Award-winning director Rick Castañeda joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about his latest film, All Sorts.
It tells the story of a lonely data entry clerk who finds himself in the bizarre office of Data-Mart. You can see the film at the Raindance Film Festival on 6 November. Visit for ticket info
All Sorts will screen at the Raindance Film Festival. What can audiences in London expect from the film?
So far our film has been compared to Brazil, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Office Space, Kafka, and The Stanley Parable. But I’d say it’s less depressing than all of those.
You’ve said the film is about magic. Magic means a lot of things to different people. What does it mean to you and in relation to All Sorts?
When I came up with the idea of June, and this underground filing competition, I was in a really dark place. I was working in a really depressing cubicle. It was my first job out of college, and part of me was wondering, is this just what life is like? Is this “the real world” everyone talks about? I wrote these stories at that time, and they were my little light. That’s what magic means to me. And I’m hoping this film can carry the light forward for someone else.
Your journey to make this film started almost 20 years ago. Can you tell us about that journey and how the idea for this film evolved over those years?
I’ve been working on a collection of short stories ever since I took a writing class with TC Boyle. Everything is based in the early 2000’s, with a bit of magic realism, and I’d say the core theme is loneliness.
After my first feature, I started looking through old drafts of these stories and I just started writing. The shooting draft of the script was actually a group of vignettes, with the core thread being the one of June and Diego. But when we started showing the film to friends, that just wasn’t working for people. They wanted more of that romance. So we shot more scenes to focus on their relationship, and edited down the other scenes. It took a really long time to get that balance right. A really long time. But I don’t think anyone’s ever made a movie like this before. The rhythm is really different.
Do you have any fun or bizarre office experiences to share with us?
One of the temp jobs I worked during college was driving to an office an hour away and working for an insurance company. I sat in the cubicle and waited by the fax machine as people from malls all over the country faxed me accident reports, which I would code into the computer using very old software. Every time someone slipped in a mall in America, it would get sent to me and I’d type it up. At night the traffic was so bad it would take me two hours to get home. Bumper to bumper. I tried finding all kinds of shortcuts.
One night I tried taking every single exit ramp, just to get back on the freeway, and it seemed like I was actually getting a few car lengths ahead by doing this. I started to notice that the car in front of me and the car behind me were doing the exact same thing. If that’s not a metaphor for corporate America, I don’t know what is.
Due to the pandemic, we’re currently in a work from home era. Do you feel it would be a shame if office environments became a thing of the past?
We’ve actually been talking a lot about this! We are premiering a movie about how much we hate offices in a time where everyone misses them. I think everything is a balance. My nephew, all he’s ever wanted was to stay at home and play video games all day. But after being quarantined at home for a few months, boy did he miss going to school. And playing video games got old, which he didn’t think was possible.
I don’t think there will ever be a time when office environments are a thing of the past. Humans are too original, too varied for everyone to completely eliminate them.
The film takes place in the surreal world of Data-Mart. Can you tell us about the company and some of the characters that populate it?
Data-Mart is a data processing company, set right in the early 2000’s when everyone was digitizing all their analog records.
It’s run by Vasquez, who is kind of a Don Quixote who reads a lot of managerial self-help books instead of fighting windmills. He’s a character that makes sense by not making sense. When you divide zero by zero, the answer is Vasquez.
Our protagonist is Diego, an innocent kid who has fallen on hard times. He wants to do something with his life, but he feels he doesn’t have any talent. But when he finds June, he suddenly feels a great purpose, to help her succeed.
The strongest character, arguably, is June. She’s the most talented, but she doesn’t see her talent as a gift. I think most people do not. Talent, we’re convinced, is what other people are good at. When we ourselves are talented, it’s not extraordinary to us, and we think it’s normal.
When we begin, Data-Mart is a lonely office where everyone keeps to themselves. But Diego is going to change all that.
How did yourself, DOP David Carstens and the rest of the team go about creating an atmosphere for Data-Mart?
David really got inside the mind of Data-Mart. He asked us to move in a mattress for him, and he made one of the offices into his bedroom. He roamed the hallways at night, planning all the shots for the next day. Our production designers, Arta and Gabriel, moved in too. Our producer Laura – who is incredibly kindhearted – moved into one of the offices and sat every day behind a big oak desk. Everyone was afraid of her! I think the trick was that we found an office that was perfect for this story. We didn’t create the atmosphere—the office itself started to seep inside of us.
You’ve worked with a lot of this cast and crew before. How did that familiarity help with All Sorts?
All Sorts was made for no money with a lot of bandages, duct tape, and chewing gum. When you make a movie that way, everyone has to love it. They have to love the concept, the characters, and the people involved. We made the film in a small town where people dream about movies, but never get the chance to make one. The quality of that love bleeds into every frame on screen. When you see All Sorts, you are seeing passion in a crystallized form. I was very lucky that the people that worked on my first film were excited to work on this one.
What are your hopes for All Sorts at Raindance and beyond?
My first film, Cement Suitcase, has a scene where this character goes car diving, which is diving in the window of someone’s car and convincing them to take you somewhere. And there’s a lot of moments of strangers helping each other out. After we screened at a film festival in Santa Cruz, a friend of my sister’s said he was driving back to San Francisco and saw a family stranded on the side of the highway. He turned around and picked them up and he said he didn’t think he would have done that if he hadn’t just seen our movie. If I can get one story like that, I’ll be very happy.