Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Robin Zamora, Actor/Filmmaker: I grew up about an hour north of LA, Oxnard, California. Life at home was comfortable physically but taxing emotionally. Being the first generation born from a third world country coupled with a significant age gap made for a whole lot of deciphering with no guidance, at least not without religious bias. This created the frame-work to search for my own voice.
Film Courage: Which of your parents do you resemble most?
Robin: None and both. There’s a creative element that I see in my mom and a will to fight in my dad that I can correlate, but neither fully comprehend the path I’ve embarked on.
Film Courage: Did you go to school for dramatic arts or film?
Robin: I did not go to school for film or the arts. Conventional school settings lacked inspiration from my experience. I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong answer when it comes to school, as either path can have it’s advantages. The key for me was figuring out how I learn best.
Film Courage: What does your arm tattoo say?
Robin: It isn’t a phrase but rather a certain kind of totem pole. Kanji reads from top to bottom as opposed to left to right. From my elbow to my wrist it reads, “family,” “smile or laughter,” “love,” “death.” A picture is worth a thousand words, which is what attracted me to Kanji. Ultimately that serious of pictures through all of their various definitions represents life.
“I had to create work from myself. I spent the previous year saving up money to make a feature, but didn’t know what story to tell. To a certain extent I felt the need to break free from myself by exposing myself. No pun intended. The overwhelming support and feedback I got from my inner circle made it impossible for me to NOT move forward with the project.”
Film Courage: In your interview with actress Liesel Hanson (who plays Becca in UNWHOLLY MOMENTS) you explain wanting to make a movie not knowing which story to tell until a certain event sparked an idea. Are you able to share this event?
Robin: The event is based on the scene with “Molly” or the third sex-worker. I had an epiphany after taking what felt like several minutes to digest the interaction that had taken place. It felt like I was in a scene from a movie and patterns from my character began to ambush me sparking the idea there was something to explore here in a narrative form. I sent Andy a text that very night.
Film Courage: Why did you need to make UNWHOLLY MOMENTS?
Robin: I had to create work from myself. I spent the previous year saving up money to make a feature, but didn’t know what story to tell. To a certain extent I felt the need to break free from myself by exposing myself. No pun intended. The overwhelming support and feedback I got from my inner circle made it impossible for me to not move forward with the project.
Film Courage: Collaborator and director Andy Rayner mentions that it’s an “emotional horror film.” Do you also feel this way?
Robin: Yes, because we wanted to make the viewer feel uncomfortable through the brutally honest moments that most people don’t talk about or wouldn’t want others to know about themselves. There’s a certain kind of horror element in unpopular vulnerability.
Film Courage: When you initially gave the script to Andy Rayner he said it felt “contrived.” How did you fix it to bring in the real elements making the viewer want to watch despite how emotional jarring it was?
Robin: I was struggling to write it conventionally and was hesitant to show him what I had written because I was feeling those same sentiments. Andy then suggested taking an improvisational approach which helped bring out the organic elements necessary to execute our concept. We began to develop an outline from there. We understood early on that we needed to let it take on it’s own life rather than create re-enactments. I believe there’s refreshing honesty and relatability in the film that maintains engagement.
Film Courage: How much of UNWHOLLY MOMENTS improv?
Robin: Most of the film was improvised within a scripted outline of the story. The only elements scripted in the film are the material the auditions derived from, i.e.: the thug audition, the unsuccessful audition and the final dream sequence in the film.
Film Courage: What script (if any) did you have and what information did you provide the actors on their characters?
Robin: We had a 14 page outlined script we gave everyone. We mainly broke down the events characters were based from with the actors and then collaborated on their backstory. We simply wanted everyone to understand what was happening in each scene and encouraged their perspective and instincts to fill in the blanks.
Film Courage: How did you pitch the story to your actors?
Robin: So the following is the storyline we posted for the casting breakdown; “A raw and gritty exploration of what we keep to ourselves. Examining a yearning for connection and it’s relationship with addiction. Honesty tends to shine through in the awkward, but it doesn’t mean the same for everyone.” After actors were cast, we met with everyone and filled them in on the honesty we were looking to explore. I’m personally attracted to authenticity.
Film Courage: Where did you shoot the film/secure the locations?
Robin: We shot in Los Angeles, CA : Studio City, Hollywood, North Hollywood, Burbank, Sun Valley and Glendale to be geographically exact. Most of the film was shot at what was my apartment at the time. The brewery is Brewyard Beer Company, great beer, better people.
Film Courage: What camera(s) did you use?
Robin: We shot on the Panasonic GH4. It was the best camera available that was within our budget constraints. True indie at its finest.
Film Courage: Liesel also says she loves that it’s such a “naked people movie” with extra human, icky moments. Why is this important to the story?
Robin: What I love about the nudity in the film is that it was done to serve the story and that none of the “sex” is meant to be erotic, if anything it’s awkward. It highlights vulnerability in it’s purest, physical form and it showcases an unspoken dialogue that I believe to be more relatable than the fantasy it’s usually sold as. A big part of what the film explores is “what is not said,” a kind of miscommunication under which society can operate by on a microcosmic level.
Film Courage: Would you have watched another film with a similar story or was it more important to make it, rather than be the viewer?
Robin: It was far more important to make the film than to focus on what I’d like to see as a viewer. I’d rather make a film than watch one. It felt different than anything I’ve ever seen and the most personal as well so I want to say, “yes I would have seen another film with a similar story.”
Film Courage: You have not one, not two, but several male full frontal shots in the movie. What prompted this decision?
Robin: This was by no means premeditated as far as shot composition went. What we wanted to capture required full nudity and I wasn’t going to ask someone to do something I wasn’t willing to do. The improvisational nature of the film lent itself to the importance of wides to capture as much vulnerability as possible. People’s disposition change, which affects communication. There’s something about nudity that suspends disbelief and even breaks down certain walls within oneself.
Film Courage: Has the nudity in the film had an impact on distribution?
Robin: Yes, more people have watched it. LOL. Grant it, this is not our intension for it.
Film Courage: How long have you known collaborator and director Andy Rayner?
Robin: I met Andy a few months prior to filming “Idled” in the summer of 2013, just after being cast through a taped audition I submitted. We developed a friendship through our artistic collaborations.
Film Courage: How important was it for you to have a director that you trust and know (not just a director-for-hire who has an excellent reel)?
Robin: Extremely. The amount of vulnerability involved with this project required trust beyond technical execution. I needed someone who knew me beyond the surface and excited to take ownership of the story we were telling as well.
Film Courage: How much of your character Rod talking to himself either in his own inner dialogue or rehearsing is what many actors do in their private moments?
Robin: It’s both actually. Andy, came up with the idea of having the character go through these kind of interview scenarios where we get to see him in his own head within the mundane ritual he goes through when no one is around. He’s reliving past projects, examining character choices in an effort to validate himself.
Film Courage: When referring to acting Andy Rayner says “You are a vessel to tell a story.” How were you able to be a vessel when the story is close to your experience as an auditioning actor?
Robin: I believe self-awareness was most important to be able to identify the narrative that plays out in your head from your present and past experiences. Unwholly Moments gave me a greater understanding of what it means to know the character you’re playing.
Film Courage: The protagonist Rod seems awkward and one dimensional with the “nice girls” whom he desires a real relationship and seemingly more himself with the prostitutes he seeks out. How does this fit into his character dilemma? Does this same reason transcend to his trouble booking acting work despite his great talent?
Robin: It plays into the “emotional horror” element and the exploration of vulnerability. He feels it’s easier to pay someone to be naked with him than to be vulnerable and clothed. Rod had been so focused on his fears he empowered them to run amok and shape his reality, transcending any talent he has.
Film Courage: Did you use an aggregator to get the film out there? Where is the film available?
Robin: We did not go with an aggregator. We didn’t feel that avenue was a good fit to start. With the costs involved we felt it would be more beneficial to begin with a platform that works directly with content providers. You can have your film on as many platforms as possible, but it’s up to you to get the word out and create the marketing for your film. That’s one thing aggregators don’t do. We took this as an opportunity to use these films to educate ourselves with the process. Currently “Unwholly Moments” can be found on Vimeo On Demand along with “Idled.”
Film Courage: How did the camera become part of the story?
Robin: We sought out to take a voyeuristic approach with the camera and treat it as a character in the film, ideally being the audience.
Film Courage: Where do you develop your best ideas?
Robin: Walking and running are definitely forms of meditation for myself but not every occurrence yields a great idea. I found each project to have its own process of allowing the idea to come to fruition.
Film Courage: Biggest supporter in your life?
Robin: Myself. It’s my life for a reason, and no one is putting the work in for me other than myself.
Film Courage: The quote or mantra of the film was “Everything in life is just for a little while.” Can you expand on this?
Robin: Nothing lasts forever not even the ruts people find themselves in, so lighten up, this too shall soon pass.
Film Courage: What’s next for you creatively?
Robin: Good question. I have no idea yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to it’s development.
*This is a sponsored post
BIO: Robin Zamora is a first generation Mexican-American born and raised in Southern California. Robin Zamora approaches life as one big “acting class,” constantly examining as well as exploring people, experiences and himself. Growing up in a household ran by a generation gap wrapped around a third world upbringing and navigating through an exponentially evolving “new world,” has given Robin an international perspective to tap into, such as being inspired to learn how to sew his tattered clothes from watching his father. He brings a raw and hard-nosed honesty to the table and aims to be a part of a progression in storytelling by pushing the boundaries of convention.
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Check out IDLED Movie (Vimeo On Demand) by filmmaker Andy Rayner ft. Robina Zamora and Wendy Alvarez – In what was supposed to be a simple move to his brother’s place, Val is forced to spend a day with himself and the painful memories of a failed romantic relationship with his childhood best friend.
Check out UNWHOLLY MOMENTS Movie (Vimeo On Demand) by filmmaker Andy Rayner ft. Robin Zamora and Liesel Hanson – A man dissatisfied with his life, attempting to be an actor struggles to connect with his profession and the people around him.