Mannyx Guillen was born in Bern, Switzerland. In 2007, after living and working in Zurich, Switzerland for thirteen years, he moved to Jersey City, NJ with his wife Stephanie Guillen. Being a successful art painter in Switzerland encouraged him to step out of the canvas and take on a new challenge. The film-making classes he took at NYFA in 2011 prompted him to replace the brushes for a film camera. After writing and directing several music videos and short films, he felt the urge for more storytelling and created the concept for a TV series for which he wrote the pilot. His next project was writing the script for a feature film, The Wonderpill, a comedy that he produced and directed in 2014. He's currently working on his next feature film that will be produced in 2015 in the NYC area.
While still attending school, did you have any misconceptions about the film industry? Were there any rude awakenings for you?
Not really, I was already in my mid-thirties when I went to school, so I already knew a bit about the dark side of this business. However, after completing school I tried to shoot some things… a music video for an upcoming band, a horror flic and I wrote a TV show but nothing happened. That's when I realized how hard it is to get a foot in this area, and when I decided to produce my own feature film "The Wonderpill".
Based on your experience, what advice would you give film students?
It really has to be the biggest passion in your life. Only then, and with an iron will and stubbornness, will you create the needed energy to make a movie. Yeah, it's really that hard. I guess it also depends if you are studying film in one of the big film schools like Columbia or UCLA; there, I think, you will get the best basics and advice. But if you are like me and "just" took film-making classes in a private school then you really have to study film in your own time and read/study books which are out there. And then, of course, practice and shoot short films and so on. At the end of the day I still consider myself a student, as there's always something to learn, and therefore the biggest advice is to always stay modest.
Interview with Filmmaker, Mannyx Guillen
The Wonderpill was written and directed by you. Even though it was your debut film, it has received a lot of accolades. Tell us a bit about the movie and its success.
Well, I don't think it was a huge success but then again, how do you measure success in art? Money, fans, or is it already a success if you find one single viewer who loved the movie? I'm just very happy that we got into 9 film festivals and won a couple awards. But the greatest pleasure was at the screening on our home turf at the Jersey City Film Festival where we had a decent sized audience and really everybody was laughing at all the jokes. That's when I knew that the movie worked. Of course it's also fantastic that we're able to sign a distribution license agreement with "Shami Media Group" and they will put the movie online on different platforms in the next months. "The Wonderpill" should be available on Amazon Prime in November 2016 and the DVD will be available later. I'm very excited about this!
What was the best and worst part of working on your first film and what have you learned from it?
The best part was watching the actors create the scenes you wrote. When they really excelled in a special scene and I had goosebumps, or almost tears in my eyes, or was so excited that I wanted to shout, "Yeah!!!" into rolling scene. That's what I loved the most, when I felt the movie coming to life through the actors. Worst part was definitely production, especially on a zero budget, struggling at all times with time, money, locations and so on. On top of everything we had two snowstorms which really made it even harder. I obviously learned a lot. Main thing, and that's something everybody says, is to be prepared, prepared, prepared. You really must have to movie done before you shoot. The shot-list, the story-board are really essential.
You’re one of the few people who can’t be found on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. How do you view social media and its influence in promoting the work of artists as yourself?
Yeah, I'm not a big fan of social media and try to avoid it. Also, I just simply don't have to the time for it. You are right, it is a big discussion of how important it is or not. On movie-making I'm not sure it’s that important. At the end of the day you can't sell a movie through a big buzz in social media if it's shit. On the other side, if you make a great movie, then it will sell for itself. I see many movies out there where social media didn't help them sell, because they simply sucked.
You’re also a visual artist. Your paintings are very powerful, truly remarkable. When it comes to inspiration is there a link between the two forms of art? Does one influence the other?
Yeah, the link is simply the creativity, which I think is essential to creating art. Filmmaking is not different. Without creativity you can't make a movie. But that's about it relating to a link. Painting and filmmaking are two different processes for me. However, the moment I knew that I just wanted to make films, I lost the interest in painting; so I stopped painting since then and I'm using my whole energy for filmmaking. I think it would be impossible for me timewise to do both. I also noticed that my passion for filmmaking is way bigger than painting, and that's why I was able to let it sleep for a while. Maybe I will pick it up later when I have a couple movies… who knows. I just go where my passion is leading me, that's the biggest advice in life, anyhow. People should just concentrate to their big passions and that's where you'll find the source for creativity and big power to create or experience your passion.
Was there any point during the creative process where you felt a sense of deep spirituality, as if being guided by the universe towards your personal mission? If yes, could you tell us about that?
Difficult question when you ask me about spirituality in a raunchy, campy comedy! Just kidding, but I guess you are right, what I felt was that I finally found my ultimate passion (instead of painting) and that I would dedicate my full time to this. I just love the world of storytelling, as a consumer and a producer. It doesn't matter if it's books, movies, TV-series or computer games. Immersing into a different world is just a great pleasure for me, and creating them too.
What kind of sacrifices have you made and are willing to make to give your career your hundred percent?
Oh, a lot. First of all, I don't have kids and I don't know how I could achieve this with kids. Especially because I still have a full-time day job to pay the bills. Then there’s the time you have to spend to create a movie. This project for instance took me three years, and during this time I almost shut down completely from my social life. Also when I have to achieve something that big, I learned the best way for me to be able to fully concentrate is to let everything else go. So I stopped playing video games, didn't work-out anymore (and gained like 30 pounds!), didn't meet people, only slept like three to four hours a night. Only then I had all the energy and time to get this done. But I guess everybody is different. However, in all this time I still watched movies and TV-series, the one thing I would never stop for nothing, even if it is only an hour a day.
How do you view the film industry today? What do you think it excels on and what kind of changes can it benefit from?
It's the same as in all other creative fields. Music, books, art, film, are the four areas where everybody wishes to be a part of and therefore it's the hardest to get into. Unfortunately, at the end of the day only a few can make a living of it. Then there's the whole money part which makes it bad, I think. Art shouldn't be measured in money, but that's how it is in the film industry. You have blockbusters which make billions and then you have as an example Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which I would consider a greater movie than all these new blockbusters but only did like two-millions with a budget of ten. So from a "success" point of view, Transformers is better than Only Lovers Left Alive? I think right now TV is very exciting, a lot of great actors and directors started creating TV shows because they have almost unlimited freedom, and that's why I watch so many great shows at the moment. I'm very happy that we still got that. Also the digital revolution is fantastic and has helped filmmakers like me create films with low budgets.
As an artist you have the power to shift social views, whether it be as part of a cultural movement or on a personal level. What impact do you hope to bring to the world with your art?
Not sure I will have a great impact on social views with my kind of films. This project was a raunchy comedy but still had a social critical tone underlying. My next films will be gangster, thrillers, horror flics, so I guess I just want to entertain and bring joy to the audience. That way I'm getting entertained and getting pleasure out of it, too.
What new projects are you currently working on and when should we expect to see it?
I'm working now on a gangster chamber play and plan to shoot a test film in 2017. The reason I shoot a test film is because it's highly experimental and I think never done before. I'm very excited but also nervous about it because of that. For some reason I always chose the most challenging projects. Kinda stupid and not sure why I do that. I guess I get the kick out of it!
When did your love for movies began, and when was the exact moment when you knew you’d dedicate yourself to making movies?
My love for movies began on my first and earliest memories as a child, which was probably around age five. My mother was already a big movie geek and always watched movies so I definitely took that over from her. When they sent me to bed I would sneak out and continue watching the movies on the TV through the crack of the living room door. Switzerland is not a big movie-making country and growing up there, I never really thought I could make movies. I always just thought of it as having a big passion for watching them. However, when I moved to the US I always saw ads for NYFA (New York Film Academy) on driving buses, digital film making classes. Then I decided that it would be fun to see if that would interest me. So as soon as I took the first classes, I knew immediately that I would wanted to make movies for the rest of my life. The fire it created in me was the biggest I ever felt, even more then my art painting. Unfortunately, my mother passed more than thirty years ago and therefore she could never experience that I became a filmmaker.
What films inspired you in your journey?
From age five to ten it was Barabbas with Anthony Quinn. Then when I was around ten I saw Sergio Leone's, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly which blew me away and was my favorite flic for ten years until I was twenty years old and saw Pulp Fiction in 1994. For me a new movie era was started with Tarantino, and I consider him the greatest director of all time and definitely my favorite. It's a funny thing that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is Tarantino's favorite film. However, there were other directors which I love and influenced me in my youth: Sergio Leone, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, Walter Hill, David Lynch, Peter Greenaway, Russ Meyer, Jim Jarmusch, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese.
By Klara Gomez