AFI FEST alums Mike Ott and Nathan Silver collaborate on a film that follows an actor, Arthur Martinez, as he hires two indie filmmakers (Ott and Silver playing themselves) to make a film with him as the star. Once on set, the filmmakers decide to scrap the movie that Arthur had planned to instead explore the actor’s real life. As Arthur becomes aware that the film has gotten away from him, his actions and motivations become unpredictable, forcing the filmmakers to question whether what Arthur does on set is real or just a performance. In their first collaboration together, Ott and Silver go to great lengths to merge fiction and nonfiction, resulting in an enjoyable experiment that blurs the lines between documentary and narrative.
AFI spoke to the directors about the film, which screens as part of AFI FEST’s American Independents section.
AFI: This film has an improvised feel, as your two lead actors play characters that share their real names. Did you work from a script or outline?
Nate Silver: We worked from a two-page outline. We drew a lot from Arthur Martinez’s life and Denver in general. We recreated many events and incidents and pulled in a lot of people we stumbled on during pre-production in Denver, and used these elements to dictate what we would shoot.
AFI: How did you juggle directing and acting in the film?
Mike Ott: The way we structured the film was key to getting inside Arthur’s head. We needed to insert ourselves into the movie in some aspect, so it wasn’t a matter of being difficult. It was frustrating, but that frustration made it easy to play frustrated directors.
AFI: Part of the fun of watching this film is trying to figure out what is documentary and what is narrative. How did you approach this as filmmakers?
MO: We knew that it would be a puzzle before the shoot, but how to structure the puzzle, we didn’t know. We didn’t figure this out until the edit. We knew we wanted multiple layers of fiction and documentary elements in the mix, but just what we would do with these layers, we had to deal with in post.
NS: Maybe it’s just that I have a short-term memory, but the interactions you see between us and the actors on screen probably give you an idea of what went down. I no longer remember what’s true or false about the movie.
Free tickets for ACTOR MARTINEZ will be available on AFI.com beginning November 1.