Lights, camera, bullets
The independent-filmmaker glory days may be long gone, but Alejandro Guimoye says he will make movies if it kills him—which almost happened in Panama. Born in Peru, Guimoye came to the States in 1990 when he was 10. Now in Sacramento, he works with his production company, Tres Vagos Films, to make the movies that mean something to him. He recently wrapped production on his very first film, El Viaje de Ana Maria, which chronicles a religious, poor Panamanian teenager who opens her mind to supernatural forces and finds herself in a fight for her own sanity (www.elviajedeanamaria.com). He made the film on a tight schedule and a shoestring budget, and it almost cost him his life. But none of that stopped him. In fact, Guimoye says he’s just getting started.
What inspired you to make a film about exorcism?
In 1979, she was pregnant with me, and went to hell and back and almost lost her mind after a demonic presence began to haunt her. She opened the door to the occult through astral projection and reading lots on the esoteric. El Viaje de Ana Maria is a testament to her journey and self-discovery.
What does El Viaje de Ana Maria mean?
Ana Maria’s journey.
Is it a road movie?
In a way. It’s more about Ana Maria’s journey inward, rather than going from one location to another. It’s about her spiritual journey and the demonic forces that she must confront. The story starts in the beginning of her life, so we see how it all started.
How did you get started in filmmaking?
I became interested in filmmaking right after college. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts, so I had a passion for the arts. I bought a Canon camcorder to practice and shoot a short film. I started shooting weddings to pay for the camera while doing so. Little by little, I began to teach myself filmmaking by doing and watching others doing it, studying films and reading on the subject.
What are some things that you discovered during production?
Three things: prep work, prep work and prep work. Making films at the low budget my crew and I are doing it for leaves a lot of room for mistakes, loose ends and things that could have been avoided, or at least minimized, had we done our homework before shooting. I guess we were so excited to go out and film our first feature that we never thought we’d get this far.
What was thehardest part?
My biggest challenge was casting. It’s hard to find lots of talent to choose from when you’re not paying anyone. We have been extremely blessed with the cast we’ve acquired both in Panama and here in the U.S. Another thing is not having much time to rehearse or work with the actors before the shoots, again, due to having to shoot on weekends.
How was it shooting in Panama?
Shooting down in Panama was rough at times. I remember we filmed Ana Maria giving birth at the Red Cross in the Santa Ana district, turf to four of Panama’s deadliest street gangs. The day started with a group of 14 or more gang members holding up the producer and cinematographer at kitchen-knife point at the corner bodega. We lost $35, half our budget for the day; luckily, no one was hurt.
At times, we had to stop filming and wait for the bullets to stop flying right outside our door as rival gangs and local police resolved problems Santa Ana style. I lost count of how many times we barricaded the front door with cast and crew members when we heard gangs outside our door—our lives and most importantly our loaned equipment were at stake. The night ended beautifully with the local police escorting us safely to our home base in a town nearby.
Now that you’ve finished production, what’s next?
I hope to have El Viaje de Ana Maria completed by this fall and out to festivals this year. I also want to present it to investors and distributors. My goal is to get enough money to have some sort of budget for our next project and pay cast and crew. I have a few projects in the pipeline as of now, but I think a comedy is next.