When a film is titled something as preposterous as everything & everything & everything, one might give pause, because really, how can a short film be all that? In Alberto Roldán's film, the title is meant to be hyperbolic, but the case could be made that the allegory explored does hit on what's important in life—"everything." I assume the other two everythings are just there for good measure.
If you're guessing that a film by that title will be heady and a bit trippy, you'd be on the right path, but maybe missing the point. There's a pressure building in Roldán's film, one that feeds off a fundamental need to connect, expand, and globalize, even if it means sacrificing the very things we're fighting for.
The film, which follows the unusual experience of Morgan, an oppressed worker drone played by acclaimed indie filmmaker and actor Shane Carruth ( Upstream Color, Primer), is at its core an example of the failed American dream. In it, Morgan's monotonous daily routine is potentially changed forever when a mysterious glowing blue pyramid—one that inexplicably produces doorknobs—appears in his living room. The film turns Charlie Kaufman–esque, and the focus shifts effortlessly away from the object's odd happenstance appearance to the exploiting of its profit potential.
What does it mean? I don't fucking know. I don't think Alberto does either (but you can read the interview below where I asked him about it). What matters is that you should go out and do something you enjoy and forget about making a buck for a minute. Life's too short. But first, watch the short.
VICE: At what point did you decide modern globalization and outsourcing needed a sci-fi spin? And that it would be told with doorknobs?
Alberto Roldán: The film is about our endless quest for more. This character has a void in his life—obviously at the beginning of the film he's missing something profound—and the pyramid fulfills that, somehow. But our man keeps asking for more—Why can't I make a little money on the side? Why shouldn't I hire a few additional workers? Capitalism has this way of consuming everything around it, including our peace of mind.
As for doorknobs, that went through a lot of different iterations—at one point the pyramid was spitting out marbles, among other things. I knew it had to be something painfully mundane—something that contrasted with the spiritual mysticism of the pyramid. It was my friend Alex Knell who suggested doorknobs. As soon as she said it, I immediately knew that was the right path.
Is there significance behind a glowing blue pyramid? Do you worship some secret shit we should know about?
The image is striking to me. I'm not sure I can articulate it beyond that. I wanted the pyramid to be a kind of burning bush—a way to connect spiritually to the world around him, to communicate with some divinity. It was a very clear image in my mind from the get-go.
This is Shane Carruth's first starring role outside of his own films (Primer, Upstream Color). How did he come on board?
Shane is one of the most daring, brilliant filmmakers working today. I'm still kind of stunned we haven't declared him a national treasure, given him $300 million, and set him loose.
I wrote the part with him in mind without ever having met him. This character needed to have a lot going on behind his eyes, this capacity to silently process something, and Shane is 100 percent that. I told this to my producer extraordinaire, Cate Smierciak, and by one of the miracles she often produces, she managed to get the script to him. He liked it, and it was great working with him. He was very generous throughout the process, and has a surprisingly large capacity as a comedic actor.
There's a hopelessness in the film, where people get swept into the chaos of business and making money and lose sight of simple, beautiful, and fun things. Do you feel that way about life and work? Why can't he just get his goddamn piano?
One of the goals of the film was to recreate the sensation of getting excited about something without really stopping to think about what it means in any broader sense. I mean, why can't we all just get our piano?
Drama is about characters making choices they can never undo, and in film especially you can usually pinpoint the precise moment when a character makes an irrevocable choice (think: "I volunteer as tribute!"). In this film it's difficult for me to pinpoint the exact moment when our main character makes the choice to abandon the peace and tranquility he's felt with the pyramid in favor of this capitalist fever dream. And that's what's scary to me: I block out the most important things in my life without really intending to, only to look back some time later and realize I've crossed an event horizon of sorts. I can never go back and I don't know precisely when I got to that point.
What are you working on now?
In February, I workshopped a screenplay, MOTHERBEAR, at the Latino Screenwriting Project, which is done in collaboration with the Sundance Institute. It's about a fierce teenage mother from El Salvador who spends seven grueling years trying to get citizenship in the United States. If you took the maternal Ripley/Newt relationship from Aliens and somehow put that into Sin Nombre, that's basically the movie. I've also been developing a political/legal TV series with Susanna Fogel and Michael Garcia, which has been really great.