Robert J. Escandon, a Miami director, actor, and therapist, breaks the confines of tradition -- especially when it comes to filmmaking. He and his tight crew, which includes wife Ashley, are Masterflow Productions. His movies involve characters with tormented psyches who are experiencing some sort of torture -- be it physical or mental - and his visual style is experimental.
Through cinema, he hopes to capture our diverse cityscape, saying "Miami is Miami, and you don't how this city truly is unless you live in it. It's not a cookie cut out city like New York or California. You don't have to really visit those cities to know what they're about. Miami is special and unique in its own way. It's really hard to catch Miami's diversity on film." Between movies, hypnotherapy sessions, and brainstorming, Escandon answered our questions about overrated directors and his guilty celluloid pleasure.
New Time: How did you become involved in filmmaking?
Robert J. Escandon: It actually started with the first theatre show I wrote and directed. It was called Nightless Days about a kid who was addicted to drugs in order to cope with his best friend's death. The play received a great response, but once it was over, it was simply a memory, locked away in the things that eventually will be forgotten. Motion pictures are in a sense immortal and can be viewed by millions of people. You don't have to be there to make sure the show runs the way you want it to run.
Tell us about your recent film, The Empty.
The main character Ark, played by myself, struggles with the death of his wife by hiding himself away from the world he now finds meaningless. The story is dark, the characters are dark, and the production took its toll on everyone involved.
This is a monster movie, but the monsters aren't out and running around, they live inside the characters. I was personally faced with this nasty character that was lurking inside of me (Ark) and growing every day. In fact, the clothes I wore for the character were never washed during the entire production. They looked and smelled horrible. What can I say, I really got into it. The whole production was this intense therapy session.
Check out the trailer for The Empty:
Who do you think is the most overrated director of all time?
What comes to mind at the moment is Michael Bay. I don't know too much about him, and personally have never met him, but his movies feel like they're missing something. They're kind of acidic. The Island I like, even though it's still kind of hard to watch, but the others, including Transformers, are not enjoyable to me. M. Night Shyamalan is horrible. The Sixth Sense is a good one-time film and for some strange reason, I like Unbreakable because it's a very quiet movie, but other than that the dude is dry.
Who are your favorite directors?
Shinichiro Watanabe of Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop. He has this really awesome way of telling a story. Ryuhei Kitamura of Godzilla: Final Wars and Versus is another favorite. His visual style is super compelling. Kitamura does an excellent job in using angles to create intensity when it's needed throughout the conversation without ever leaving the room.
Katsuhiro Otomo director of Akira, Darren Aronofsky with his Requiem for a Dream, and I really like Sam Raimi too. For the most part, I think Raimi has fun with the stuff he is a part of. Evil Dead, Spiderman, and even some of his producer roles with Legend of the Seeker and Hercules, are all fun in their own way.
Tell us aboutthe film you're currently working on -- The Mile.
We came up with this kinda Grand Theft Auto meets Crank story about what a man would do when pushed to do something he would normally never do. Our main character, Brown, is a guy who goes around day-to-day surviving, keeping to himself, and for the most part always hungry. We threw him into a situation where his girl is kidnapped by this group of individuals and now he has to save her. Does he really want to save her? Probably not, but he has nothing better to do.
In one scene there's this huge party where Brown is taken and tortured. Instead of setting up a fake party for the production, we set up shop in one of these mini-mansions, invited over 150 people, all dressed in white, security in the front door, open bar, food, pool and so on. When it was time to shoot, everybody was really into it. They forgot we were filming a movie. There was no acting, only reacting.
Here's a teaser for The Mile:
What do you think about the way that Miami is portrayed in films/television?
With The Empty we captured a lonely aspect of the city that you really don't see in movies, because everybody is blinded by the hype of the city, the nightlife, clubs and so on. So we wanted to engage a different perception of the city with The Empty. There's so much more to Miami!
The Mile makes an attempt to capture the different aspects of Miami through the lens. I would say it plays with the idea of what people think Miami is and what you would truly find throughout its streets. When you see Miami on a screen it's usually always the same. The concentration is still on revisiting the old Miami Vice series, which is super boring. I don't think people have really gotten over that, well... at least some filmmakers haven't.
Name one movie that you shouldn't like, but do.
Enter the Void by Gaspar Noe. The film is a ride into the pit of hell. It's a really nasty experience, an incredible movie, but every time you watch it your drawn into this unescapable world. The film has this really off beat rhythm to it. Once you sit down to watch it, it's really hard to get up. The experience makes you feel horrible, kinda like a gentle slide into a hopeless abyss.