The COVID-19 pandemic has put us all in quarantine. To entertain ourselves, some of us watch movies or series on Netflix.
Tired of the same old shows? Are you looking for something promising and intriguing to watch during quarantine? Read on.
A: Hola, Omar. I saw you appear in a Netflix series last year. I also saw you in several short films and in some Mexican TV shows as an interviewer. Today, however, I am intrigued to know more about the culmination of this new project because your fans will not only see you as an actor, but also a director, producer, and creator.
So how did the idea of creating a web series and the choice of plot come up?
O: Hello, Arvyn. I had just made a short film before starting Instituto Montok and for me, it was a learning process because I only knew how to act. One day, I decided to do a small project with some fellow actors and it was more for fun—not so much professionally. I directed it even without knowing how to actually do it. But at that time, I just had to do it to see what comes out.
After that short film, I realized that if I plan things in a better way and try hard enough, I could achieve something bigger. One day after leaving my acting school, I thought it would be very interesting to tell a story about teenage actors who discover secrets in their own acting school—the place where they seek to achieve their dreams. A few days later, I was already writing the script.
A: Interesting. What was the biggest challenge for you working on this project?
O: Everything! Really! (laughs) I decided to do this series in the most ridiculous and absurd way—without money, experience, contacts, and anything like that. All I and my co-actors had was the desire to pursue our dreams.
I made the decision to leave the cameras aside and use my phone instead. I thought of being practical because I knew that what was coming would not be easy. After finishing the script, I looked for actors who were interested in the project. Fortunately, I found wonderful people with the same desire to fight for their dreams.
When we started recording, we did it without a support or stabilizer for the phone. I can film just fine without it, so the only problem was when I had to act because I needed someone to hold the phone. Sometimes, we had to record discretely in certain places because we did not have permission to record there. It became very stressful. Moreover, we always had to take great care of every detail during the filming because we did not use any type of microphones for the audio and any type of lighting.
A: Did you like being an actor and director at the same time?
O: Directing is something very interesting, but I still lack a lot of preparation to become a good director. I hope in a few years to become a director in a much larger professional field. There are many people who study and prepare too much to become directors. A long way for me still.
Being in charge of a project like this is something wonderful. We were a fairly large team—around 60 people including actors, designers, musicians, and all the people who had a participation of any kind in this project.
The acting part was something that I really enjoyed. I think the characters are developed from a very tender perspective. Very human and very grounded.
A: I already had the opportunity to see the series before its premiere. It was good. However, something caught my attention. People from other countries were part of this project. How did you go about it?
O: I think technology has benefited us all. Today, it is very easy to connect with people in other parts of the world. In my personal experience, I believe that God has always brought me closer to people and great goals. Sometimes, people from other countries on Instagram write to me to tell me about their dreams of being actors. I always try to help them. By having my own project, I was able to give them the opportunity to have a scene or cameo.
In addition to the fact that the focus was always international, I created something big. An online casting was held in Argentina to have the possibility of recording there with actors from there as well. I, from Mexico, tried to guide them at every step. When they had questions, they reached out me. But I think they did an amazing job without my help. Likewise, I thank those who worked hard for this project: friends from Morocco, the Philippines, Brazil, Germany, Paraguay, and the United States. I also thank our great musician Austin Deslongchamps, a very talented friend from Texas, who composed original music for us.
When I think about the amount of effort behind this project, all I can say is “thank you.”
A: Well, Omar, to conclude this interview, I would like to know how you feel at this moment regarding your work and everything that this series represents.
O: It’s a very difficult question for me. Haha! Well, it’s overwhelming. This project cost me a lot in every aspect. It was not easy for me to edit each chapter; think about the costumes, makeup, and logistics during the filming sessions; and solve each problem. This project was originally intended to be recorded in three months over the summer. We had many setbacks that delayed everything. We lost a lot of recording time because my phone was stolen. There were also a lot of scenes that I failed to save. Hence, we lost months of work. In the end, it took us more than two years to finish it.
But we also didn’t forget the good things that happened because of this project. We became great friends, and we had the satisfaction from our work and of what we were able to do with so little. I think that is the message we want to leave everyone. That nothing is an impediment to achieve things and that even empty-handed, you can get ahead.
We had a great experience, and we are happy about it. Honestly, it is something we will never forget. The day we agreed to do this project was the day we decided to stop waiting for someone to give us a chance. It was the day we decided to open our doors for ourselves.
Instituto Montok premiered on April 9th exclusively on YouTube.
The Spanish version of this article appears here.