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Q&A: Alejandro Brugués on “THE ABCs OF DEATH 2” and “Equilibrium”

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THE ABCs OF DEATH, an educational experience. Not in the ways of certain fate—it’s most certain, after all—but in its gussied up act as a shorts showcase, one which acclimates audiences to short films and introduces them to array of international filmmakers. Eschewing the two-reeler familiarity of most anthologies, the segments of THE ABCs OF DEATH and its newly released sequel get in, get out and leave your brain buzzed, distraught and stained. 

They do much the same to their filmmakers. Five segments in to THE ABCs OF DEATH 2 is a brand new work from Alejandro Brugués (JUAN OF THE DEAD) entitled “E is for Equilibrium.” The segment is the director’s first short, and his first film crafted outside of Cuba, a learning experience which has resulted in a visually playful, sunny sort of beer commercial horror story about our tendency to destroy the good things in life.

Brugués spoke to FANGORIA about the film, what he’s getting at, and packing a ton of visual information into four minutes…

FANGORIA: Your previous film was a horror-comedy that addressed political strife. Did you want to avoid something as pointed here?

ALEJANDRO BRUGUÉS: It was a bit of both. I had just moved to the U.S. and the truth is, for the budget that we had, you have to ask a lot of favors. If it had been in Cuba, I could have whatever I wanted, because I know everyone there. I was here, I didn’t know people, so in a way I had to do something simple. I couldn’t have big FX, all that, because I didn’t know how to get that done here for the budget.

On one hand, I didn’t want to get into something very complicated, but at the same time—the short film is fun, but I do think it’s about something. For me, and for everyone involved, I told them this is about how we can find something good, something beautiful and screw it up because we are a mess. For example, Martina [García] the actress, the first thing she told me was that: It’s about how we can’t have something beautiful.

FANG: Do you think you’re speaking specifically to masculinity?

BRUGUÉS: No, no, just in general. When I first had the idea, I wanted to do something that had to do with exorcism. The word wasn’t “exorcism,” but the idea was to mislead you to believe it was exorcism. Exorcism, not the word, but the act was taken. It had already been shot in another short film. When we were at Fantastic Fest last year, I was talking to Marc Walkow, one of the producers, and we were trying to find ideas. I had a list of 72 words with the letter “E” and I had written some ideas for each word. I got to “Equilibrium” and my original idea was in a basement, between more people. There were actually seven people; four men and three women. It was kind of the same concept, but in a basement and with more people.

Marc said, “Why don’t you do it with only three and on the beach?” You think a film like this would be mostly dark, horror and whatever. He said, “Are you going for horror or comedy?” I said, “I’m going for comedy. Let me stick to what I know, because I’ve never done a shot film before.” We decided together, but the whole point was to keep that concept of how we, as a human race, tends to mess things up.

FANG: Not only is this you shooting outside of Cuba, but your first time in the short format. This was a lot of new experience/experimentation going on. Did you learn anything about yourself as a filmmaker?

BRUGUÉS: I had an amazing crew, and an amazing group of collaborators. These actors—Martina García, a very well known actress in Colombia; Miguel Ángel Muñoz, who’s also a very good Spanish actor; Fernando Costa, he’s not an actor. He just showed up at the casting and when I saw him, “Fuck, that’s the guy.” He was a really good sport.

Also, the crew. My director of photography is Pedro Luque. He’s from Uruguay and he shot PANIC ATTACK, the Fede Alvarez short. He shot LA CASA MUDA, that was later remade as SILENT HOUSE. That film is in a single shot. I had Sara Millán as an Art Director. She’s from Colombia. Those two had just moved to L.A. and they helped me. For example, Sara devised all the symbology of the film. It’s full of that.

It’s a love triangle, so you have always the triangle. You have it on the tent, you have it on the legs of the girl, with the two guys inside. It’s a symbol when they destroy the tent. Then, with Pedro Luque, I was like “How do we do the montage?” He said, “Why don’t we do it without cuts, on a 360 degree shot?” I said, “You know what? We’re going to do it even better. The second montage, we’re going to do it the same, but in the opposite direction and destroying everything.” It was shot like that, it was all staged with actors running from one position to the other. When we were on the beach, and I explained the first shot to the crew, they were all like, “Are we really going to do that?”  “Wait, the second one is the difficult one.” [Laughs]

Then we had a great musician, Kyle Newmaster, who also has a kick-ass name. Everyone grasped the concept of doing all the nice things and then destroying them. What I learned was, you have four minutes, make a lot of layers.

THE ABCs OF DEATH 2 is currently on VOD from Magnet Releasing and Drafthouse Films. It opens in limited theatrical release this Halloween. 

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman
Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.
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