The 2015 Palm Beach International Film Festival brought to the cinephile public, a wide array of independent and thought-provoking foreign films. Flow, a film “of inner action” had it’s US premiere at PBIFF, with its co-writer, co-producer, and main star Juan Del Santo in attendance. The actor spoke with Art Film File about the filming of Flow, working with director David Martinez, and the challenges of worldwide distribution.
Film festivals present indie filmmakers with the opportunity to show their work to a unique audience, who seek to move away from mainstream Hollywood productions and requires something more to satisfy their cinematic tastes. The Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF), a non-profit organization that was funded in 1996 to promote independent and foreign cinema was no exception. Their lineup often includes films from around the world: Israel, Italy, Norway, France, Germany and many other countries were in competition in this year’s festival, as seen in the graphic below:
Spain, the home of directors like Pedro Almodovar and Carlos Saura, had a significant presence at PBIFF, particularly with an unmitigated existential film directed by David Martinez. Flow, starring Juan Del Santo who was also the co-writer and co-producer of the film, spoke with Art Film File about the process of indie film-making and the obstacles regarding a wider distribution. “The inner world of humans is an adventure, not a synonym of lack of action” Del Santo says when asked about Flow being described as “an inner action film”. “Many things are in the works, some good, some bad, that will eventually affect the person’s outside world”.
On working with director David Martinez, Del Santo comments: “With David I have worked several times, mostly on shorts. This is our first feature film together, and I hope it won’t be the last.” On the limited budget him and Martinez were forced to work with, he reflects: “The complex part of the situation, was knowing that we had to write a script, consciously aware that the budget was tight. There was no money to tell a story using technical devices they do in medium or high budget films. It was also very difficult to not include when we edited the film, scenes that I think were valuable. We had to develop the capacity for brevity and cut to the essentials”.
Del Santo had a great responsibility on his shoulders with Flow. Being not only co-producer, and co-writer but also the main actor in the film, most of the action and the core of the film was left almost exclusively to him. As an actor, he felt this helped him improve his craft. “Having such a great team and a wonderful director like David Martinez, you dare to do more and it was simpler than it would seem to be. Sometimes I feel the film made itself. For example, we used personal dreams. Regarding my three roles, co-writer, producer, and actor, they didn’t contradict each other. As a matter of fact, I feel it helped me a lot, particularly as an actor”.
At one point in the film, the main character played by Del Santo, Walter Mann, falls into hard luck, landing in jail and then becoming a vagrant, going from place to place trying to find meaning in life and the hope he has lost. This presented an important challenge for Del Santo’s acting repertoire. “I have never been a vagabond or faced being homeless. To transmit the pain, frustration, and at the same time, Walter’s hope was a challenge”. Whether Walter knew it or not, he needed to forgive himself, but it’s a complicated process and it needs courage, light, patience, honesty with one self and face darkness head on”.
Distribution and theatrical releases for indie and foreign filmmakers is a complicated and sometimes frustrating process. Del Santo feels this, as he and David Martinez are currently trying to find distributors for Flow: “Our wish is to distribute the film in the U.S., Latin America, Spain, Europe, and many more places like Japan, for example. We’ll have to see”.
Showing the film at festivals can certainly assist the distribution process. The Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF), for example, screened many of the films at places like Muvico in downtown West Palm Beach, and the Cobb Theater in Palm Beach Gardens. However, some people in the theater business believe that there are bigger benefits for indie directors when they screen their films in smaller, arthouse theaters. Charlie Birnbaum, theater manager of the Stonzek Theater in Lake Worth, Florida. “When we were a venue for PBIFF, we really made the filmmakers feel at home. We really went above and beyond in having their needs satisfied. Now that we are no longer a venue for the festival, I don’t know how the filmmakers are treated at bigger theaters”.
What is next for Juan Del Santo? “There is a project in the making with an Oscar winning director, whose name I prefer to omit at the moment. It’s a feature film, in Spanish, a dramatic film in which I’ll have a supporting role. I also want to film a short and slowly follow up with other projects I have to direct”. Perhaps to carry out these many projects, the multifaceted actor will again have to portage the copious roles he rendered in Flow. Time will undoubtedly tell.