Saturday Night Special (United States | 2016, 12 min)

Directed by: Esteban Garcia Vernaza

In a fit of anger, young Wesley embarks on a journey through the dangerous streets in search of some food for his baby sister.


An Interview with Esteban Garcia Vernaza, Director of "Saturday Night Special" by Caleb Dawdy

CD: This film is a great short story that feels to exist as a small look into a much larger story. What did you find essential to the storytelling that allowed you to fully describe Wesley with just a snapshot?

EGV: I feel, even though we are looking through a small moment of his life, Wesley is a very active character that makes several strong decisions during most part of the film. I feel this allows the audience to experience Wesley’s life in a very intimate way.

CD: The photography is quite beautiful with its long takes, true light and shadow, and realistic tones. How was the process of developing that style?

EGV: I worked with Tyler Harmon-Townsend, who is a very talented DP and brings great ideas to depict the emotional world of the characters through lighting. We had several meetings where we discussed visual references and we defined the general tone of the film. We also talked about the color palette and camera style. Throughout these conversations, we decided to follow this Cinema Verite style, prioritizing long takes and anchoring the camera to Wesley.

CD: What was the location scouting like? Many of the color tones of the lights feel to really exist in their environment...were there gels used or did you scout out these light colors?

EGV: We were very lucky with the locations. We went to most of them guided by references and they were perfect for the film. The light colors belonged to the color palette that we decided with Tyler, so he and his team used gels to achieve the required look.

CD: What issues did you run into while filming this piece?

EGV: The biggest issue was running against the clock. We had 2 days and a half to shoot in 8 different locations with a very limited budget. So, with all these company moves, we even had to sacrifice entire scenes because we had no time and money to shoot them. We also had a baby on set, which had several challenges. The biggest one was that the baby could only be on set for a couple of hours per day. So, most of the time, we had to use a doll, which looked very fake on set. We solved this issue by closing the frames and playing with the editing to feel the baby’s presence during the most part of the film.

CD: Was the completion of your degree the main reason this film was completed, or had this story been a passion in your mind prior to that opportunity?

EGV: This film was made as a final project for the first year of the MFA Screenwriting/Directing at Columbia University. We had an interesting process called 'The Swap' in which we had to direct a script written by another student. I read Rodney’s script even before the swap and I loved it. So when we started the process we had already agreed that I was going to direct the film.

CD: What influences you both in cinema and storytelling?

EGV: My influences are very varied. I am a big fan of great directors such as, Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone, Kim Ki Duk, Cristopher Nolan. But I think the biggest influences for this particular film was the film "City Of God" by Fernando Meilleres.

I am also a big fan of some great Latin-American writers. For instance, Ernesto Sabato, Fernando Vallejo, Juan Rulfo, and Julio Cortázar among others.

CD: Are you working on any new projects currently? Can we expect anything from you in the near future?

EGV: Yeah, I am currently working on the pre-production of my next short film, which is going to be shot in Guadalajara Mexico, and that I hope to have in NYC Independent Film Festivals in future years.