Fantasia 2018: Gigi Saul Guerrero and Raynor Shima Talk Ass-Kicking Abuelas for LA QUINCEAÑERA
Founding members of Luchagore Productions, Director Gigi Saul Guerrero and Producer Raynor Shima have been delivering Latin-inspired horror out of Vancouver since 2013, always living up to the “gore” in their namesake. Fresh from the raucous Canadian premiere of their series, La Quinceañera, Guerrero and Shima discuss Fantasia, family, and the unique draw of the horror genre.
Dread Central: Your short films, El Gigante and Madre de Dios, previously played at Fantasia. How would you compare Fantasia to other film festivals?
Gigi Saul Guerrero: I still remember the first time the Luchagore team and I went to the premiere of our short film, El Gigante, at a sold-out screening of easily 600 plus people. Hearing that caliber of audience was a dream come true! Fantasia is not only set in the beautiful city of Montreal, but it is also so well organized! Great lineup of films, incredible film market, and super fun parties—one of the best places I have attended for networking and long-lasting friendships. And let’s admit it, Montreal has such good food, you are guaranteed to come back so fat after the festival. POUTINE FOR LIFE!
DC: Fantasia is a long flight from Vancouver. What keeps you coming back?
GSG: For me, the most rewarding part of the process of creating a film is the moment you screen your work in front of an audience. Everything feels worth it once you hear people cheer, laugh, gasp, squirm, etc. while watching your creation. Fantasia is the place to have a screening and even more so a premiere!!! I have to admit that no festival I have gone to (so far) has reached that level of dedicated fans who attend here. You get to witness the most rowdy and passionate audience at Fantasia! I always want to keep coming back with as many films as possible.
DC: If you were to sell La Quinceañera to someone with only one sentence, what would it be?
GSG: I love describing the show, “Think Kill Bill meets El Mariachi.”
DC: How closely did you work with writer Shane McKenzie to develop the concept for the show?
GSG: I have been working with Shane since the beginning of my career and I feel so lucky to have found a writing art nerd who is as dark-minded as me! Him and I just get each other when it comes to horror. But La Quinceañera, I consider it to be a new and mature level to our storytelling. Shane and I focused hard on character development for this project more than anything. Together, along with the creative team of Stage13 and Warner Brothers, we created a new and bloody version of a coming-of-age revenge story. It was important for me to ensure the Mexican quirks of our language, culture, and traditions were present.
DC: Which filmmakers and films/shows inspired you for La Quinceañera?
GSG: Ever since film school, my cinematographer, Luke Bramley, and I have been big fans of the gritty and dirty style of Rob Zombie, and the colourful visceral style of Tarantino and Rodriguez. We knew mixing these styles would fit perfectly for the show!
DC: With Luchagore, you’ve developed a handful of other web series. What was unique about La Quinceañera? What did you learn as a filmmaker?
Raynor Shima: Oh there’s so many unique things about La Quinceañera that I could go on about, but I think the one thing that stood out for me, was really telling the story about a young fifteen year old girl who’s Quinceañera goes wrong. It’s something that we’ve never really ventured into, and also being longer form, we were able to get to know our cast, and follow her journey from girl to woman, in such a visceral way.
With that being said and the experience we’ve had from our previous works, La Quinceañera was like our snap into a studio-based production, going into overdrive. We had the resources, the money, the team, and the great collaboration from Stage13 behind us. Which from the Stage13 team, really helped teach me a great amount of structure, from development, to script, to production, and post-production. There was this rhythmic formula that I enjoyed the process of, and really thought it flowed so well. Even if we felt heavily under pressure at times, I was able to feel confident that work would move forward. Also being able to be right there with Gigi and working on the creative together, was such a great experience, and I remember our EP saying “This is your opportunity now, to be there with Gigi and really focus on the show, and not anything else.”
DC: How do you see the themes of your show being relevant to the outside world?
RS: Within the show, family values are a strong thematic element throughout the film, which I think in Latino culture is very much true to real life, minus all the horrific violence of course. After being welcomed into Gigi’s family, I see this strong bond amongst them, and how each family member has each other’s back through thick and thin. Which really leads into the strong female members of the family, such as the mother and abuela (grandmother), who play such an important role in shaping our fifteen-year-old Alejandra. And even though we put our heroine through a very traumatic coming-of-age moment, she has the support from her amazing grandmother that she not only looks up to, but also to learn the values in life, of who she’ll become.
DC: With “familia” being the backbone of the show, how has your family played a role in your career? What do they think of your movies?
GSG: Well, I can easily say my father is my biggest fan! He cheers so loud during our screenings, I can’t wait to take him as my red carpet date one day! My mom usually has her eyes closed during our films…Don’t get me wrong, she’s still really happy. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and inspiring family. If anybody follows me on social media, they know that my family is a handful of fun Mexicans, with my talented sister by my side, and my incredible Chingona Abuela (grandma) being in my life…I am inspired every day.
This show, La Quinceañera, was the perfect opportunity to put a lot of traits of my own life into the lead character herself. The relationship between Alejandra and her Abuela on the show is exactly how I feel with my very own grandma—the way we speak and the love for one another. La Quinceañera showcases the importance of familia, staying together, and Chingona power from all the Latina women in the show. I am surrounded by three strong and beautiful women in my life since birth and I wanted the show to have that! I mean, who doesn’t want to see a grandma kick ass with a shotgun?!
DC: What attracts you to the horror genre? And, in particular, what attracts you to the ultra-violent stories Luchagore is known for?
GSG: At the end of the day, my most favorite thing about filmmaking is hearing an audience react. I find horror films, or genre films in general, are the only specific type of film that can make a full room of viewers feel different things at once. You have in one corner, the people covering their eyes in fear, the other side people are laughing, smiling nervously, or the crazies like me who are cheering so loud when gore happens on screen! No other genres do that.
I love all kind of movies, I really do. But I just love gut-wrenching films that stick with you and make you think about what you just saw for hours or days! I knew since a young teen I wanted to make memorable stories on screen. I find it fascinating!
DC: What else is cooking for you and Luchagore? Is there anything you can share about upcoming projects?
RS: Well we are in talks in developing Season 2 of La Quinceañera and at the same time, we are currently and actively trying to get another feature off the ground as we speak. Hopefully, you’ll will hear about it sooner than later, but we are really pushing forward with this one that our amazing writer Shane has come up with together. We are really excited about this project and we’re excited to challenge ourselves with it, as its something that we haven’t done just yet.
Be sure to check out Zena Dixon’s thoughts on La Quinceañera here. If you’re in the US, Latin America, and select European countries, you can watch the show on the Studio+ app. The series will be available in more territories and platforms soon. Stay tuned for updates from Luchagore Productions.