After one week here I wrote this as an opening card for the film:
Mexico City is a city of contradictions. With more than twenty-million people it is a culturally and intellectually vital city with a population filled with some of the world's leading writers, artists, architects and intellectuals.
Unfortunately since the devaluation of the peso in 1994 it has also become one of the most unsafe big cities in the world. In 1998 the New York Times reported that the crime rate was increasing by 30% per year and corruption was rampant.
Today Mexico City stands at a crossroads between the city it can ill afford to become, and the city it has always striven to be...
It is one thing to try and make a movie. Any movie. But making it in a foreign country is a another story all together. Like any time you travel, the sights sounds and smells are overwhelming. Add to that 14 hours of work every day and tons of new people to meet and work with and you end up with one draining week, and one zonked director.
We have been lucky enough to get into business with a great Mexican film company called Background, which basically did the same thing that they're doing for us for the recent Kiefer Sutherland, Courtney Love movie that shot here. Courtney was much despised. She showed up four hours late on the first day of shooting. Refused to talk to the Mexican crew. Wanted toast and jam at three in the morning in the middle of the Mexican Mountains. Crazy shit. Well, anyway, these fine folks at Background put up with that and now they have us. I showed up four hours late on the first day and no one seemed to care. They got more work done without me.
Background is run by Antonio and Victor Zavalla, two brothers in their early thirties who seem to be connected to every important playwright, dancer and actor in the city. We've already been to the theatre, to a movie premiere and it looks like we have tickets to the Mexican Academy Awards monday night. Just as long as Geena Davis isn't there, It'll be great. Come to think of it, Maybe it would be good if Geena Davis was there since we are five weeks away from shooting and still don't have a leading lady. I haven't gotten sick from the food yet (and I'm eating anything put in front of me), but my stomach is certainly in knots about that. Thankfully our amazing executive producers seem to have a crazy amount of faith in us, so we press on with an Oct 28th start date in front of us.
Speaking of acting, we have already fired our first person -- our casting person -- it seems that she had a proclivity towards casting people who wear a lot of make up and act like they're on a Telemundo soap opera. Not that those Mexican soap operas are bad per say, Lord knows I love a buxom Mexican maid with a crazy libido who is sleeping with the head of the house and his son as much as the next gringo, but they just don't seem to be what were after. Our new casting people see to have the right idea and we are moving along briskly on that front. It is truly exciting to bring these very talented actors to a wider audience. I think it will add an extra coolness to the movie...
Location scouting is certainly the highlight so far. I don't think I will ever travel to another foreign country without pretending to be scouting for a film. You get taken to the most bizarre interesting places that would never be in any guide book. In Mexico there are Lost Cities -- places that people live illegally, usually squatting in buildings that collapsed in the 1985 earthquake and were deemed unsafe. These people have no electricity or plumbing. Their roofs are made of plastic and stray tin. In the evening fires rage from garbage cans. Stray dogs wander aimlessly. Yet there is a certain amount of pride from the folks who live here. They struggle everyday just to survive, but in their hearts they are kind and decent people. No one has ever filmed in them, but we have spoken to the community leader and they are letting us work here... Incredible. From a visual stand point I am completely excited by the prospects of this movie. Assuming I don't go on some Coppola nervous breakdown location craziness and gain five hundred pounds and stay for three years, I really believe this movie is going to be amazing. The colors, the light. Every American movie that films here seems to miss the essence of the city. The vitality. The energy. Forget Geena Davis. This city is the real leading lady (just as long as it doesn't want toast and jam at three in the morning)
So far the weather is beautiful, the hotel bar over priced, the pool very warm (but never open when we get back from work), only soft core porn on the hotel SpectaVision channel, the food delicious, the Cohiba cigars from Cuba lovely, the people fascinating and funny and the general vibe -- if I can use that word without anyone deleting my name from their e-mail address book -- is muy bueno....
From a safety point of view, we are shuttled everywhere, completely taken care of. I have yet to take a stroll by myself (and probably won't) but I also think that everyone will be okay as long as we continue to keep a low profile. However if we don't get a leading lady soon I might be kidnapped by the executive producers and held for ransom--- say the budget of the film.
Anyway, I miss you all, and encourage you to visit and email.
Your Man in Mexico--
Back: The Films of Richard Shepard - Mexico Citywww.richardshepard.com