Blog by Writer/director: Jean Lee
What inspired you come up with the idea for the film?
Maia and I collected stories from our mothers, sisters, friends, and our own lives that served as inspiration for Original Sin (Pecado Original). We were drawn to absurdist comedy, inspired by the telenovelas that the women in our lives so deeply adore and use to escape from the demands of daily life.
Also – our budgetary restrictions were tough but inspirational! We wrote with our financial limitations in mind, keeping the story to one location and three characters. We watched films that take place predominantly in one location, and/or films that are dialogue driven, with just a few characters. Our biggest inspirations were Knife in the Water, Dogtooth, Almodovar films, and the Before series (yay Richard Linklater!).
Why did you want to tell this story?
Mainly – to create dialogue and to entertain. More specifically – we wanted to explore female empowerment and sexual politics in a farcical manner. In doing so, we wanted to raise questions about societal expectations for women today, especially in Latin culture.
Second, as a woman of faith living in a time rife with political and social turmoil, I turn to my beliefs for clarity. But I often need to pause and say – “Wait. Is this truthful? Or am I influenced by a misinterpretation of the Bible, or a flawed traditional value resulting from the institutionalization of religion?” I’m fascinated by these questions. In the film, Eva begins a small revolution – albeit a comically flawed one – but in her pursuit of truth, she finally challenges the status quo and confronts the brokenness in some of her relationships.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
Maia and I, as women in the industry, and as women from generally conservative cultures have a shared love for challenging societal expectations of women, just like Eva, who throughout the film decides to vocalize and confront her own desires.
But of course, as a writer/director, I love and deeply relate to each of the main characters and hope that everyone in the audience will be able to relate to them in their own way.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
We shot the film in order to allow certain scenes to be improvised based on specific given circumstances. Thus, on certain evenings, new scenes were written for the next day’s shoot depending on what had been discovered that day on set. Fortunately, we had an amazing cast and crew who knew about this approach from the beginning, and everyone was flexible and committed to this approach.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
I thought that Maia, César, and Ale (Eva, Adrian, and Luis) were very courageous, as actors often must be, by nature of having to emotionally (or physically) expose themselves in order to achieve truthful performances. This demand for vulnerability can sometimes be scarier in comedies, as humor is often grounded in pain. Both in rehearsal and during production, Maia, César and Ale were challenging their own limits, remaining open, and willing to explore uncharted territory, even if it made them uncomfortable. I think their courage is reflected in the film, and I’m really proud of them and their work.
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
Due to our limited budget, we asked the cast and crew to sleep in the house we were shooting in. If you really think about it, it sounds like a recipe for disaster. Instead, we ended up having the best time! I found a deal online for animal-onesies and ordered one for every member of the cast and crew. So at nights, we’d sit around the dinner table enjoying a home-cooked meal – giraffe, owl, penguin, cow…animals of all kinds, eating together like one big zoo!
What influenced the visual style of the film?
On one hand, our visual style was influenced by the location. We spent a significant portion of pre-production finding the perfect house with a lot of the set design already in place.
After that, I worked with our talented DP, Jaime Coco Villa, to embrace the stiltedness of Eva and Adrian’s marriage, and the awkwardness of containment through frame composition. As the film progresses, the shots become more free-form, and the rigidness dissolves. I also collaborated with our amazing colorist, Robert Gaza, so that the film begins with muted, cold tones, but ends with a more saturated, vibrant palette.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
We raise some controversial questions throughout the film regarding gender roles and sexual politics. Of course, the film is meant to create dialogue, so we hope each viewer will have their own take on the topics presented, and engage in some lively conversations!
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screenwriting or film producing?
- Be knowledgeable of the industry, but at the end of the day, tell stories that come from the heart!
- Half the battle is getting it on the page. The other half is having a strong community that will help you make it, and make it better than you had ever imagined!
Grab your badge or film pass today to see this film and many more at this year’s Austin Film Festival!