Interview by Andreea Boyer // Edited by Chris Charles of Idol Features
Peruvian filmmaker Jesús Álvarez Betancourt has been working in the film industry in his home country for more than 20 years. His debut as a filmmaker was with the 2013 romantic drama Quizas Mañana (Maybe Tomorrow). His 2018 feature film, Roommates (Sobredosis de Amor), is about friendships, with characters based on and played by some of his closest friends.
Andreea Boyer: Where are you from and what can you tell us about yourself?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: I am from Lima, Peru and I’ve been working as a filmmaker for over 20 years. I started in the technical areas of TV soaps, little by little immersing myself in the field of production. Finally, I started writing scripts for TV soaps and series until I decided to film my first feature film named Quizas Mañana and from that moment on, I have been working more and more on filmmaking.
Andreea Boyer: Have you been working in the film industry mainly in your country or also somewhere else around the globe?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: Until this day, I have only worked in my country. I haven’t had the opportunity to work somewhere else.
Andreea Boyer: How did you start your career as a filmmaker and what has motivated and inspired you?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: I always liked going to the cinema and honestly, since I can remember, I always wanted to film my own movie, one that people would want to see. I think that being a spectator always has been my inspiration. I always say that I’m just an spectator who one day decided to film movies.
Andreea Boyer: When did you start your career as a filmmaker and has filmmaking always been your main focus?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: I have produced some short films in my country. In total there are three short films, but as a director, I have always like more featured films. My first movie was premiered in 2013 named Quizas Mañana. It was one of the first movies that I administrated pretty much by myself. This film takes on a conversation of two people who met without any other apparent reason and end up having their own personal thoughts about this meeting. Since then, I have written and directed four movies. I really think where I want to stay is in the field of featured films.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about the cast and story from your movie Roommates?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: Roommates is a movie about friends. Every time I write stories, I fill them with personal experiences, things people I know have been through and in Roommates, the main characters are strongly based in my closest friends. It’s like I had made a combination of all of them. It’s about friendship and its limits, about sacrifices, about that line which divides friends and couples. My main objective with this movie was to make it appealable to the audience and I think it achieved in doing so. I think the people who watched the film could connect with its characters. The actors Gianella Neyra, Gian Piero Díaz, and Renzo Schuller also are close friends whom I’ve known for many years, so for a movie about friendship, I thought the best way to make it was to work with my friends.
Andreea Boyer: Where did you film your movie?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: I filmed it at Lima. It took almost five weeks and the story had two big scenarios. Almost two and a half weeks were spent inside a house and one and a half weeks in another house where the wedding and rehearsal happened. The locations were very important for the story, and also because of the budget, it was easier to manage with fewer spaces and using some streets of Lima.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your other films and work?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: Quizas Mañana was the movie in which I adventured into the world of filmmaking. I had a coffee morning with some friends back then, and after some chit-chat at a restaurant of Miraflores and some crazy ideas, we decided that we had to start filming movies. We went for it all. With all the problems one could find, but finally got to release Quizas Mañana. This movie was quite particular because it was a tribute to my mother. That’s why it’s a movie that I really have in a special place. After this, I produced other movies and finally ended up directing a project along with a friend, Ricardo Nuñez, to publish a film named Me Haces Bien. This is a musical youthful movie that tells different stories. We wrote some music for this movie. It was a very independent production that confronted us with the reality that not always everyone goes to watch your movie and it was taken out of the billboard after three or four days. In my country, if the first three days pass without much public attending to your function, it is taken out of rotation. It is a very demanding situation for producers and directors alike. Roommates was my third movie as an independent director and the one that was the most tangible and comfortable to make as I was being protected by a good production team and the results are the ones that you can watch now.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your best experiences and which moments in your career have been the most influential ones for you?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: After releasing Quiza Mañana, a couple of functions were reproduced in the streets with a projector and I remember seeing how other persons were reacting to what I had put in scenes motivated me to make more functions like that one. So personal and with such a distinctive message. With Sobredosis de Amor, the exact opposite happened, which is to create that connection with the spectators through what I tried to transmit in the movie, that being making the public smile since it’s a comedy. I was glad to hear people loved it. We made a tour around my country with signs of autographs and stuff. People used to make really big lines to get a sign or a photo of the actors or even myself. That was funny because usually one gets to know who the actors are but rarely get to know who the director was, even less want a photograph with them. From that experienced I felt happier knowing how many people my film had connected with.
Andreea Boyer: Which moments on the film-set have been the most difficult ones for you?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: Writing stories has never been difficult for me. I think it’s the part which I enjoy the most, actually. The most complicated part, in my opinion, is to make the financing to be able to produce the movie. I think that the knottiest parts of filming is not in the filming itself, but in the previous stages and distribution after post-production. It’s a hard fought battle. All the work you’ve put in, five or six years into the movie, can end in only a week or so if the public doesn’t like it or never even notices it.
Andreea Boyer: What is your advise for all young independent filmmakers on how they should work on their goals and reach the best audience for their individual work?
Jesús Álvarez Betancourt: I think that my top tip for newer filmmakers would be that if you have the intention of filming a movie, don’t stop, make it happen. Nowadays, it’s easier to record a movie with a low budget without losing any quality or deepness in its story. If you have the motivation and a good plot, you can make a spectacular movie. Believe in yourself, but also remember to have a good distribution strategy.
Thank you, Mr. Betancourt. We wish you continued success.
See more of Jesús Álvarez Betancourt and his works at his IMDb page.