Creator Q&A: Costa Rican Film "The Return"

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Four days ago, Hernán Jimenez launched his Costa Rican film project The Return, and since then hundreds of people have been flocking to support the production. The outpouring has taken everyone by surprise — local media can’t stop chirping about it — so we decided to rope in Hernán for an interview as quickly as possible. Check out the back story and a trailer above, and then read what he has to say about it all.

Your project just launched and you’ve already surpassed 1,000 backers, with tons of nice words flowing in in the comments. Did you expect this kind of support, and so quickly?

Not this quickly. Not at all. Proof of that is that I aimed at a 45-day strategy. Seeing our project backed at 60% within the first three days has been wonderful and very reassuring. But totally unexpected. I think the beauty in this lies in the passion with which people take up the project. Kickstarter is quite new to Costa Ricans, and I think there’s an infatuation with the potential in communal efforts, the ability to become an organic extension of the process… Basically everything that Kickstarter stands for is perceived there as innovative, seductive, and very transparent. Hence the widespread, quick support.

You call The Return a “sweet, simple, tender story.” Can you tell us a bit about the plot? Anything in particular in your own life that inspired the story?

Definitely. Even though I wouldn’t call it an autobiographical piece, there’s a lot of me in there. I left Costa Rica when I was only 16 years old, and my life has been marked by multiple returns to multiple places. The story tries to depict that never-ending search for your place in the world.

It’s about making friends with your past in order to move forward and find out who you are now. I say it’s sweet and tender and simple because the emotional punch comes not from overly dramatic plot points, but rather from the inner lives of the characters that slowly unravel throughout the story.

The film is already shot and ready for postproduction. How long did it take to shoot? Any crazy mishaps on set for us to revel in?

The shoot took place back in August and we worked for six weeks (a true luxury for independent cinema; we had no fancy caterers or stunts or money, but we had time). No crazy mishaps, but we did have to contend with the crappy car in the movie — since it was a crappy car in actuality. People couldn’t ride in it longer than 20 minutes because of mysterious “internal fumes,” which provided some kind of chemical high, the windows would fog up to what was basically solid white, the gas gauge didn’t work, and, frankly, neither did the breaks.

Sounds like a sweet ride. Who’s the little boy in the film? Such a cutie!

Totally! His name is Andre Boxwill and he is the sweetest, most transparent, beautiful kid you’ll ever meet. I’m not even kidding.

The day he wrapped was a truly sorrowful moment for us. His scenes were all compressed towards the early weeks of the shoot, and he became, quite literally, the heart and soul of our production. His absence on set was a real obstacle for me because his innocence kept us all grounded, and he was a constant reminder that it’s all about play. Not to mention he’s an incredible actor.

How do you find the actors in your films? I noticed a lot of Jimenez in the credits.

We’re not related, though! Pure coincidence. I’m an actor myself, and casting is the one thing I work on obsessively. I simply can’t settle for anything even slightly under my highest expectations. And I lucked out with The Return. We auditioned over 1,500 people, and each cast member did something at some point that just sold me without a doubt, whether it was good acting or simply walking into a room.

More importantly though, they all understood that actors’ egos would be checked outside the door and no divas were allowed on set. They are all extraordinary people with an extraordinary talent.

This is your second film. The first one you made off the money you raised doing a comedy piece you’d written. What was that performance like? What were you joking about and where did you tour with it?

Yes, it was another desperate attempt to find funding outside the usual sources, even though we used traditional funding methods for that film too.

I wrote and performed an hour-long stand-up routine called “Al derecho y al revés.” I performed at a club to sold-out houses for weeks, which proved extremely profitable since there were no expenses. Word spread of the show, and I started getting calls for corporate parties and things of the sort. I was relentless with my fees there ;) — I saved enough money to go right into production.

My humor is very local and, I think, therefore can become quite universal. I would mostly focus on the nonsensical daily annoyances of the third world: lines at the bank where you stand up and sit back down again each time a person moves (never mind the concept of “take a number”), potholes the size of craters on national highways, and the fact that our airport has been “under construction” for about…25 years? That sort of stuff.

How’d you find out about Kickstarter?

People had suggested the platform to me as an alternative fundraising tool. I was also shown another couple of projects (one of them Costa Rican, by the way). And eventually I came back to it on my own and seriously studied how it worked for a few weeks.

Are you from Canada?

No, I’m from Costa Rica, but Canada is my second home. I’ve lived half of my adult life between British Columbia and Montreal, and I love the place beyond words. Some of my best friends are from there.

Any other thoughts? Tips for other creators?

This is a very transgressive platform. It allows for the rules to be bent. It forces you to think outside the box. Once I truly understood Kickstarter, I realized we were perfectly in tune. It’s an organic extension of my own work and the way I want to do it.

My only advice to project creators would be to closely observe successful campaigns and see what you can get out of that. I am personally indebted to Jocelyn Town’s feature I am I on Kickstarter (she recently raised over $100,000). I monitored their progress very closely, watched their video a million times, and borrowed a few of their ideas, which were just brilliant. But most of all, be totally honest, and people will pick up on that.

You can support the project here.

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