He is the man behind Mute Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Javier Melendez: I was born and raised in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico until I was 18 years old, then I moved to Boston to study film at Boston University. Since I was a kid I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker and at 15 years old I was able to see for the first time what the world of cinema is like. At that age I met Juan Esteban Suárez, an AD in Puerto Rico who works in many of the local productions. Through him I was able to visit many of the “sets” of films and commercials that were recorded on the island at the time. Juan Esteban was a mentor for several years and it was largely through him that I learned about the industry and the art of cinema. He helped me record my first short film, titled Distortion Point, at the end of my senior year of high school. With this short film, I applied to American universities and finished in Boston. Since then I have continued producing and directing short films until I graduated in May 2011. Today I dedicate myself to provide my talents as a filmmaker to contractors in the world of film and television, many times dedicating myself to the camera department and lights. I also work at the University of Boston in the department of photojournalism.
SKSM: When did you make Mute? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Javier Melendez: Mute was my thesis film to graduate at the Boston University. We started adapting the script at the end of November 2010 and went into pre-production in January 2011. The current recording took nine days at the end of March and the beginning of April 2011. We had a month and half of editing and the film had its premiere in May in Boston. I was very fortunate in this production to work with the best filmmakers in Boston, with a production team of 15 or 20 people. We auditioned in New York and Boston to get our actors. Being honest, I have to say that it was a pleasure to work with the caliber of talents we had. Tom, the main actor, is very kind and funny. I was surprised to see his transformation to play the sad and resentful Monette, which showed me the detailed level with which we counted.
SKSM: How come you picked Mute to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Javier Melendez: What attracted me to Mute was the way in which Stephen King was able to create an atmosphere of tension and suspense in a space as small as a confessional, and with so little action. He noticed that fill the story of much action or elements that degrade history as such because the story is so interesting that the reader follows it regardless of the circumstances of Monette. It’s the kind of story you can not resist, because something in you needs to know what’s going to happen next. That’s how I felt when I read it and I hoped that the movie would have the same effect on the audience.
SKSM: Are you satisfied with the end resulto r would you now do things differently?
Javier Melendez: I’m very satisfied with the result. If there is something that would change, it would be possible to have had more time to record the confessional scenes, since I think there were many opportunities to do interesting things that we could not explore.
SKSM: What kind of problems did you run into while filming?
Javier Melendez: The biggest problems we had were managing time and locations. Some days we had to be in two or three locations before the sun came down, and organizing transportation of people was difficult. I was lucky to work with an excellent producer who kept us on time for everything and organized transportation. The worst day was when the car was hit by the sound engineer on the highway, and we had to waste an hour in going to look for it and return to recording. We were lucky that that day we gave ourselves a lot of time to record a single scene.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wikd guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Javier Melendez: In fact I found out through another student who was considering requesting the rights to another story to do his thesis. He decided not to do it but he gave me the idea of looking for a story for me. I read descriptions of all the stories available for dollar baby and ended up reading 3 or 4 stories to decide which one I wanted to do.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Javier Melendez: I have to say that the most fun moment was the day we finished filming. The last three days we recorded the scenes inside Monette’s car. During those three days we were 8 people traveling by car for more than 6 or 7 hours each day and it really was not the most comfortable situation, considering that we needed to hide the cameraman, the soundman and the director in the same car that the actors were It seemed like it was empty. When I finally could say “That’s a wrap”, we all celebrated in a field that we found on the highway. We went down to stretch our legs and listen to music as we ran across the meadow. After so many months of preparation, this was the moment we were waiting for.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Javier Melendez: It’s a bit sad that the rights are so restricted, but at the same time the honor of being able to use a King story in this way is worth it. At the moment I am finding out what are the exact limits of the rights to see if we can publish the film on the Internet.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Javier Melendez: For now we have received very good reviews. I am very cynical when it comes to my films, so I try not to pay so much attention to what they say about my film because I know that I will always be the strongest critic of it.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Javier Melendez: No, I didn’t have contact with him. I should try to give him a copy of the DVD when he goes to a Boston Red Sox game (he frequents the games and often puts it on camera).
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Javier Melendez: Not at this moment, because I’m still in the process of running Mute to different festivals. I’m not put the idea away if the right moment arises, since I love their stories and novels.
SKSM: When you are at home or going to the movies, what kind of movie genre would you prefer?
Javier Melendez: I usually watch a lot of suspense and drama movies. I have always been attracted to films that are a bit more gloomy and dark (how strange that I’m interested in Stephen King’s stories, right?)
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Javier Melendez: I didn’t know I had fans! If I had to say something, I would say that you continue to support independent filmmakers and I thank you for your support.
SKSM: Would you like to add anything else?
Javier Melendez: I wanted to thank everyone who helped make this possible, especially to José Rafael Meléndez, Jaime and Coral Melendez, Sam Kauffmann, Amy Neben, Tucker Bliss, Helena Bowen, Kyle Sauer and Sarah Doyle.
This interview was originally published on INSOMNIA digital magazine.