During the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak to co-writer/director Sebastián Hofmann and co-writer/producer Julio Chavezmontes about their recent collaboration on the dark comedy Time Share. The film stars Luis Gerardo Méndez, a well-meaning husband who takes his wife and son on a family vacation at a swanky resort, only to find out that his villa has been double-booked, and he’s forced to spend his relaxation time dealing with a myriad of stresses that pushes his sanity, and his marriage, to the brink.

Time Share also nabbed the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting during Sundance 2018, and both Hoffman and Chavezmontes discussed the real-life inspiration behind the project, finding the balance between comedy and tragedy in their script, their experiences collaborating with Méndez, and more.

I'm excited to speak with you guys today. This movie is funny, surreal, and makes you uncomfortable, and there's a lot that I related to with this story. You take on capitalism in this film, you take on family conflict and go into this idea of not being able to bury your pain even though you might be in “paradise.” Can you talk about the approach to your story, and exploring these ideas with this script?

Julio Chavezmontes: Yeah, the origin of the film comes from Sebastian's experiences as a kid, living in this kind of a time share environment when his mother was doing time shares. But in terms of the story, one of the things that we really wanted to talk about is how people become imprisoned by their sense of what paradise is. We wanted to talk about these characters that were so desperately broken, and sad, and affected by Trump, that they couldn't really connect to this thing that's supposed to be one of the highlights of their life, or event their year. It's something that feels like the most grotesque version of that.

There was also this sense of making a horror film without any monsters, where the monsters in the film were really these uncontrollable feelings of sadness in our relations that the characters feel. And there was also a considerable influence of the revisionist Dracula films on Time Share, almost like a Dracula version of The Princess Diaries.

I think what's really interesting is that you mention the fact that you tap into the idea of depression and how we try to cope with it through these different things and yet, the visuals of Time Share are extremely bright and bold, which makes for a nice juxtaposition against the story’s themes. Can you discuss developing the visual style of the film with the cinematographer, because there are moments that feel like everything is almost candy-like. It was wonderfully surreal.

Sebastián Hofmann: I like that—candy on the screen. Yeah, the DOP [Matias Penachino] and I worked really hard on creating this hyper-reality in this. I wanted the film to almost seem like a graphic novel in a way, too, and we even looked at hotel catalogs, that literature you see when you check in that has that kind of hyper-real feeling to them. Everyone has these perfect smiles, but underneath that, there's something a lot more sinister and darker going on. They never show you that in the literature, they just give you these completely unreal family settings in the photographs to sell you on an idea.

We also looked at a couple of painters, like David Hoff, in terms of composition. We tried to make it look almost like you are seeing frames within frames, often using the hotel architecture for that purpose. Architecture is so important in hotels, and we were greatly inspired by Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and just the way that the hotel becomes a character in itself. We were super conscious of how we framed everything in this film, and if you notice, the characters were always framed within a bigger frame, which was usually the hotel.

Absolutely. I remember how I used to always go to this one resort down in Mexico, and if you didn't know exactly where you were going, you could end up spending an hour just walking around like, "Wait, I thought my building was over here?" It almost feels like it’s designed in a way so you do get lost, because then you have to rely on the staff more, which is part of the way they pull you in.

Sebastian Hofmann: Yeah, I think everybody has dealt with that in one way or another. We've all been to these massive hotels where they have this almost hostile-like architecture to them, where you always feel like you’re in a maze. This film has this maze-like quality running throughout, in how we framed it and how we shot it. That creeps into the subconscious of the audience, creating a sense of claustrophobia because it feels like the characters cannot get out.

Absolutely. Now, you guys put Luis [Gerardo Méndez] through a lot in this film, as there’s a lot of physical comedy to his performance, and yet it's a character that’s also contending with a lot of drama as well. Can you talk about finding that balance with Luis for his character?

Julio Chavezmontes: It was a real challenge. In writing this script, there was a real challenge in finding the tone of the film, because obviously we had points of reference, like Sebastian mentioned. Not just The Shining either, but also Poltergeist, and all those family vacation comedies, too. We just wanted to haunt the poor man, and it was very difficult to strike that balance between sustaining the dramatic elements and keeping the sense of humor going at the same time. What really anchors that was Sebastián's direction and the work that he did with the actors. They really took this difficult material and interpreted it perfectly. They really gave it the shape that it has now, and it all really works. It really is why everything comes together so well, because Sebastián is so precise with his direction.

Sebastian Hofmann: You know, Luis Gerardo is a well-known actor in Mexico for comedy, but I had never seen his comedies before I met him and approached him to do this film. I saw him at a play, in a very serious play called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or something like that. It's a famous British play that went everywhere. I'm sure it went to New York and then it went to Mexico, and he was the star of the play. He portrayed a boy with Asperger's and he was amazing. So, I could see just the range that he had as an actor, and I knew he was perfect to play this plastic comedy type of character, but more like in the Peter Sellers tradition, where I needed a very serious comedian.

That's the way we approached it, and he is so talented. It was just a matter of working along in rehearsals and trying to find the right tone, something funny and tragic. There's an arc in just how pathetic the character is at the beginning of the film, and then how he develops into a neurotic monster along the way. There is a point where everything stops being funny, and I love that. I love comedies where the background becomes so tragic, there's a point where you don't want to laugh anymore. That’s how life is sometimes.


In case you missed it, check here to catch up on our other live coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival!

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.