While writer/director Jairaj Walia has made several short films, he is currently in the midst of post-production on his first full-length feature film, the romantic comedy Pendejo. Walia recently took time out of his busy schedule to discuss pursuing a project of this scale with a cast that includes Danny Trejo, Raja Fenske, and Fernanda Romero. The comedy focuses on a partying son (the pendejo [or "idiot"] of the film) forced by his father to work for the family company as a janitor or end up disinherited. Walia conceived of the film after heeding the advice of a former professor to “write what you know”. In this interview, the writer/director is quick to emphasize that the film (due for release in 2012) is loosely based on his life experiences. My thanks to Walia for his time.
Prior to pursuing this film, you almost walked away from moviemaking to work in your family's business. Is your family supportive of your choice to follow your creative instincts or do they still hold out hope you will work for the family?
My family has always been supportive of my film career. They allowed me a great opportunity by sending me to NYU [New York University's TISCH School of the Arts] to study film. When I started to step away from film, they were disappointed because they felt that I was such a creative person. Of course, if I had wanted to join the family business, they would have supported that as well; but it was actually my parents who pushed me to get back into film. They reminded me how passionate I have always been about films. Truly, without their support, I would have never started writing Pendejo, much less made it into a feature film. I thank my parents for guiding me and providing me the opportunity to make my first feature film.
You wrote a movie somewhat fueled by your own life, how awkward or easy was it to partially mine your own life for comedic fodder?
One of my professors once told me, “Write what you know.” This was the first time I actually listened to that advice—and to be honest, I have never enjoyed the writing process more. Pendejo is very loosely based on my life experiences; and even though 99% of all the characters in the film actually exist, it was great fun to exaggerate and sometimes tone down some of the experiences I’ve had on this crazy rollercoaster we call “life”. I think that people should be able to laugh about anything—through any situation—no matter how tense. If you can’t laugh it off and find the humor in a situation that is testing you, then you are never going to make it through it. It was great fun sitting down every day and translating pieces of my life into a script. It was also very scary, because at one point I began to think, “Hmm do I really want to share this much with complete strangers?” In the end though, I decided to laugh it off and write it anyhow. So when you see the movie, feel free to laugh away. I did throughout the writing of it.