Evan Buxbaum

Evan Buxbaum

CEFF’s version of the Proust questionnaire

1. What is your favorite movie theater and why?
Maybe “Le Balzac” on the Champs-Élysées since it’s where my movie will premiere [laughs] but I’ve never been there, so that’s probably not it. I do really enjoy the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York, although probably everyone says that because it’s  a great theatre, with such history. For a smaller theatre in New York I really like the Sunshine. But I once showed a film in, and this might be my favorite one, Aspen, CO, and what they do there is they screen them in the Opera House. That was amazing.

2. Your favorite movie rant.
In Good Will Hunting the rant that the Matt Damon character gives to the NSA director.

3. The death scene you will never forget.
I think the first cinematic death I saw, at least that I remember, was in Jurassic Park, when that dude gets eaten off of the toilet by the T-Rex. This was the first time I remember thinking “Oh, man that is messed up!”

4. The first movie poster that you hung on your walls.
I believe it was When Harry Met Sally. Yeah, that’s a real manly answer right there. Obviously it’s a romantic comedy so that is what it is but I do think it’s one the greatest films ever made. I think it’s a brilliant film. In so many ways, I think it is actually almost a perfect film for what it is. I see that film and I can’t think of anything wrong with it, at all.

5. What movie character do you identify with the most?
I’d like to think that I sometimes identify with basically every character ever in a Woody Allen movie and sometimes with Indiana Jones. So it’s somewhere halfway in between.

6. Which look to camera struck you the most?
In terms of looking to camera, the most intense and amazing use of that that I’ve seen probably ever, but definitely recently, is in the show House of Cards. The way that they use talk to camera and the way they use Kevin Spacey looking at the camera has blown my mind.

7. What movie made you travel the most?
I think Dances With Wolves, one of my favorites, that I saw early on, was one of the first films I saw that dealt in another world and really brought something to my attention that I knew nothing about, in this case Native American culture, that world and the world of the plains over a century ago. The way the main character explores that different world really opened my eyes as well. And it has influenced the way I make movies: I try to expose an audience to something they maybe haven’t seen before. “Dances With Wolves” was one the first films that I ever saw that did that for me.

8. If you had to live in a film, you would choose…
Oh I know which one it wouldn’t be: any American action movie from the last twenty years… There are a number of options here, you could go in different directions, but I think I’m going to pick a film I saw recently that I thought was unbelievable, I’m going to go with Her.

9. The movie that scared you the most.
I’m going to go pretty esoteric here, I doubt anyone else would give that answer. I will go with The Watcher In The Woods, which I saw with a friend at his cabin, in the woods. I think horror films are a lot about ambiance and what’s going on in your life and we literally watched this film while living the experience shown in the film and we were loosing our minds. I’ve never been that scared. We legitimately could not sleep.

10. The movie that made you laugh the most.
The movie that made me laugh the most in recent memory is this film called Death At A Funeral, the original British version. I think it was flat out brilliant and I was hysterical, definitely made me laugh a lot.

Portrait of Evan Buxbaum

Evan Buxbaum grew up in New York City and while he currently lives there, he has also lived in Switzerland and Mongolia. He credits travelling as one of the inspirations for making a film about borders and crossing them. But before that, what drove him to filmmaking was the stop-motion action movies he used to make with a Hi8 camera and his collection of Legos. “I fell more and more in love with the visual story-telling medium and it’s something I’ve been drawn to ever since then.”

Despite his passion for film he chose to major in Political Sciences and Conflict Resolution at Swarthmore College (PA), wanting to get “a broad and deeper education in things in the world that [he] thought [he] would never have a chance to do again”. While there he kept making films and after graduation he went on to follow a filmmaking career, with the occasional bar-tending job on the side to support himself. As a New Yorker, he quotes Woody Allen as one of his biggest influences along with the films by Gus Van Sant and Wes Anderson. Fargo by the Coen brothers was one of the first movies he saw that he wished he could have been part of. When asked, he defines his cinema of choice as being more about character driven narratives rather than high concept scripts. Stories driven by people, mostly off-beat, that present characters doing things in a unique and different way.

Sun Belt Express, his first feature length film, is a dramatic comedy set along the Mexican-American border, starring Tate Donovan, Rachael Harris and Ana de la Reguera. While working as a bartender, many of Buxbaum’s colleagues were Latino, some of those immigrants, with or without documentation. Listening to their stories was the trigger for the filmmaker, who ended up writing the script with his barback, Gregorio Castro. The fact that it was loosely based on real experiences led to the film’s tagline: “Based on 12 million true stories”. Before that Buxbaum had directed four short films “to get the bad films out of my system” as he likes to say. His latest two, Anything You Can Do, a comedy adventure, and La Línea, were selected by festivals across the US. The later acted as a teaser for Sun Belt Express: it deals with the same topic and is actually largely re-enacted in the feature film.

Sun Belt Express successfully raised more than $40 000 through the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter and went into production in 2012-2013. Shooting on location, in the desert of New Mexico, proved challenging. While shooting the final scene, set on the patio of a restaurant, the crew had just finished building the set when a flash sandstorm hit. Buxbaum remembers: “the sky went completely dark, the entire place got insanely windy and a sand-whirlwind literally ripped through the middle of our set and completely destroyed the entire thing. It took us four hours to put it back together and we didn’t end up shooting until 01:00 am. We shot until the sun came up and we got all our sunset shots at dawn.”

With all the challenges of an indie film, production wasn’t without its highlights. The hunt for the car, an old blue Volvo, seemed fruitless, the crew urging the director to settle for using another car. ”A week before we started shooting we found the perfect Volvo in Albuquerque, N.M., in the city we were shooting in. It was insane and one of the best moments because it felt like casting a character.”

Sun Belt Express will have its world premiere at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival.


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