Young, Hungry and Hustlin’ – Interview with Director Fernando Andrés
Fernando Andrés loves the screen. Any hint of a discussion about film or TV and he’s off — talking to you about how Whiplash and Black Swan are the same film; why he’s hooked on the game show Billy on the Street, something he “never wanted to like”; and most surprisingly, why the zany Netflix comedy Lady Dynamite is his favorite show of the year.
But while Fernando Andrés may have a rich knowledge of film and TV, he has had no formal film school or training of any kind. So why did this 18-year old filmmaker without a penny to his name think it would be a good idea to move from his native Dallas to Austin, one of the largest indie film communities in the world? Well, he’s done quite a bit to get to where he is now.
Writing and directing short films since he was 14, he always saw his rapid progression towards adulthood as a countdown timer, one that he had to defeat by working endlessly on his craft. Four years later, his films have screened at festivals such as SXSW and Santa Monica.
His video essays, tributes to icons like David Bowie or pop culture phenomenons like Game of Thrones, have garnered over 6 million views online. Andrés has created content for a variety of international publications like MTV, VICE, The A.V. Club and Indiewire. Beloved indie film site One Perfect Shot described him as a “great montage artist and future-award winning filmmaker”.
I got on the phone with Fernando Andrés to talk about what drives him, what it’s like to get the attention of A24 and other big names, and what he’s working on next.
Virginia: So you live in Austin now, right?
Fernando Andrés: Yeah, I just moved here about two weeks from Dallas. Well, I lived in the suburbs just north of it, but all my work was there, so I found myself there more than at home.
I really like Austin. It makes you feel like you’re not in Texas, kind of.
Oh, absolutely. Just within these couple weeks, it’s turned out to be a completely different world.
So how long have you been an artist?
I first started making films when I was 14, when I made my first short. It won me a scholarship to The Prodigy Camp in Seattle. I met a lot of talented filmmakers my age from all over the country, many of whom I still collaborate with. But I had this real “oh shit” moment there, that people who were my age or just a few years older were doing the same thing I was.
What made me special back in my hometown meant nothing here. So when I got back I immediately tried to up my game,narratively and commercially. I shot over a dozen short films throughout high school. I tried — and failed — to get a web-series off the ground, starring my freshman class.
And I started working for a local sign company that did stuff for local businesses, including commercials. I guess shooting and editing fast-food chicken commercials was my first real “film” job. A lot has happened since I started at 14, but it’s only been four years, so.
Wait, you’re 18 years old? As in 1-8?
[Laughing] Yeah, you didn’t know that? That’s like, the one angle I have!
You’re still wearing diapers basically. You have your entire filmmaking life ahead of you. With all of these supercuts and video tributes you’ve been doing, that have gotten the attention of some very big studios and networks — A24, MTV, No Film School to name a few — what does it feel like at 18 to have recognition like that? Does it drive you to create more, or does it satiate the immediacy we all tend to feel about creating stuff?
That’s a great question. I only really started doing these editing pieces in October 2015, less than a year ago. I was up at four in the morning ranting to a friend about the parallels between Whiplash and Black Swan, two films I loved. He said he’d believe my argument after seeing my video essay about it. He was joking, but I knew how to edit and had sound equipment nearby, so I figured why not.
My friend Jake Swinney, another filmmaker with a much more illustrious career in supercut editing (he originated the “First and Final Frames” editing fad) took a look at the rough cut — I’d titled it Hands & Feet — and convinced me to try my luck submitting it to sites for press coverage.
I uploaded it on the Tuesday of that week. By Friday, it had been featured on Indiewire, The A.V. Club and IMDb, and had been written about it in four different languages. And then it got featured on No Film School, which was very, uh… unnerving. I’ve used that site for my own filmmaking for years and now there’s an article up with my name on it. I think doing supercuts and getting such large media coverage for it is a little weird, because I’m working with other people’s work.
Iconic films and images, putting them together in my own way. I feel like all filmmakers did this, to an extent. Far before even the technology needed to make supercuts existed, you would watch the same scenes over and over, the same sequences, the same music cues.
And I’m doing basically that, but you know, in public. So while the press and views have been great, it does make me even more desperate to continue developing my original, narrative work. It would feel a lot greater to be approached by all of these people — whether it’s A24, whether it’s MTV — for stuff that I originally created. And I really need to keep pushing myself to make work that is that good.
I get that completely. There’s a part of every interview I do that makes me want to go and do whatever it is that I’m interviewing that persona bout. There’s always that feeling of being spurred by other’s creativity onto your own. But that’s a great lead-in to my next question. What are you working right now in Austin? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Right now I’m working up to the two things I feel like most young filmmakers are working up to — either their first feature or their first web-series. I’m really just trying to get on more sets here, just helping out, so I can get a better idea of what it’s like to make a project happen here in Austin. But currently, I’m foolishly at work on two shorts. Bad Queers, which is a period piece about June 2016 and the guilt a lot of “straight-acting” gay men felt after the Orlando shooting.
It’s a very satirical film about these four roommates who are worried they don’t do enough for the community, so they set out to be “good queers” in the name of pride, but end up sabotaging their efforts through their own selfishness or whatever. I’m currently casting that and scouting around the city for locations.
I also have Southern Bride, which is a modern-day Southern Gothic fable, about the fallout between two families — one white, one Hispanic — after a prom prank between their children goes horribly wrong. That one is going to take a pretty penny to make, so it’s more so still in the writing stages.
Anything else in the writing stages?
Well, there’s my desktop folder full of feature screenplays, but right now I’m finding the most solace in writing my web-series Fuckboys. It’s a ten-part comedy drama following a group of young filmmakers who want to be among the greats, no matter how many bridges they have to burn.
It’s exploring a lot of the feelings I’m having right now, but within the comfort of fiction. Honestly, it’s so disgustingly personal that I sometimes have doubts it will ever pan out. But we’ll see.
Are you finding Austin more conducive to creating more?
Absolutely. Even on just a “vibe” level — sorry, I don’t know a better way to put that — it’s such a creative city. It’s full of different venues for different types of creativity, and because of that, there’s so many more people working in the arts than where I came from.
Who in the city do you want to work with?
There are so many talented people in the film scene here in Austin that it’s hard to imagine anyone who would even want to work on one of my broke-ass sets, but a kid can dream! I’m super interested in the work of local filmmakers like Owen Egerton or Clay Liford.
I love what I’ve seen from actor/director Frank Mosley (a native from my old film community, Dallas). And of course, all the artists working at Austin Film Society. I’ve already started going to their events, trolling around for inspiration.
Who are your biggest influences?
There are so many, and you’ve heard them all before. I was born during the tail end of the nineties, but I am very much a student of that movement of indie film — Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Alex Payne. If I told you how closely I’ve watched their films and researched their careers, you’d be pretty worried.
But out of the “nineties brats”, I’ve looked up the most to David O. Russell and the way he translates his craziest emotions and those of others to the big screen. It takes my breath away. He’s such an exciting and bold storyteller, and I hope my films can move at least one person the way his films do for me.
What advice can you give to other 18-year olds with a dream?
I cannot stress enough how important it is to put yourself out there and meet people in your field, no matter how awkward, shy or uneasy you may feel. Doesn’t matter if it’s others like us — freelancers and students still working hard every day to someday achieve success — or the ones who have already “made it”.
The former types of people are the ones you want surrounding you as friends, peers and co-workers — drive and motivation feed off of drive and motivation. And the latter help by giving you the occasional bit of career advice and, perhaps more importantly, serving as living, working reminders that your dream is possible. For more about Fernando Andrés and his work, visit thefernandoandres.com
Virginia Anzengruber hosts Super Hungry: Conversations with Not-So Starving Artists. For more, visit superhungrypodcast.com
Here is some of Fernando Andrés’ Work:
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