Student writes and directs scenes for a movie four years in the making.
By Wally Perez
A man sits in a chair, worried, wondering whether he should go through with a task that may change the outcome of society with one single bullet. As he contemplates the pros and cons, another man, whose face is hidden, tries to persuade him into completing the task.
As the first man loads a bullet into a rifle, “Cut!” is yelled, a camera stops rolling and both men drop character.
This is the scene Jan. 4 of film sophomore Matthew Caballero’s movie, “The Devil’s Disciple,” which he has spent four years writing.
His love for movies has propelled his desire to work in the industry to a point where now, for him, it’s a real possibility.
Currently, he does freelance work for companies around this city and Austin and reviewed movies on www.gotchamovies.com.
When he was 13, he saw his first R-rated film, “Predator,” which led to watching films like “Starship Troopers” and “RoboCop.”
“After watching movie after movie, I reached a point where I was wondering, ‘How did they do that?’” Caballero said. “I realized I wanted to trigger people’s curiosity and feel the same way that I was feeling.”
While taking media classes in high school, he worked on short movies like a 10-minute epic on the Vietnam War.
At the end of his sophomore year, he decided to write his own movie. “I started writing it during that summer, and worked on it off and on throughout high school,” he said.
During his senior year he hit a wall trying to figure out how to make the pieces of his story work.
It wasn’t until his time at this college that he finished his script and felt he could be proud of his product.
“I had about three-fourths of the movie written, but it’s pretty time consuming, it took me around a month to write one fight scene,” Caballero said.
“Taking the time to work on something you love to make sure it is up to your standards is key.”
The movie is about a man whose mistakes come back to haunt him, and years later, he confronts them, he said.
“I took a lot of inspiration from ‘Mad Max’ and other revenge flicks like ‘Kill Bill,’” Caballero said. “Quentin Tarantino, George Miller and Robert Rodriguez are some of my biggest inspirations.”
He watched “Mad Max Fury Road” 34 times last year, and dissected it from start to finish.
He said he can’t watch a movie nowadays without analyzing it.
His friends, biology sophomore Dominic Solchaga and film sophomore David Sarafin, play the protagonist and antagonist in his movie.
“I thought I knew movies until I met Matt,” Solchaga said, describing Caballero’s knowledge of film.
Business/film sophomore Jackson DeFreest is Caballero’s director of photography for the first scene, which they worked on over winter break.
“I met Matt in Intro to Cinema and we kind of hit it off,” DeFreest said. “I was definitely interested when Matt asked if I wanted to help him out with his movie.”
During events like South by Southwest, he got a chance to meet idols like Rodriguez, known for movies such as “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Desperado” and “Planet Terror.”
He discussed his movie idea with Rodriguez, a San Antonio native.
“One of the things he told me was to shoot in a close proximity,” Caballero said. “It’s much cheaper to find local areas to shoot.”
Shooting some scenes created obstacles which discouraged him at times.
He planned a scene at a tire shop after getting permission, but production fell through when several actors failed to show.
Over winter break, he assembled a new cast and crew to shoot two scenes, one in a neighborhood on the far West Side, where he used a balcony as a vantage point for a rifle.
“Ideally, I wanted something like a sniper’s nest, but you have to make some compromises” Caballero said.
He also found ways to save money by making his own equipment.
He made light stands out of cymbal stands from his drum kit by attaching clamp lights, using colored bulbs and wax paper as a diffuser.
“I saw the prices for lighting equipment and thought that there had to be a cheaper option,” Caballero said. “I found these how-to YouTube videos and saw how easy it was to make light stands.”
On shooting day, Caballero, Solchaga, Sarafin, DeFreest and audio engineer Zow Martinez congregated at Martinez’s niece’s home, setting up on the second floor.
A lot goes into preparing for the scene, but the multiple takes to get the best out of actors and equipment may be overlooked.
Caballero was expressive on how he wanted both actors to behave, from mannerisms to the delivery of their lines.
Two minutes of dialogue turned into 30 minutes as he searched for the perfect take.
As the day ended and the last scene was shot, Caballero was thrilled to have accomplished what he set out for before the break.
“I can’t wait to work on this in post (production),” Caballero said. “I’m so pumped that we were able to finish this in a day.”
He plans to work on the movie sporadically when he finds time, but one thing is clear: his dream all those years ago may finally become a reality.
“You can come from anywhere and achieve greatness, you just need to set your goals and do it,” Caballero said.
“If you have the chance to do something you love, do it; it’s better than wondering what could have been.”