MX Punk: Interview with Director John Merizalde
5th June 2019 by Will Stewart
An eye into the underground punk scene in Mexico city. A disaffected youth, and an older crowd too, gather in the basements of the city to let their anger out and be free amongst like minded people. Whilst the music might at first seem a little impenetrable, and ‘dancing’ a little rough, the cores values of punk are of acceptance and love. A great little film about people who refuse to give in to the confines of capitalism.
We spoke to the director of this film, John Merialde and asked him some questions about the production, and about being a film maker. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit about yourself as a filmmaker, and how you got into filmmaking. Is MX Punk a typical example of your work?
John – I’ve been making videos since since I was 11 years old. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I studied film in college in Atlanta for about two years before I got impatient and dropped out. I immediately went to intern at a local production company, and when I felt that I had a hit a ceiling, I packed all my stuff and moved to LA. I got here with no money and no connections, and basically had to start from the bottom – PA’ing, driving trucks and stuff, but luckily was able to transition quickly into getting an office job writing treatments for directors. From there I basically just saved up money on the side, directing music videos out of pocket, until I was able to use that body of work to get a rep. Fast forward a few years, and now I’m very fortunate to say that I’m a full-time director.
Thematically, I would definitely say MX Punk is representative of my work and my style. I’m very interested in fringe individuals and subcultures. I would never strictly classify myself as a doc director, although I have done several docs.
MadeGood – What drew your interest to the punk scene in Mexico- is it something you’re a part of outside of making this film? It feels refreshing to hear the voices of people who have a really passionate belief in something good. Is the message of positivity something you originally intended to tell through this film, or is just the way it turned out?
John – Growing up I did hang out with a lot of punk/hardcore kids. But the spark happened when I was in High School – my father showed me a Colombian film called Rodrigo D: No Futuro (my family is Colombian) about an anarchist punk that lives in Medellin. The cultural dissonance really stuck with me – the idea of a strong punk culture in South America was something I never really considered.
When Nowness reached out about wanting to making a series on music subcultures, I immediately knew this was it. The punk scene is a bit bigger in Mexico, so we decided to go with that. I didn’t go in with a pre-determined narrative. I learned quite a bit about the scene just by being there and talking to people, so the message that came out of it was something organic.
MadeGood – The people in the film don’t seem to have a problem with the camera crew at all, did you find they were co-operative throughout the production? How did you build your trust with them?
John – The whole thing was shot over a series of days in different venues, and there was a lot that got cut. We actually did have some trouble and threats from a few individuals, but for the most part people were really open and accommodating once they learned what we were doing. I think the key is just to be honest with people and open a dialogue before you shove a camera in their face. And act like you belong! Don’t draw too much unnecessary attention to yourself.
MadeGood – The credits are fairly small, but you have somebody in all of the main roles- how hands on were you in the filming and edit of this film, or did you completely trust your team and concentrate on directing? How did you get your team together, and what was your working relationship with them like? (n.b. if you include websites/social media accounts after you mention peoples names in your answer, I can link to them in the post).
John – The film was shot over two separate trips to CDMX. On the first trip, we had a bigger crew and I could focus more on just interviewing/directing. On the second go-around, it was a skeleton crew and I ended up operating camera much more myself, as well as running sound.When it came to post production, I was fairly hands-on with the edit (and I often am), but I don’t really see a point in giving myself additional credits. I don’t want to be an editor!
I try to work with friends as much as I can, whether it’s a commercial, music video, or doc project, which really helps maintain trust. I’ve been working with some of my same crew since I was 11 years old!
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
John – Trying to get my first narrative feature off the ground!
MadeGood – Nice one John! Good luck with that first feature, can’t wait to see it.