It’s no secret that short films are an almost necessary entry point into the world of filmmaking. If you can’t tell a story in 10 minutes, what makes you think you can tell one in 90? Then there’s building, managing, and inspiring your production team and the ego of actors. The filmmaker’s journey is unique and all too familiar with anyone who has walked that path before. I had the honor of talking with one of those movie journeymen currently on the path to telling bigger stories, Jose Andres Ramirez Oritz.
The filmmaker is a Mexican independent filmmaker known as Andres Ramirez. While growing passionate about the world of cinema and literature, Ramirez started writing short stories at a young age. Later, in Monterrey, Mexico, while in high school, he started his filmmaking career by shooting short films and music videos. At this point, writing and filmmaking became more prominent in Ramirez’s life, and 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 as a student, Why?, in 2016. He is currently working on distributing his successful short film Frame, which was presented at the Cannes Short Film Corner in 2018.
I spoke to Jose, specifically about his short film, Shutter. It tells the story of a recently promoted police detective, Mark, who finds himself attempting to solve the disappearances of several young models. Detective Mark’s investigation leads him to Charley, a brilliantly deceptive photographer, and the last person to see the missing people alive.
What inspired you to get into filmmaking?
Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed reading a lot of books. Many were later made into movies. I grew up with franchises such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Growing with these influences solidified my attraction to storytelling. For me, filmmaking is the perfect combination of storytelling and visuals. Later, in high school, I started taking film classes. I directed and ended up enjoying the meaningful collaborations that one has while telling a story.
“Calling actors to share the news was the most painful and disappointing thing I have ever done.”
What was your preparation for making Shutter?
Preparing Shutter was an immense challenge. The idea was first conceived in late 2016 and early 2017 and was originally meant to be shot in Spanish. After moving to San Francisco, the project found new life. I had a cast and was ready to film in 2017. However, due to some circumstances and scheduling problems, the project was postponed. Pre-production was most challenging as it brought a lot of doubts and uncertainty about the future of the film. Calling actors to share the news was the most painful and disappointing thing I have ever done. Thankfully, things ended up working for the best, and in 2018 with highly talented actors and crew members, we managed to shoot Shutter in February.
In terms of preparation, I start with the storyboard process to understand how the film will be cut, and ultimately it helps to communicate the vision for the movie to the cast and crew. At the same time, I like to have meetings with all key creatives to answer all their questions and provide opportunities to implement some of their ideas. It’s important to be on the same page by the time we get to set. Finally, practice, practice, and practice: I rehearse with the actors to ensure everyone understands the subtext elements from the script. I also like giving them a safe space to improvise and find something unique for each actor to become the character.