Synopsis: Alan, a 43-year-old French man living in Barcelona struggles to overcome an addiction to methamphetamine. Picking up filming himself ten years after his first attempt quitting, he intends to showcase his fight to warn potential addicts of the rough road ahead.
—Alfred Hitchcock once said.
“In feature films the director is God; in documentary films, God is the director.”
And he was absolutely right.
This project was born ten years ago while I was still a film student in London. With a 50% scholarship and a part-time job waiting tables, I manage to put myself through film school.
That’s when I met Alan (our protagonist) a young, sexy, french man who kept calling me cabrón for no good reason. We quickly became good friends.
It was then, when I was hunting for an interesting project for my documentary class, that I became aware of Alan’s drug problem. I propose to him the idea for a documentary, and surprisingly he agreed to it.
Time passed and, after almost ten years of that first project, we decided it was time to revisit Alan’s life and story. There was only one condition, I wouldn’t shy away and show it as it is, as much as possible.
With this documentary film, I intend to present the crude reality of the day-to-day struggle of an individual with drug addiction and the personal and social repercussions of it. Trying, at the same time to find common ground and make him relatable to our audience, realizing that our problems are not so distant nor so different.
I was very fortunate to have met Alan back then, so many years ago, giving me the time to form a relationship with such a strong foundation and develop a special connection.
I don’t think I could have created such an intimate story if it wasn’t for that confidence that existed between us. His transparency and willingness to share his life was truly his gift to us. No taboos or reservations gave us the access we needed to be able to tell his story through his own eyes.
This documentary is not the classic “fly on the wall” approach, this time around is the main character who is responsible for the majority of the recording, and by doing so leaving the audience with a few questions. What happens when the camera person is the subject of the film itself. Would we be able to immerse ourselves deep in the film and get invested in it? Would we realize that he has complete freedom to be as honest as possible, and true to his essence, or would he be deceitful and create his own narrative?
More importantly, would we be able to tell the difference?
Growing up I was very inspired by the work of Werner Herzog, especially the film Grizzly Man and how he told an incredible story with just what appears to be a few interviews and archive footage. Of course, I came to learn it was much more than that.
As well as the work of Louis Theroux and how he seamlessly gains the trust of his subjects, and the way he almost seems to play a different role each time he interviews them, achieving the unimaginable.
And lastly, the work of Joe Walker, editor of Life in a Day, filmed by regular people from all around the world with equipment that’s accessible to anyone. Using great editing skills, he managed to compose a film so great that, in my humble opinion, it was like creating a time capsule, that it could be sent around the cosmos and anyone could make sense of what life on earth was like, at that specific time.
The production of this film had many challenges, from our relationship with Alan who was going through a very difficult stage in his life, to doing it on a low/non-existing budget. In that regard, I was also very fortunate in having a crew that went above and beyond in every way possible.
Despite Alan being trained by our DP, on how to properly use the equipment in any given situation, the uncertainty of the quality of his handovers was a reason of big concern to us.
Ultimately we were relying on that footage, almost entirely, upon which we would create the narrative of the film.
After almost 30 hours of recorded time, it was evident that he was a natural behind the camera, as he was in front of it.
And so, after a lot of work I was left with a simple, yet complex question: What do I hope to achieve with this film?
And that is for the audience to relate with Alan’s problems on a personal level, and not seen him as someone alien to them or their experiences, that at the end of the day we are all similar, and if these uncertain times have shown us something is that aren’t we all fighting to improve our lives?
Don’t we all have dreams and aspirations?
Don’t we all have secrets, something to feel ashamed of?
Don’t we all deserve affection and compassion?
Andres Villaseñor, originally from Guadalajara, is a Mexican filmmaker.
At a young age, he moved to the UK where he studied filmmaking at SAE Institute in London. He remained there for a few years working in post-production.
Later he relocated to Mallorca, Spain, where he currently works as a Casting Director, while at the same time working on his personal film projects.
His two big passions are the craft of editing in post-production and, ironically, working with actors in pre-production.