festival under the film’s belt, certain tensions for Hernandez
have dissipated only to give way to newer tensions, such as finding the
right distributor for the film and pushing it to a much larger audience.
indieWIRE: Do you remember how you reacted to the news about the film
Tamara Hernandez: I was in bed with a stomach ache. The stomach ache
disappeared (and) I was suddenly happy; and relieved, actually, because
it’s just so hard to get your film out there. And the pressure of all
the people (who) gave you the money, like, “prove it to us that all this
was worth it”. So, it kinda felt like, I could finally go back to the
investors and say, “See. It wasn’t a big mistake.”
iW: What were you hoping to achieve at SXSW besides being there and
showing the film?
Hernandez: I was hoping some distributors would see it and I would sell
it. But, they didn’t. Not one distributor came to see the film. Now, I
have to set up a distribution screening and it’s just very expensive and
iW: I noticed in the end credits that you mentioned Ted Hope of Good
Machine and Howard Bernstein of Eureka Pictures. How did they help the
Hernandez: Ted has helped us a lot over our whole little film company.
He’s just given us a lot of advice, he’s taken a lot of time out; just
(getting) on the phone with us and telling us what to do, what not to
do. He likes “Men Cry Bullets” a lot. He’s helped us out with giving it
a good word here and there.
And Howard Bernstein has introduced us to people who helped get the
finishing funds. A couple years ago, I did a mailing to a lot of
producers trying to get another script of mine made and he answered me
back. Without him, I wouldn’t even have the print.
And Howard and Harry Ralston (Producer), who plays Freddy Fishnets,
(have) been friends for a really long time in college.
iW: You were also credited for music supervision. Did you already have
in your mind what songs you wanted to use during production?
Hernandez: I had to pick all the obvious songs ahead of time that people
are lip synching to. I had a feel I wanted, like a very old Peter
Sellers film, early å60s. When I was cutting the film, I really started
to get a Herb Alpert scene, what songs would work against a scene. I
tried to get those songs and they’re really expensive so I met that band
(X-Friends) and I worked with them for a few months and I think they
really nailed it. I’m really proud of them.
iW: Were they a local band from Los Angeles?
Hernandez: Yeah. Actually, they broke up while they were composing the
iW: How many music cues were there?
Hernandez: They gave me about 36 different songs. I didn’t use all of
them. A lot of them I decided to reuse. I probably used about 25. I was
kinda wondering if I was putting too much in here but I just, you know,
it (was) so right so I went for it.
iW: Do you remember how much you had to spend for the rights of the
Hernandez: For festival rights, it was $10,000. They’re pretty fair for
the level of songs that I chose. When I picked them, I didn’t realize
how much I was getting into. “One Less Bell To Answer”, I just love that
song and I thought of the film about seven years ago and I thought of
that song into the film. I really wanted it.
iW: The feel of the music used, especially scenes in the bar and in the
house, reminded me of ’70s sexploitation films. Was that something you
were trying to touch on?
iW: You were just focusing on a certain style of the ’60s?
Hernandez: Yeah. I wanted to capture that innocence that I felt at that
age, when I was a kid back then. Like before my parents got divorced, it
kinda seemed like there was so much more hope. So, that music reminds me
iW: Was the film, the story coming from Billy’s point of view or
Gloria’s point of view?
Hernandez: Well, the thing is, I really wanted to do something that
show(ed) both points of views — the victim and the victimizer — and
just how complicated that relationship is, how you can get sucked into
it and how the victimizer can be very charismatic and feel sorry for
them. They can have all these funny, great qualities but you still stay
away from them when that kind of person comes into your life. And
Billy’s playing a little girl and she’s playing a man, so that was
another thing that was a little difficult to pull off. I wanted him to
play me when I was nineteen.
iW: Did you want everyone who was associated to Gloria to have that kind
of lost innocence?
Hernandez: That’s kinda something, I think, a lot of my characters and
everything I write have. Just kind of always wanting to be in a
different time in life, but the world changed and you didn’t want to
change with it.
iW: Is it correct to say that “Men Cry Bullets” is a reflection of the
Hernandez: Yeah. Definitely. I look at movies as therapy sessions, to
work out a lot of things.
[A distribution deal is still pending. Screenings for “Men Cry Bullets”
will be held in New York: Tribeca Film Center, April 21st @ 7 p.m. and
Los Angeles: O’Ryan Century City Screening Room, April 23rd @ 7 p.m. For
more information about the film, contact Tamara Hernandez or Harry
Ralston at Idiot Films, 7969 West 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048,