How I Shot That (LAFF Edition): Capturing the ‘Right Feeling’ of an Attempted Murder Scene in ‘Los Ángeles’

How I Shot That (LAFF Edition): Capturing the 'Right Feeling' of an Attempted Murder Scene in 'Los Ángeles'

Director Damian John Harper and cinematographer Friede Clausz are screening their first feature film “Los Ángeles,” about a young kid who tries to cross the border from Mexico in order to support his family, at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. The duo previously collaborated on the short film “Teardrop.”

[Editor’s Note: Indiewire reached out to filmmakers with films playing at the 20th LA Film Festival (June 11-19) to ask them about how they shot their indie, and what advice they had for other filmmakers. We’ll be posting their responses throughout the run of the festival. Go HERE for the master list.]

What camera and
lens did you use?
We shot “Los Ángeles” on the Arri Alexa.

What
was the most difficult shoot on your movie and how did you pull it off?
We decided
to shoot every scene in “Los Ángeles” as a plan-sequence from the shoulder. The
protagonists were all non-actors with no film experience, we had children,
animals, weapons, special effects, stunts, village fiestas and a rodeo… Every scene turned out to be more difficult than we planned.

For me the most difficult scene was an attempted murder – trying to capture the
right feeling. After several unsuccessful takes we just had to break, go back
to basics and try it again despite the bad weather. Patience and cutting off
the fat helped us pull it off. For my lead protagonist, Mateo Bautista Matias,
the hardest shot was the rodeo. He rode 4 bulls in a row! He pulled it of by
hanging on tight!

What’s the one
thing you wish someone had told you BEFORE you started your movie?
Try not to drink too much mescal.

What’s the worst
piece of advice you ever got?
I don’t know. I try not to remember bad advice.

What’s the best?
Jonathan Hernandez,
my friend and first AD, gave me a piece of advice that the great director
Auturo Ripstein had once given him: “Directing is like snake
charming.”

What advice do you
have for aspiring or first-time filmmakers?
Don’t write a film because you think it is
marketable or commercial. Write what you want to write because you feel
passionate about writing it.

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