Included on the Toronto International Film Festival’s year-end list of best Canadian films, Allure (2017) has been praised as a first-time effort for directors Carlos and Jason Sanchez. The brothers’ film about an emotionally unstable woman (Evan Rachel Wood) developing a problematic relationship with a sixteen-year-old girl (Julia Sarah Stone) was also screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Borrowing Tape got the chance to talk with Carlos and Jason about their new drama.
You come from a still photography background. How did that fine art experience influence your work on Allure?
Carlos: We began studying photography at university and created a bunch of staged images with friends. We photographed them for fun and as our interests grew in the medium, we began collaborating more and got more serious with a studio space. Every labor of a still image is kind of similar to filmmaking just in the production of it. We did this for twelve years—exhibiting at galleries and museums. We were always interested in film; it was just a matter of finding the right idea. Once that happened, we were ready to put the photo work behind and transition into screenwriting, which is something we hadn’t done. We kind of jumped into it and learned as we went.
Did it feel natural working on a film set or was it a completely different experience?
Jason: We had shot a lot of commercials previously in between the screenwriting and shooting the film, so we had some understanding of what a set felt like with actors and that kind of production. Going from photos to commercials is pretty seamless in that regard.
You said it was your first time writing a screenplay. What was the inspiration behind the story of Allure?
Jason: Initially, about five years ago when we began writing the script, it began as sort of a different story. We were interested in stories of long-term imprisonment and abduction. We were kind of fascinated by the stories where you would have this young adult or child escape from this situation and then be found kept in captivity for five or six years. We were really interested in the fact that at one point or another, a lot of these victims had chances to escape or break free from their captor, yet they never took them. We wanted to understand how that invisible leash formed, more known as Stockholm syndrome. So we originally wrote a story where this male lead kidnaps a young girl, but we had trouble casting our guy. We spoke with our casting director after being drained from the process and she suggested we change the lead to a female role.
Do you know if your casting director had anyone in mind when they she made that suggestion?
Carlos: I don’t think she had anyone in mind specifically, but the next day she sent a PDF with about fifty actresses who may have been good for the lead. Evan was on that list and it really moved the story forward and got us out of that rut. A lot of rewriting was done, but it made us appreciate the creative process behind that. It was also exhilarating because the previous script dealt more with domination and we were trying to scale that back, and having two female leads made it more possible.
How long did the filming take?
Carlos: We shot for five weeks from mid-November to mid-December of last year, and we premiered in Toronto the following year, so it took a little under a year from pre-production to the final product. That’s not including writing the screenplay, but that’s a whole other story we’d rather not get into.
The original title of the movie was “A Worthy Companion.” Why was that changed?
Jason: It was distribution. It was thought that it would be a better way to sell the film in the states if it was renamed. “A Worthy Companion” worked more for the original script, but Allure still applies to our idea. It was thankfully one of the only compromises we had to make in the entire process. You gotta bend a little sometimes, but it’s okay.
In keeping with the photographic tradition, did you do location scouting or storyboarding to organize each shot of the film?
Carlos: We didn’t do any storyboarding, but our director of photography, who is a good friend of ours and also comes from a photographic background, had a strong connection with us in creating the visuals. Later on, we made a lookbook that had descriptions and visual references with little notes as to what we were thinking for the style. That’s how we selected the defining pieces for what Allure’s visuals were going to be like. Before every shooting day, we would get together with a rundown of what we were going to shoot, so it wasn’t too hard organizing everything.
How involved were you in the editing of the film?
Jason: We worked with our editors for long periods. At one point, we got rid of one of our editors and brought our cousin, which was just like riding a bike for him as soon as he started going. He knew what we liked so we spent a lot of time with him. We probably ran through the editing for about six weeks. It was super intensive and we were definitely there supervising every day.