June 29, 2015

This 17 Year Old Director Made One of the Best Short Films That You Will See This Year

That headline may seem a bit hyperbolic, but just wait. Once you see Alex Fischman's short film La Vieja Quinta, I think you'll be inclined to agree. Also, just as a warning, this short contains some very colorful language.

As part of a high school project we were told “do whatever you want” and people in my class did all sorts of things like helping NGO’s or creating a business. I made a short film.

In an email, Alex was kind enough to share some information about how this short film came to life, and he shared some great BTS photos as well. Plus there are some solid lessons here for any filmmaker looking to achieve a professional, polished short despite relative inexperience in the industry. 

La Vieja Quinta is adapted from short story by one of Peru's most famous authors, Julio Ramon Ribeyro. After obtaining the non-commercial rights for the story and writing the script, Fischman built a team and set about on the casting and location scouting processes, which as he describes, were not particularly easy.

La Vieja Quinta BTS

This film couldn't have been made without a great team. I talked to Andrea Caceda (producer), Rodolfo Herrera (DP), Christian Acuña (Sound) and Renzo Basan (Art Director) and started working on the pre-production. With Andrea, we began casting and location scouting. Finding the right actor was very hard. We started looking for actors with a budget of $100 per day and had very little luck. Most of the actors had little acting experience and couldn’t capture the essence of the characters. It was very hard until the day we went big. Enrique Victoria is one of the most famous actors in Peruvian Cinema, and he was kind enough to work with us on a smaller budget. But casting was easy compared to the nightmare that was location scouting.

La Vieja Quinta BTS

The title is “La Vieja Quinta” so it was necessary to have a Quinta. (Quintas are a type of hallway with houses next to each other and in front of each other. They are usually very poor.) They are very hard to find, especially one that had the style we were looking for. We were stuck, traveling all around Lima just to find one Quinta until one day I was seeing the production of a feature film in a tough neighborhood in Lima and found a lot of Quintas. Although I was alone, I still went to each sketchy one knocking doors and meeting really interesting people. After a few more days of knocking doors, we finally found our Quinta.

Fischman also describes how he and his DP had to pare down their original shot lists to not only make the shooting schedule more economical, but more fair to the actors and crew.

La Vieja Quinta BTS

In our first [shotlist] we had over 60 shots (which is insane, considering that it’s a 15 minute short film). We realized our mistake as we planned the shooting schedule, although for us it seemed fine, 12-hour-long days are not for everyone, especially for actors who are doing physical and mentally challenging roles. I remember after shortening the shot list down to 30 shots, we still had 8-hour-long days. So at 3 PM, Enrique Victoria (the lead actor) came to me and said, “This is too much.” This is something that directors tend to forget -- we are making our movie, and we can stay up to 99 hours if necessary, but it’s not everyone else’s film.

La Vieja Quinta BTS

Lastly, he talks about how directors, and other crew people, should be open to suggestions for how to improve the film. It's easy to get wrapped up in the idea of the auteur, the idea that the director knows best and is carrying out their personal artistic vision. But in truth, narrative filmmaking is a collaborative art form, and sometimes the best ideas come from the least likely places. For that reason, it benefits us as filmmakers to keep our ears to the ground because great ideas can come from anywhere -- an AC, an actor, someone in the art department, or even a PA. If we're not listening, then we might miss something great.

In the last shot, I wanted it to be one continuous take. The problem was, that since we didn’t rehearse, Enrique took too long to get to the mark, but the ending of that shot was simply perfect. When I told him to do it again, he said, “No, it would be impossible to recreate that moment.” I told everyone to please leave the room and talked alone with Enrique. I tried to convince him to do it again for half an hour, but he simply didn’t want to. So he gave a suggestion, “What if, like, in the beginning you had an over the shoulder shot of me and someone placing the FOR RENT sign?” I loved that idea. And it was because of that, that the beginning and end work so well with each other. 

This was really one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I remember when the shoot ended, I started crying in the car all the way back. That’s when I really knew I wanted to be a director.

La Vieja Quinta BTS

I'd like to thank Alex for taking the time to share his process with us, and congratulate him on making such a fantastic short film. What do you guys think about La Vieja Quinta? If you have any questions for Alex, leave them down in the comments!     

Your Comment

37 Comments

Where and how do you get hundreds to thousands of dollars for a school project?

June 29, 2015 at 5:26PM

9
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Simon Reichel
Director & Editor
139

shit....I wish I could muster up a crew and all that gear at 17....I still cant at 24...

June 29, 2015 at 5:36PM

0
Reply
Stefan Foderingham-Garraway
Director/Cinematographer
216

I still can't at 30

June 30, 2015 at 12:50AM, Edited June 30, 12:50AM

20
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Sahit Anand
Director and Co-Founder of DO. Creative Labs
347

Can't at 33 with a full time job either.
Agree on short being good though.

June 30, 2015 at 5:06PM, Edited June 30, 5:07PM

6
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Keith Kim
Photographer
1653

Can't at 33 with a full time job either.

June 30, 2015 at 5:06PM

0
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Keith Kim
Photographer
1653

He goes to a very posh school in Lima. That's where.

June 29, 2015 at 5:42PM

13
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His school is the most expensive here in Peru. He could affort it if he didnt go for two months.

June 29, 2015 at 5:55PM, Edited June 29, 6:00PM

10
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..hundreds of thousands to make that? ..hmm pesos?

July 1, 2015 at 10:18PM, Edited July 1, 10:18PM

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Rob Englander
business owner/video producer/DOP/editor/miracle worker
186

I agree with previous comments, where did you get all of that money? I don't know if this is such a good example of how to make a film on a low budget, when I think of a low budget I think of under 5,000 dollars maybe even less. This was clearly much much more than that.

June 29, 2015 at 5:44PM

21
Reply

I doubt it has over a couple of thousand, wen you plan it right and have good key players your production value racks up to the sky at almost no cost.

July 19, 2015 at 11:36PM

4
Reply

Very good short. Very polished and professional. Congrats. I love Riberyro. Amazing that you got Enrique Victoria, you lucky bastard.

June 29, 2015 at 5:45PM

7
Reply

Who says wealth isn't a blessing?

June 29, 2015 at 6:40PM

0
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I don't want to see film school student's projects in the NO FİLM SCHOOL.

June 29, 2015 at 6:52PM, Edited June 29, 6:52PM

7
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Lol. Haha that's understandable. But I don't think he is at film school.

July 10, 2015 at 3:13PM, Edited July 10, 3:14PM

10
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Enrique Godinez
Director/Producer/Actor
369

Money

June 29, 2015 at 6:54PM

0
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Edgar More
All
1192

Truly enjoyable and well shot at that. For someone so young this is a great achievement! A little longer than it needed to be but none the less fantastic work. The fundamentals of a good short are there!

June 29, 2015 at 7:30PM

0
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Vladimir Druts
Founder & Director at Intangible.co
385

A little long? Really?

July 10, 2015 at 3:13PM

5
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Enrique Godinez
Director/Producer/Actor
369

I thought it was entertaining, and well done. Once I looked at the headline again Robert didn't say anything about it being cheap to make. More power to the kid. Pretty heady stuff for a high schooler. A good example of good quality on no budget would be the personal films that Kendy Ty makes. I'm sure most folks on NFS have seen them before, but just in case:
https://vimeo.com/94390460
https://vimeo.com/81664343
https://vimeo.com/74573072

June 29, 2015 at 8:26PM

21
Reply

Thanks for the links!

June 30, 2015 at 4:46AM, Edited June 30, 4:46AM

0
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Miko Jacildo
Filmmaker
198

I'm sorry I don't wanna be ha odious but this short was very Average, and I feel it very far from been "One of the Best Short Films That You Will See This Year". It was nice for a 17 year old student but it was exactly that, a student film. Technical aspect is very well done because it supported by a very important Film University. Story was nice but very obvious and predictable and since I'm Latin American i notice a very over-acted performance. Some things are done very nice and other don't, that's my point, it was average. Not hating it, not loving it.

June 29, 2015 at 8:47PM, Edited June 29, 8:47PM

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Matias Rispau
Director
164

I can call up a number of early films and shorts by famous directors that aren't even 1/10'th as good as what Alex did. So far, it's a good start and I wouldn't be surprised if this young man has a major career ten years from now.

June 29, 2015 at 11:06PM

14
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Mooey
138

I'm agree with that. For a 17 year old, is a nice short. It's just the hole marketing of "One of the Best Short Films That You Will See This Year" was a little too much. I knew a lot of more talented kids and they didn't have such support. Its not a rant, its fact.

June 30, 2015 at 1:42AM

10
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Matias Rispau
Director
164

It's sort of a No Film School thing: concentrate on and be wowed by the lighting, the gear, etc., and not as much thinking on the storytelling. So, when faced with a short that has a lot of money behind it and is supported like this one (and there's nothing wrong with that), lots of guys here will fall over themselves talking about how great it is, hence the headline. To me, what this post and the comments and the short itself tell is: anyone with a lot of money and access to talent (and hard work, but that's a given!) can make a pretty film. So, what you need to do is concentrate more on your storytelling- no way will you 'make your bones' by putting all your talent and effort into something that can be purchased. And Hollywood knows this. It's why they tend to look for storytellers first, and traditionally does exactly what this young man has done: surround you with the talent and the resources needed to tell the story.

June 30, 2015 at 9:14AM

0
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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.

Dude, the short is kickass, not loving the story but it have high production value, very well executed camera blocking and the direction was very neat

July 19, 2015 at 11:41PM

1
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I kinda agree I'm Venezuelan and I feel it was very well made but i find it to have the same feel as all the indies that come from latin america and that I see every year at latin film festivals. You know what I'm saying? I like them more than big commercial hollywood films but at the same time find them to also be dulling.

July 31, 2015 at 6:28PM

0
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Daniel Duerto
Everything is me
70

The kid may be blessed with wealth but either way, he deserves some praise. He's only 17 and he has created a beautiful short film. How many 17 year olds are willing to go to the lengths he did to accomplish such a project? I was thoroughly entertained! Plus the kid tackled a dramatic piece rather than some typical horror film or mediocre teenage comedy. Kudos to him!!

June 30, 2015 at 1:00AM, Edited June 30, 1:00AM

13
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Gusto Lopez
DP
170

Excellent short! I really enjoyed the lighting. And a great post! It's nice to see something that isn't about gear for once. Great find!

June 30, 2015 at 8:59AM

3
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Jerald Roberts II
Filmmaker
356

I though it was really good. However, the translation seemed off at times. Also, the amount of cussing and overuse of certain words did not seem like normal conversation. It was good overall.

June 30, 2015 at 12:52PM

5
Reply

Talent isn't age-based. this is a very good film :)

June 30, 2015 at 11:06PM, Edited June 30, 11:07PM

6
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To be honest, I found this short-film worth watching, and it seems quite a job done by a seventeen year-old, especially with the lighting and the cinematography.

However, I also do feel that this wasn't a low-budget production, and must have required a sufficient deal of capital and resources. Plus, the title of this share seems a bit exaggerating which further caused furore, evident in the previous comments.

Nevertheless, talking of the film's storytelling part (though, a bit odd) is more literary inclined - as if reading through a short-story, with a comical flow and a tragic end. It seems like a matured choice for a production.

July 1, 2015 at 5:16AM, Edited July 1, 5:16AM

2
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Tanay Chaudhari
Film Appreciation, Reviewing, Screenwriting (in that order)
473

Hats off to director and his team .how wonderful movie !! I liked the the theme of this movie and how wonderfully portrayed!!

July 1, 2015 at 2:54PM

4
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Reduanul Azim
Director
149

I would love to know what size lenses were used to film this. :)

July 2, 2015 at 12:20AM

4
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Jason Leal
Writer/Director
81

Most likely an 18, wide angles were prominent throughout, maby a prime on a couple of the inserts

July 19, 2015 at 11:43PM

12
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The best short film I've seen since "Dennis" (2007).

If this kid keeps it up, he'll be a refreshing new talent in an increasingly boring industry. Great story... good writing... He pulled it off.

July 3, 2015 at 12:56PM, Edited July 3, 12:56PM

15
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Good. Although I would have liked the woman replying or reacting to the old man's racist language. I guess the producers felt a little awkward while translating the film so they disguised "Negra de Mierda" - which I'd translate as "Fucking Nigger", by using "Old Bitch". Nothing against strong language, I myself use loads of "bad words" and if the purpose was to show some reality (although I doubt that all people living in Quintas speak like that to each other) it's OK, but if the producers are so sure about it, then why not providing a faithful traslation?

July 8, 2015 at 4:19AM, Edited July 8, 4:19AM

8
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