“Always have a plan B, C and D”: Alejandro Montoya Marin on the production of his selections at the 2021 SA Film Festival

Two of Alejandro Montoya Marin’s new films, “Millennium Bugs” and “Perps”, feature different sides of the same coin from the independent filmmaker.

SAN ANTONIO – The spirit of the 90s is alive and well in “Millennium Bugs”, an energetic comedy-drama by writer-director Alejandro Montoya Marin, screened this weekend as part of the San Antonio Film Festival. The filmmaker remembers the time well. After all, he came of age during that.

But it’s not just the Game Boys, punk music and iMac G3s that formed the film’s aesthetic at the end of 1999. There are also anxieties of the 2000 era, a sense of deadlines for the accounts. staff lingering just around the corner. Marin – leaning into the ’90s nostalgia for our Zoom interview with a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt – said he was 18 at the time and remembers the atmosphere of uncertainty as if it was yesterday .

“We were at a New Years (Eve) party in Mexico, and at 11:55 and 10 seconds everyone’s phones started screaming,” he said. “It was the strangest thing, because it’s like a ballroom and everyone is like troo-troo-troo, traa-traa-traa, everyone starts calling. And we’re all like, “Oh my God. “

As we now know, and as everyone at this party would find out five minutes later, 2000 would be greeted with a moan of relief instead of a disruptive computer bang. While the fear of the year 2000 ultimately was of no use, it was powerful enough that one would think Hollywood would play with its memory.

Fast forward about 20 years, to Marin watching a documentary about the ’90s and realizing how, despite a long and rich history of disaster movies, there hadn’t been a memorable one centered on perhaps the historic disaster la most famous that ultimately never happened to be. It was then that the idea of ​​“Millenium Bugs” was born, in the context of what was called the Millenium bug.

“It’s like, ‘I’m pretty sick and tired of the laser going up in the sky, the cars going crazy. We should make a movie (where) it’s in the background, but there are issues of integration into the world and friendship is at the center of it, ”Marin said. “It, to me, felt like something nicer and something more like the ’90s with the tone of today’s movies being such a big show.”

The result – a funny, frantic, and ultimately heartfelt portrayal of two young people in their twenties stuck in emotional limbo struggling to extricate themselves at the potential end of the world – is Marin’s second feature-length effort, and although this weekend, end will not be. Being its world premiere, the San Antonio Film Festival is hosting its first in-person screening.

Of course, placing his film in the final days of the decade not only allows for the natural creation of potentially cataclysmic stakes, but also plays into a 90s sandbox seen more and more with nostalgia every day.

And playing around Marin did: Viewers with perceptive eyes will find plenty of references to the era, not only in the setting but in the soundtrack as well. He was even able to get the original music for the band Please, which made their debut in the 90s.

“I had been working with one of their members, Charles Newman, for four or five years. And we were going to have a really, really big ’90s song, but they wanted more money than the cost of the movie to make, ”Marin said. “He was able to put the band or the band together to do a song and we actually did a clip that will come out as soon as we start promoting the movie, which is very soon.”

One of the first sites that will transport viewers in the streaming age is the video store where Miguel works, it’s Austin-based Vulcan Video, which was forced to shut down for good in April 2020.

“When we shot ‘Monday’ (Marin’s first feature film), across the highway was the Vulcan Video store. So we walked in, we talked to the owner, he was super supportive. We had to move DVDs and cassettes because in 1999, I mean, there were DVDs but there weren’t as many as we did.

Marin also acknowledges the irony of the “millennium bugs” against the uncertainty of the final days of 1999 when there is still so much uncertainty during a protracted COVID-19 pandemic. He and producer John Kaler, however, pointed out that it was pure coincidence; they say the idea was conceived and the film was shot long before the “coronavirus” became part of our daily lexicon.

“It has the same background that no one knew in ’99 what was going to happen – and that’s what we still feel today with everything that’s going on,” Kaler said. “There are still a lot of unknowns. It relates to this moment, but we didn’t write it around COVID because we had no idea it was going to happen. “

“Last year in the fall I was like, ‘Why is this happening? Is that a sign not to keep pushing? ‘”Marin added.” The coincidence is just funny.

The “millennium bugs” can unfold against the anxieties of the year 2000, but this context is just that: the context. The real essence of the story is the bumpy friendship between Kelly (Katy Erin) and Miguel (Michael Lovato), and the chemistry between the two protagonists is its most endearing element.

Erin in particular embodies an energy that divides the difference between Emma Stone and Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Marin was so taken by this energy after meeting the actress that he adapted the character to her charisma.

“I was just very intrigued by her,” he said. “We kept hanging out and I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to write a role for you.’ And when the idea for the Y2k movie came up, I called and I was like, “Hey, I’m going to write a movie in three weeks, I’ll send you a script.”

Lovato, meanwhile, was enlisted after Marin auditioned several others for a role that grounds Kelly’s livewire energy with deep-rooted boredom among young adults. It was his eagerness to impress the director that won him the role.

With his lead roles and an extensive cast of wacky character actors, Marin and his team made it to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Duke City is a familiar place for the filmmaker; he’s been living there for about a decade, steadily planting his roots in a state which, between the grim sights seen in “No Country For Old Men” and the “Breaking Bad” phenomenon (with favorable tax incentives), increasingly proves its Hollywood in good faith.

Although the production is heading to Austin for a few scenes, Albuquerque is where most of the “Millennium Bugs” were filmed and where it took on the spirit of a true indie. Not only was it fully crowdfunded (Marin estimates the final budget at around $ 60,000), but the filmmaker turned down potential investors whose portfolios could smooth out the rough edges of the shoot in order to retain his original vision.

On the one hand: it was important to him that Kelly and Miguel’s relationship remained purely platonic, a rarity in stories today, whether told on the big or small screen.

“For me it was more important: doing a personal project on friendship and how the differences between people can complement them,” he said.

Marin could be compared to the one-day-at-a-time mentality that animates Kelly and Miguel at the point in their lives when we meet them in the film. He says that “every problem was presented” during filming, and it was his experience on Robert Rodriguez’s reality show “Rebel Without a Crew”, where he created “Monday,” that illustrated how far a problem-solving mindset could drive him.

“I don’t have the millions of dollars in the budget, so I have to think out of the blue. I always have to solve the problems, always have a plan B, C and D, ”said Marin. “Because at any time everything can change and you may have to adapt, and (you have to) give yourself the opportunity to ride spontaneously. “

This enthusiasm for improvisation is what set Marin apart from Kaler in the first place.

“The only thing I know about Alejandro is that he wants to tell the story, and he wants everyone to be able to tell it,” said the San Antonio native. “He doesn’t want to sell his soul just to please an investor. He wants to bring the most organic truth to the screen.

Their young partnership has proved successful so far. In addition to producing “Millennium Bugs,” Kaler also produced and starred in Marin’s short “Perps,” a more forceful prank about two stoners meeting a cop.

This short film is being played at the San Antonio Film Festival on Saturday afternoon, before the feature film’s screening at 6 p.m. The schedule is appropriate; the heartfelt melancholy of “Millennium Bugs” plays as a calming hunter of the rapid kinetic cinema plan that is “Perps”.

Audiences who come to the festival and love what they see of Marin’s projects can expect more to come; he and Kaler started Quick start movies as a way to collaborate on future projects.

For now, however, the up-and-coming filmmaker is eagerly awaiting the screening of the San Antonio Film Festival, as well as a potential screening in Albuquerque later this year.

“I’ve never seen ‘Millenium Bugs’ on the big screen, and it’s a great movie,” Marin said. “So I can’t wait to see people’s reactions, good or bad. “