sebastian gutierrez women in trouble

Last week I sat down with Sebastian Gutierrez the director behind the new film Women in Trouble, featuring several of Hollywood’s finest and up and coming actresses Carla Gugino, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Adrianne Palicki, Marley Shelton, and Connie Britton in some revealing outfits all acting their hearts out with Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Simon Baker in toe. I recently sat down to a one on one interview with Sebastian to talk about how it doesn’t take a huge budget or all the Hollywood extras to make a great movie. He filled us in on the joys of independent filmmaking, his love of strong female characters, and what it takes to make a good independent film these days.

Check out our interview below…

As a man, do you ever find it ironic to be telling so many females’ stories from a female perspective?

Sebastian: I’ve always written with a woman protagonist, it’s just that they’re horror movies and that’s so not my sensibility. In Hollywood if you do something and it works then they hire you to do that again and again. After a while, I was like I cannot write another horror movie or have to describe another scene where the door opens with a creepy thuddish, wettish sound because that stuff is very execution dependent if it turns out good, but it’s very tricky to write. So this movie was a complete reaction to that. I just want to go back to the kind of stories that I really like which are stories about characters with humor and they’re sexy and they say something. This was an attempt at making a movie with friends with very little money, with very little time, just letting people act.

Do you write those types of roles because so few films have good female characters?

Sebastian: I don’t know why. I wish there was a real noble reason. I guess I’ve always felt that as characters you need to explain a lot less with a female [character] than you do with a male character because you can be a woman and be strong one second and cry the next second. And I don’t have to explain whether you’re wimpy or you’re gay, it’s like you are perfectly understood. If you’re a mother, to protect that child you will kill anyone and then the next second you’ll break down. From a narrative standpoint that’s fantastic. With a guy it’s much trickier to do that because a lot of the scripts that have been produced that I’ve written have been horror movies. Horror is the one genre where they’ll let you have a woman because from a totally sexist stand point they’ll go she’s a damsel in distress, she’s in trouble. But ironically it’s the only genre where the woman gets to play the part that usually goes to the guy and the boyfriend in the movie gets to do the one note thing that the girl usually does.

There’s some weird reactionary stuff going on. But this movie, what was so exciting was not just working with friends but seeing like… most of these actresses in mainstream stuff get stuck playing just the girl part and as we know in Hollywood movies, the girl can be the good girl or the bad girl, there’s no in between. I don’t know anybody like that. None of my friends who are women are like that. All my friends are sexy and smart and confident and conflicted. They have contradictions all over the place and that’s why they’re interesting. So, I thought let’s put all that in a movie. The movie ultimately, yes it’s about comedy but it’s about that. It’s about the way the women bond with each other that’s solely different from how men bond with each other.

With sex being the underlying theme?

Sebastian: Yeah, but then again I like sex.

A lot of people do.

Sebastian: A lot of people do, but it’s so much easier for people to see the movie and understand the movie than to explain the movie because everybody’s like “Is it sexy? is it campy?” is it this, is it that. You could be funny and sexy at the same time and not be piggish or exploitative and still be playful. Playful is good. It’s been really interesting with this movie. Women understand it perfectly. Men go, “It was weird dude, cause you know it was hot chicks and they were in lingerie but they were like saying stuff that was kind of a turn off, but it’s kind of cool cause I got into it,” and I’m like good! Thank God. At the same time you sense, from reporters, before they see the movie, just based on materials or what not the movie sounds like it’s going to be, kind of like the bad part of cartoon feminism that if the women are in lingerie, they’re being put down and obviously the male fantasies of porn stars. What’s funny is that none of the women in the film are defined by the jobs they do so, even if the person plays the porn star, it’s not about that. Luckily when people see it, they understand it.

You show that in your costumes, with the women running around in ass-less chaps and stuff like that. It’s just funny. It doesn’t look like they’re being exploited at all.

Sebastian: What was funny was that it was Emmanuelle that picked out that outfit, which cracked me up because how it’s written, she’s supposed to be this classy call girl and we’re in the wardrobe fitting and Denise, the costume designer, had that hanging on the rack and Emmanuelle was like, “Oh my God, I gotta try those on,” and I was like really?! it seems like a David Lee Roth outfit. She was supposed to be in a perfect cocktail black dress with gloves and being this much more La Femme Nikita version of the night out, so that was totally her. What’s funny was I tried not revealing the back of it till later in the story.

Women in Trouble: Pre-Sex

I was curious about that. You didn’t see it for so long.

Sebastian:You don’t see it for so long but you see her wear that outfit and then you’re like “Oh My God!” there– they are…ass-less chaps!

The way that she walked with them was so nonchalant. There’s something very beautiful about that.

Sebastian: That was her. I give full credit to Emmanuelle. She was very comfortable in those. If you read the script, it didn’t say anywhere.

Some of the monologues and some of the stories that you have could be seen as over the top. How do you walk the line of making them funny, but still get the audience feel something for the characters?

Sebastian: First of all thank you, because that’s exactly the tone of the movie. But I think it’s because I kind of think life is like that. Like a farse, but its serious to us. The kind of stories that I like and the kind of story that hopefully this is, is that I like over the top situations that are borderline ridiculous, but then the emotion is absolutely real because if not it becomes camp, or it becomes a wink-wink to the audience. I think that’s really cowardly, to say, “We don’t really mean this,” there’s an ironic distance. When people try to be cool, I disconnect from it. I see a movie like The Godfather, The Godfather works on many levels but mostly because it’s a freaking soap opera. You walk around the movie and go Guido did this, stupid brother… When’s the last movie that you remember people’s names? Hardly ever because everybody’s so worried about being cool.

So, you point out the obvious to the audience instead of going over their heads?

Sebastian: A movie like this where it’s not a plot driven movie, it’s a character movie all the way, it was really important to show how these women are real cause they seem like archetypes or stereotypes. There’s the stereotype of the dumb blond, but we’re all a lot more like the dumb blond than anybody gives credit to. My whole point with a character like that is, wouldn’t it be interesting if she was aware that she’s not so smart. All of a sudden your heart breaks and you go, “Oh my God, I’m like that,” and that I find, the real victory of the thing, that seems like a different way of telling a story.


When you look at something like Paranormal Activity, does it make you wonder about the future of big budget movies in Hollywood?

Sebastian: Well, I think Hollywood is like the record industry before they destroyed themselves. Hollywood is set up right now to make, 100, 200 million dollar movies based on a book or franchise or superhero. Great. Then there’s going to be little movies but there’s going to be no middle, but that doesn’t need to be a depressing thing. People still want to see human stories. It’s inevitable, it’s happened, so we might as well make the best of it.

How challenging is it to get a movie like this off the ground? Does sex help sell it?

Sebastian: It’s interesting, I know what you’re asking. The short answer is sadly, I don’t think sex helps anymore. There is no sex in movies. Straight to video, erotic thriller movies, not that they make that many anymore but the only sex now exists on cable shows, Weeds, True Blood, there’s the only place there’s sex. It’s really strange. This movie was self-financed. This movie was literally made by me and a bunch of friends, ten people in our houses. So it was done almost as a student film. It was done literally [with] me writing these ten page segments with two characters and shooting each section in one day. So there was a hundred percent control and no money.

Can I ask what your budget was?

Sebastian: You know I can’t tell you because we’re still selling the movie. It’s just one of those ridiculous things because when you have those movies like El Mariachi, there music was made for $7,000 but then that story only comes out once Sony bought the movie and they pump in some money to fix the sound and they want to tell everybody how little it was.

Did filming multiple smaller stories make it easier for you?

Sebastian: Not necessarily. The origin of the story, I don’t know if it’s in the press notes somewhere, but there was a scene that I had written for another script that didn’t fit, years ago, and I just found this and I was like this scene is kind of a cool scene. I never did anything with it. It was like a ten page long scene between these two women getting ready together in front of a mirror, which then became a sequence in the movie. I thought I could probably get a couple video cameras and shoot this in one day and have a cool little short film. Then I thought I could write nine more sections like this and make a movie and interconnect the stories, which is pretty silly, it’s a pretty dumb idea, really, but that’s kind of what we did.

Why is that a dumb idea?

Sebastian:Well, because usually making a movie takes more than that, but the movie was made in sort of that way where if we had a ten person crew, two actors everyday, everybody gets paid 100 bucks a day, everybody gets paid the same, everybody owns part of the movie. I cook the food, my friend takes a picture, let’s go. That’s how the movie was made because we were only asking actors to come in for one day or two days, it’s much easier to get people to do that. Josh Brolin, in the middle of some Oscar campaign, he comes in for one day. So it really became, accidentally, a good way of making a movie. But it’s a very planned movie, it’s not improvised, it’s all very written.

Is there anything you would have changed?

Sebastian: It’s a little bit rough around the edges and I wish we had a little bit more money and we could’ve done certain things differently but the spirit of the thing is exactly what I meant and it seems so simple, but that is exponentially satisfying. There’s things in the story, without giving away sequences, but scenes that could have been just shock value, like there’s some big scene that Adrianne Palicki has that could’ve been just bad taste and shock value on the page and once we did it and really humanized it, we were like okay, good. Once we see the audience sort of laughing nervously going, “This is not really going where think it’s going, Oh my God, that is where it’s going!” But then it kind of switches and you kind of see the real person behind that and then it could be about any trauma, it’s a really cool thing because it’s not deep.

Further Reading: