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Presents Fri 11.12.2021

‘L.A. Story’ Guest Director Marvin Lemus on Gente-fied, Writing Rituals and Jurassic Park

The below interview with 2015 Project Involve Fellow Marvin Lemus about his watching, reading, writing and listening habits originally ran in 2017. Special thanks to author Diana Buendía.

We’re re-posting it here for two reasons: to celebrate Season Two of Lemus’s Gente-fied—which premiered this week on Netflix—and to tout the fact that Marvin will be guest-directing our Live Read of the 1991 Steve Martin classic L.A. Story this Saturday at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. To attend, get tickets now.

As a filmmaker who’s constantly making things, how much time do you have to actually consume the latest TV shows, films, music and podcasts?

Lemus: I used to only let myself watch one episode of something or a movie per week, it was like some sort of sick reward system. But then I learned Guillermo del Toro watches one episode and/or movie every freaking day. Since then, I try to watch an episode of whatever show I’m hooked on at night. But binging is still not a luxury I’m able to enjoy.

What about the last movie you saw in the theater [note: circa early 2017], and what did you like about it ?

Lemus: The last movie I saw was Passengers. I’m struggling to find something I liked about it, so I’ll just talk about the movie before that, which is La La Land. I loved the ending. Damien Chazelle knows how to end a damn movie. They end at the exact moment the story ends. No more, no less. He’s a G.

‘La La Land’

Do you have any rituals when you write?

Lemus: When I write alone, I procrastinate and agonize over my feelings of being a fraud. With my co-writer, Linda Yvette Chavez, we always have to start our meeting by telling each other how we’re feeling and catching up on the latest chisme (gossip) in our lives. I think it’s a Mexican thing. We’ve tried to skip this step multiple times, but we always end up shutting our laptops and unpacking our thoughts for 30 minutes to an hour. It’s partially (mostly) procrastinating, but it also gives us a chance to unload anything on our minds: anxiety, stress, anger, etc. It’s my favorite part of our process and it makes me look forward to our meetings so much more than if we were forcing ourselves to be strictly business. These chisme sessions have also inspired moments and characters we’ve put into our scripts on multiple occasions. So it should totally still count as work, right?

If a movie were made about your life, who would be on the soundtrack?

Lemus: OMG, I can’t pick just one. Ray Charles, Carla Morrison, Buena Vista Social Club, Alabama Shakes, Los Panchos, Vicente Fernandez and Otis Redding would be the must-haves. My identity is split between being Mexican, Guatemalan and American. Choosing just one artist for my soundtrack wouldn’t properly capture my jambalaya of identities.

What’s your “power song”?

Lemus: “Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers” by RX Bandits. That title makes it sound like it’s some hardcore death metal or something, but it’s actually a groovy-ass ska track that I bump loud AF and sing at the top of my lungs on the drive to any meeting. It’s perfect for getting me jacked up on confidence and charm.

How do celebrate or reward yourself after you finish a project?

Lemus: Carbs, sleep, binge-watching TV.

‘Jurassic Park’

What’s your go-to guilty pleasure movie? What about it comforts or entertains you?

Lemus: Jurassic Park, but there’s zero guilt about that. The theme song is easily the most comforting melody in the world and I will often hum it out loud, privately or in public. Because why not?

If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one book, what would it be?

Lemus: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Junot is a man-crush, for sure.

What’s always in your bag/backpack on set?

Lemus: Usually an extra T-shirt in case I get stinky, but I often forget I have it and make everybody deal with it. No shame.


Follow Marvin on Twitter at @EIMarvinLemus. Seasons One and Two of Gentefied are currently streaming on Netflix. To learn more about this Saturday’s L.A. Story Live Read, click here.

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