Filmmakers Julio and Marla Quintanas discuss their bilingual release, “The Vessel”

Lisette Oler

Producer Marla Quintana and her husband Julio Quintana, a UT alumnus and director, will release their first feature-length film, “The Vessel,” on Friday to select theaters. The film was shot in both English and Spanish and tells the story of a priest’s (Martin Sheen) effort to help his small Latin-American town after it is devastated by a tidal wave.

The Daily Texan spoke with the Quintanas about their groundbreaking film.

The Daily Texan: The big thing with this film was that it was filmed in English and in Spanish, meaning there is no dubbing. It seems to be the first of its kind — is that true?

Marla Quintana: Someone told us there was another example in the 1930s — “Dracula,” where they did it in English and German, but they had a completely different cast and crew at night. In a way, it is a first for hiring a bilingual cast and doing every scene twice by the same actors, by the same crew. We haven’t found any other examples of anyone doing that.

DT: Julio, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, you said bilingual actors and movies like this are the future of filmmaking. Why do you think that’s the case?

Julio Quintana: I think the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. is soaring, and there’s a huge market there. We’re going to have more and more bilingual actors, bilingual writers, bilingual filmmakers every year. In our experience, it costs so little to do it this way. It’s added 5 percent to our budget, but it doubled our market. We now have markets in Miami and Puerto Rico. We can sell the movie all through South America, Mexico, Spain. 

On top of that, there are English speakers who like the Spanish version better because they find it more authentic, which we never expected to happen. It’s created a lot of interesting opportunities that wouldn’t have existed if it was just done in English or just done in Spanish. If we’d just done it in Spanish, we probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now. 

Historically, it’s been difficult to cast Latino actors in leading roles, but if people can justify it by the fact that they are tapping into a bigger market, I think there is huge potential for tons of people to work.

DT: Where did the idea of a bilingual film come from? Was it something you always wanted to do, or was it out of the blue?

MQ: We initially wanted to do a Spanish-language version, but we were told by some of our investors and mentors that the Spanish version wouldn’t work in the U.S., and we didn’t want to exclude that huge potential market. Our compromise was just to do both languages. Everybody thought we were crazy when we suggested it. Julio and I were raised in bilingual households; our families would switch back and forth between Spanish all the time, so we were like, ‘It can’t be that hard. We’ll figure it out.’ It ended up actually not being that difficult during the production stage, because it involved a couple extra takes in the other language. The really challenging part was when we got into post-production, because we really created two separate movies. Two movies need to be edited, two movies need to be sound mixed, two movies need to be color corrected. I think more physiologically challenging than anything else but totally worth it.

“The Vessel” will premiere at Regal Arbor 8 Theater at Great Hills. This weekend’s showings will be followed by Q&As with the Quintanas.