Q&A: ‘Problemista’ cast, crew detail their love, pride for movie


Mimi Calzada, Life&Arts Desk Editor

The Daily Texan took to the “Problemista” red carpet for its SXSW premiere Monday to interview the cast and crew. The film follows a young El Salvadoran immigrant living in New York City with dreams of becoming a toymaker. Read the Texan’s review here.

The Daily Texan: When you were writing the music for the film, was there a tone or mood you were trying to evoke?

Robert Ouyang Rusli: There’s a lot of neoclassical (and) modern classical music influence. There’s a lot of darker synthesizer sounds that come in (and) weird sound effects that make their way into the score, like glitching computer sounds, because the film is all about this hellscape bureaucracy. We tried to incorporate all these eclectic sounds into this one sound.

DT: Was the creative process difficult, or did it come easy to you?

ROR: We worked on it for a full year; it was not easy all the time. But working with Julio, we both feed off of each other’s energy where nothing is too ridiculous of an idea. He trusts me to figure out what’s right for the scene. He never told me exactly what to do. He trusts me to interpret the world of the film, and it worked out really well. 

DT: What do you hope audiences take away from this movie?

James Scully: Practically speaking, we all (should) think more about the immigration process and what that’s like for the people who have to go through it. I hope the New Yorkers who watch the movie think more about the deep inner lives of the people they see on the train or on the street. The spirit of the movie is finding self-discovery and worth in life’s little problems. I think that’s a lesson we could all embrace because life is always going to be full of problems. And it’s definitely a film about characters who are getting in their own way. I think we could all afford to look at ourselves and be like, “When am I not setting myself up for success? When am I choosing chaos instead of choosing peace?”

DT: How did you come to know about this script, and what was attractive about it?

Tilda Swinton: I am in the very fortunate position that they just sent it to me. I knew Julio’s work; I could not believe it. I went, “There’s a script by Julio Torres?” And then I read it, and I just loved it. The script was phenomenal, and I just (had) to be involved. And then of course, I met (Julio) and fell in love with him, and we’ve been together ever since. 

DT: As writer, director and star of the film, you have almost complete creative control. Which of your three roles did you have most fun with?

Julio Torres: I would put writing and directing next to each other. I love building worlds. I love bringing people together and making something that I’m proud of. 

DT: What about the film are you the proudest of?

JT: To get to do things my way and to get to do things with people who I admire. To get to do things with the people that I want to champion or people that I respect. And to get to do something as stressful as a movie but have fun doing it.