Writer/Director Miguel Quintero: Creating Entertaining Indie Film Content With Social Media in Mind
While independent filmmakers continue to hone their craft in unique and creative ways, they also need to promote their projects — and themselves — in equally distinctive fashion.
That mission is made easier thanks to the recently launched streaming platform 16up and its system of “social distribution”, which combines vertically-shot short videos and behind-the-scenes content (all hosted on the platform’s Instagram page, linked to at the end of this story) to help filmmakers increase visibility for their work and their individual brands.
One filmmaker who’s already experienced how 16up has worked to boost his growing body of cinematic work and his personal creative signature among audiences and the indie film world at large is writer/director Miguel Quintero.
Four of his short films — the social media influencer comedy The Babylicious Vlog (streaming on 16up’s Instagram channel, of course), the romantic thriller Idee Fixe, the video game drama Extra Life and the adult Disney princess spoof Not That Beautiful (all available on 16up’s Facebook page) — capture the humorous and darker aspects of our world and its effects on a diverse range of characters.
Filmed vertically and visually designed to resemble a typical Instagram live video, The Babylicious Vlog stars Cayetana Molla as the eponymous blogger/social media influencer whose enormous following rises and falls during a fateful series of mishaps. It’s an experience that reveals as much about the nature of millennial audiences as it does about the incredibly superficial qualities of the personalities they adore.
Molla also takes center stage as a regretful Snow White who recalls the worst experiences of her once-fantastic life during an endless night at the bar in Quintero’s Not That Beautiful, a comedy which shows that not every Disney princess lives happily ever after.
On the serious side are Idee Fixe and Extra Life, two films which demonstrate that a story told strictly through the moving image can be more powerful than that of any accompanied by dialogue. Both films focus on the dangers of human obsessions — a man’s search for a woman held captive in Idee Fixe, a struggling young adult’s love of video games in Extra Life — and the emotional devastation that occurs when such obsessions go too far.
As The Babylicious Vlog, Idee Fixe, Extra Life and Not That Beautiful continue to win critical acclaim from audiences and honorary laurels from various film festivals, Quintero had the chance to chat with me about several topics relating to his work, such as the rewards that he and his projects have enjoyed thanks to their presence on the growing 16up lineup, and the inherent challenges that came with shooting The Babylicious Vlog in the vertical format.
Chris Hadley: How did you first become involved with 16up, and what intrigued you about the platform itself?
Miguel Quintero (writer/director, The Babylicious Vlog, Idee Fixe, Extra Life, Not That Beautiful): I met Ivan (Hayden, the founder of 16up) on a show we worked on together not too long ago. He told me about it and I felt it was a good opportunity to get involved more in independent filmmaking (while seeing) the possibility of getting more exposure on my previous short films.
CH: What inspired the concepts for the films you’ve got up on 16up, and how did you come up with the ideas for them?
MQ: Each one has a different inspiration, but in general I always like to do stories most people would understand or relate to. I’m open to any kind of plot but I prefer to keep things simple where usually it revolves around a single character and we explore that in the 5–10 minutes of film. (It’s) a “less is more” kind of thing.
CH: Your film The Babylicious Vlog was shot vertically and looks exactly like a live Instagram video w/chat reactions and heart emojis. What was it like producing the film in the vertical format, and how did you end up adjusting your creative approach to working with vertical video on that project?
MQ: I came up with the idea for The Babylicious Vlog just after talking with Ivan about the possibility of doing a vertical film. Before that, I never even thought about doing a film in that format.
After giving it some time I thought that maybe I could take advantage of that (format) and use it as part of the film itself I started to think about plots that could happen in video phone calls, Instagram stories, Snapchat, etc., and between all the ideas the one that stuck out the most was (that of) imagining a person live-vlogging and interacting with a live chat while a lot of crazy and funny things happen in the background.
CH: As a filmmaker used to shooting horizontally, what were some of the main challenges you encountered in having to shoot The Babylicious Vlog vertically?
MQ: Just the fact that it feels so different makes it a little awkward, but after I was past that point it was just business as usual. I think also, in our case, it was different because of the nature of our film being a type of live vlog/Instagram story. There was no cinematography or different camera angles, It was very straightforward, so in that case it was easier to shoot compared to regular filmmaking when there are more elements involved.
However, it was a double-edged sword because each scene is a “oner,” which means there’s no cuts in between takes like you usually do in a film, so I had to make sure each take was perfect before we moved on. For Cayetana (Molla, the actress who plays Babylicious) it was more challenging than usual but still it came up wonderfully and she did an amazing job.
CH: Besides the visual look of The Babylicious Vlog, the film also spoofs how vain and superficial social media influencers (such as the main character, Babylicious) can be, as well as the power of fans and the reach of viral video. Were there any specific vloggers/videos that inspired you to make this film, and is it in any way based on those sources?
MQ: I got inspired a lot by an episode of Bojack Horseman where one of the characters is some kind of influencer and a big part of the episode happens through the perspective of the live vlog. I didn’t really have a real life inspiration.
CH: What was the production process like for The Babylicious Vlog — including as it related to recreating the Instagram Live-style look for the film itself?
MQ: It was very fun seeing it happen while we were recording. It was also unusual as Cayetana was the one recording herself rather than having a camera operator as you usually do, but for the look and for obvious reasons Cayetana had to be the one with the camera filming herself like a real person would do.
To make this easier, we chose (to shoot) with an iPhone instead of a DSLR camera, because that way she would be able to move freely and (she could) also see herself during the shot (like a real vlogger would do). On paper, it was a very unusual setup to shoot (that) film but I think it worked out in the end to give (The Babylicious Vlog) that realistic look.
CH: You have three other films on 16up’s Facebook page, beginning with the thriller Idee Fixe — which, like your other film Extra Life, heavily relies on visuals to tell their stories with almost no dialogue. What inspired you to take that approach for those projects, and how does that ultimately make each film more effective in terms of the impact it has on viewers?
MQ: Most of my films are without dialogue because I think it makes them more universal and understandable to a wider audience and (because they also) help me improve as a storyteller with each film.
I believe (that) using imagery and visuals instead of simply using dialogue to give a certain type of information to the audience (is) a good exercise as sometimes it makes you think more about the story or discover flaws in it. There’s also something powerful in telling a story with no words and the feeling when the audience understands it.
CH: Idee Fixe takes a look at a man whose romantic obsession with a kidnapped woman leads to a deadly confrontation, while Extra Life examines how a young man’s addiction to video games has devastating effects on his professional and personal life. What were the main inspirations behind those films, and what was it like making them?
MQ: For Extra Life it started when I got the idea to do a short film where the camera angle is fixed throughout the film doing only jump cuts to move the story forward, then using a TV and someone sitting in a couch felt natural and the whole video game storyline was a mixture of stories from friends and myself as well.
For Idee Fixe I wanted to try something different, as before that film I only did dramas and comedies, so I felt like trying doing a thriller to see if I could pull it off. A friend of mine helped me with the story and one afternoon we just came up with it. It felt great doing something different, and I was very happy with the results.
CH: How did the actors involved in both Idee Fixe and Extra Life work within the parameters of performing with almost no dialogue? Was it a challenge for them, or were they able to adjust to it easily?
MQ: To be honest it didn’t feel (like it was) an extra challenge as I had the chance to work with great actors and they all understood what was happening on (their) character’s minds in order to show the emotions and character needed in each scene.
CH: The third film you’ve got on 16up’s Facebook page is Not That Beautiful, an adult-themed spin on Disney fairy tale princesses — in this case, Snow White (also played by Cayetana Molla) — that reveals how their lives are really not as magical as one would imagine. Discuss how that concept came about, and the work you and your actors did on the film.
MQ: The idea came from one of my best friends who wrote the script years ago when he was in film school and once he showed it to me I knew we had to make it. It was funny, simple and it had that extra factor of doing a full 360 degree spin on a character that everybody knows. There was no need to explain who the character was. We could just start right away with the plot.
CH: As one of several indie filmmakers whose content is now part of 16up’s library, how has that partnership and the platform’s concept of “social distribution” (which helps filmmakers build their brands, and in turn, followers, through short-form social media content shot vertically) helped to benefit not just your films but also you as a filmmaker?
MQ: Now more than ever, the social media presence (is) huge so it also helps out people like me that (don’t) necessarily share or post very often (on) Instagram or Facebook. It’s a constant reminder that this is also part of the job of growing as a filmmaker, because at the end you want (to have) as (many) people as possible watching your work.
CH: In what ways are you using your presence on social media (specifically, Instagram videos and photos) to build your overall brand as a filmmaker and to attract viewers to your content?
MQ: I try to keep a mix between my projects and also my personal life. So even though I mostly post project-related stuff, I think it’s important for people to know that there’s a person behind (it) and not just some kind of business or company.
CH: Describe how being associated with 16up has helped you not only to build your personal brand as a filmmaker but also the ways it’s helped to get your work out there in front of audiences, content buyers and future collaborators.
MQ: It’s great to have a place to showcase your work and (to) be active doing films and sharing content. It also helps you connect with people that discover you through the platform, so again it’s a great experience overall.
CH: What other films and series do you have coming up on 16up, and when can we expect to see them?
MQ: Right now (there’s) nothing I can talk about but there’s a lot in the works for the future.
CH: Overall, what do you hope audiences take away from seeing your work on 16up?
MQ: I just want them to give it a try and watch my work whenever they have a chance and hopefully for them to have a good time with it.
Watch all of Miguel Quintero’s 16up films at the following links:
The Babylicious Vlog:
Not That Beautiful:
Connect with Miguel on Instagram:
Find out more about Miguel and his films on his official web site:
Find out more about 16up and its services for filmmakers on its official web site: