22 Lug An interview with ANDRES RAMIREZ, director of “Shutter”
“I believe that cinema, as medium, is the only art form that mixes the best from all other mediums. Cinema is constantly evolving alongside its creators, leading us to produce films that will challenge our perspectives, and that will age and mature with us.”
Jose Andres Ramirez Ortiz is a Mexican independent filmmaker known as Andres Ramirez. While growing in the world of cinema and literature, Andres started writing short stories. Later, in his life, he moved on to Monterrey, Mexico, where writing and filmmaking became more prominent in his life. While he was in high school at Prepa Tec ITESM, he started his filmmaking career doing short films and music videos, during the summer he went to the Pre-College Program at CCA in San Francisco. At the end of high school, he went to Vancouver Film School, where he directed and produced his first short film in film school, “Why? (2016). He is currently working on distributing his successful short film “Frame,” which was presented at the Cannes Short Film Corner in 2018. At the end of 2019, he started a festival circuit run for his two more recent short films, “Shutter” and “From Charlie, with Love.” He is currently developing and looking forward to completing his next short film while he continues his film studies at New York University.
“Shutter” is a magnetic film. The tension that accompanies the whole narration captures the viewer until the last minute. But behind a good film there is always a good script. What is your relationship with writing? Does the film change dramatically in the directing phase or do you stay true to the text?
As a writer/ director, I usually try to respect the script as much as possible through the whole production process. My approach to directing is grabbing the subtext elements from the script and dragging the character’s motivations and thematic elements from the film, while giving certain freedom to the actors, so they feel safe to improvise and provide something unique. However, things with “Shutter” were a little bit different. On the day of shooting an actor didn’t show up, and we lost two scenes. This forced me to rewrite on the spot and grab the resources that I had on set to tell the story. An example of this is at the beginning of the film, where Lou, our assistant director, was casted as a model. Because of these challenges, I had to change the scenes’ order during the editing process. Thankfully, after a year of editing, I can say that I am happy with the results and response by audiences.
This film is also an elegant reflection on art and its ability to “devour” reality to sublimate it. Often artistic research is characterized by a real obsession with the object of one’s art. How much does the character of the photographer Charley represent you?
I am not exactly sure if Charley represents me. However, I think we are both obsessive and care about the results while producing a work of art. I think he is more of a representation of how far are we willing to go to create a work of art and how people can consume art without questioning the ethical process behind it.
How did the idea for this dark and intriguing story come about?
“Shutter” was born from my love for the genre and stories like Sherlock Holmes, Seven and Silence of the Lambs, to mention a few. With “Shutter,” I wanted to see If I could tackle and work within the genre and bring my perspective. This project was also born with the idea of the power of a photograph as it can create happiness but also damage on people. This motivated some of my directorial decisions and stylistic choices through the film. In a way, the camera “killing” a person represents how a person’s life can be affected and destroyed with a single picture.
Your film was born inside New York University and the results of their teaching are clearly seen in your film, but many young directors choose not to attend a film school. How is the experience of directing inside a school? How much did it influence your artistic vision?
This project was shot before I enrolled in NYU. I made this film as an extracurricular film while I was studying at CCA in San Francisco. The experience directing this film was a challenge because I dealt with a minimal budget and some school support, considering this was not for an assignment. However, based on my experience, most schools are very supportive of your vision and push you to the best of your abilities. I think they’re an influence on how your approach crafting a film, how you light, how you move the camera, how you direct actors, and I think this is good influences as they perfect your directorial style. For me, good film schools should be enablers, but in the end, depends on one to keep shooting and getting your hands in the dirt. I untimely think that time and budget play a crucial role in the artistic vision. In the case of “Shutter,” close professors gave me great feedback all along the process. The challenges faced, such as budget and time, lead to creative compromises that ended up working, probably, for the best.