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South By Southwest 2011 Interview - "Otis Under Sky" director Anlo Sepulveda

Otis Under Sky - At SxSW Film
by Jason Whyte

"Otis Under Sky is a stunning, visually motivated portrayal of unrequited love in the digital age." Director Anlo Sepulveda on "Otis Under Sky" which screens at this year's South By Southwest Film.

Is this your first film in SxSW? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to attend the festival screenings?

I’ve been to a few screenings at previous festivals, but this is my first film in SXSW. Myself and several of the cast and crew will be attending the screenings.

Could you give me a little look into your background, and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

I grew up in Corpus Christi, Belize and Austin. I pretty much wanted to be a filmmaker after seeing Star Wars at a drive- in theatre when I was 10.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …”

Well first I wanted to be a dog, then a worker man, then a filmmaker.

How did this whole project come together?

I met a spiritualist cowboy bull rider who embraced eastern religion and philosophy. He eventually moved to Morrocco, grew a beard and wore a turban. He was the inspiration for Otis. The film bounced around my head for several years. I tried to write a script, but found the process too confining for what I wanted to do. So I sketched out the characters on multiple notebooks and created a basic story structure. After I had pretty solid idea of what I wanted to do, all I needed was an Otis. I knew Anis Mojgani from way back before he was a world renowned poet. Someone told me he was coming to Austin to do a show, so I looked him up on YouTube. I knew immediately that I had my Otis. I approached him after his show, gave him a rambling almost incomprehensible description of what I wanted to do and he said, “Sure.” To this day I’m not sure what he was thinking. Then, I saw Roberta in an acting for film class that I help facilitate at Texas State University. She was perfect for Ursula. But nothing would ever come to be if it were not for Mandi, my wife and producer. She really made it happen. She really kept us organized and on task which is pretty difficult considering the film was unscripted and pretty spontaneous as far as what we were going to shoot on any given day.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it the script, principal photography or post-production stage?

Some of the time we would go to a location without the faintest idea of what we were going to shoot. That worked most of the time, but on several occasions we would just have to wait for inspiration an let the scene reveal itself.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

Well I was the DP and camera man and sometimes boom mic operator. We had people helping us here and there and only had a small consistent crew. I shot with a HVX 200 mostly because that is the only camera I had ready access to.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this project in particular?

Wong Kar-wai, Terrence Malick, Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke. Thier influence is all over the film. I love films that use strong visuals to tell the story.

How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?

I guess I want what any filmmaker wants. Basically to be able to make films without having to hold down a day job. As far as studio system vs. independent, I think it would depend on the project.

If you weren’t in this profession, what other line of work do think you would be involved with?

I used to be a carpenter. I loved doing it but I was not that good at it.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

This is all still pretty new to me. I guess I am about to find out, but as far as I can tell, press is essential to getting a film exposure. There is so much media content everywhere and without a little boost from the press you can just fall through the cracks, even if you have a brilliant film. The press seems to do a good job of finding gems and getting them exposure.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

Some outdoor park venue. I am pretty happy to have my film at the Paramount though.

What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?

How do you like your veggies? Fresh or from the can?

What would you say or do to someone who is talking during or conversing/texting on their cell phone while you’re watching a movie?

I would give them a good shhshhing.

What do you love the most about this business of making movies?

Nothing. It is miserable. I love it when other folks take care of the business. I love the creative process though.

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

Give up now before it is too late. It will suck you dry. No, actually it is a very difficult process, but if you have a good team in place, the collaboration makes it enjoyable.

And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?

So many. I can give you five that come to mind in no order.. "2001", "2046", "Days of Heaven", "Baraka" and "Fallen Angels".

This is one of the many films screening at the 2011 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 11-19. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte Facebook: jasonwhyte

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originally posted: 03/10/11 07:02:51
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