What is your background as a filmmaker? What got you interested in making a horror movie?
I've been a fan of horror movies since I was a little kid. I loved getting scared and still do. As I grew up I always wanted to be working somehow behind the cameras maybe doing special effects. I went to art school and became an illustrator. I worked for a while as a storyboard artist but I always wanted to make my own movies. With the digital revolution and the affordability of digital video cameras and computers, I soon found out that making my own movies was not impossible. I made a few short sci-fi movies for practice and then I went all out with Spirit Hunter: La Llorona my first horror feature.
To be honest, this movie is the first time I've heard the legend of La Llorona. Is it the Western equivalent of the "Bogey Man" story?
La Llorona is the Hispanic version of the bogey man or in this case the bogey woman. It is a very popular legend in Mexico and Central America. Moms would always tell their children that if they stayed outside too late, La Llorona would take them away.
What prompted you to use the legend of La Llorona as the basis of your movie rather than make up a different story?
The fact that it is such a popular legend among Hispanics, I believed would give it more marketability. I also wanted to introduce the legend to Non-Hispanics. In the last years I had heard stories about mothers drowning their children, like the case of the Yates family in Texas. That is how I thought what if…what if mothers were being possessed by the spirit of La Llorona and made to recreate the same unspeakable acts that La Llorona had committed long ago.
The story is about women who are possessed by the spirit and end up killing their children, which is more suggested and shown off screen. Was this a matter of finding kid actors or did you think it was too horrific to show more graphically?
As a parent myself just the thought alone of your children being drowned is creepy enough. I thought it would be in bad taste to actually show it and also some things are better left to the imagination.
Will there be a second La Llorona movie?
It all depends on the success of this first one. I would like to make other Spirit Hunter movies where the psychic remote viewing detective takes on other evil spirits or urban legends.
Tell us about your actors and how you cast the movie?
I used mainly unknown but very talented actors. Rina Fernandez who plays a dual role as Anna Ryan and "La Llorona" is better known of the cast. She got her start as the sexy girl in "Bruce Almighty". The one that Jim Carrey's character uses his powers to blow her skirt up in the air. She has been working hard in several independent movies and stars daily in a Spanish TV show. I set up a casting notice on Backstage West on the internet and received hundreds of submissions. The role of "La Llorona" was especially sought after by Latina actresses.
What was the best and worst things that happened during the course of making this movie?
The best thing that happened during the process was the new friends that I made. The people who worked so hard to help me make this movie. The worst thing is that it was so incredibly difficult to make because of the lack of money and time. At the time I was working 40 to 50 hrs a week and shooting the movie on evenings and weekends.
One scary thing that happened is that my assistant director Erwin Mendieta and I almost got killed in the old van that we used in the movie. We had a tire blow out and we almost lost control of the van on a steep downhill in the San Bernardino mountains. This happened on the first day of shooting. Fortunately we were OK and it was not an omen of things to come.
How long did the production take to complete, from first shooting to last edit?
I started pre-production in August of 2003. We began shooting in late November and shot off and on until January of 2004. After that we added a couple of scenes in March. Postproduction which included all the effects which I had to do myself lasted until July of 2004. Over the summer, my talented composer Ted Hamer put together the original score.
How can people purchase a copy of La Llorona?
The movie will be distributed soon and hopefully you will see it in video stores before this year is over. I will possibly also have it for sale on my website vistacruz.com.