To hear Christopher Guerrero talk about his career is to get a crash course in the unpredictability of making film in the twenty-first century. The Mexican-American producer and director, originally from Selma, California, studied at UC Santa Cruz. His majors? Film, astrophysics and theater; he only finished the film one, which ironically, had the most classes out of all three majors. He lectured at UC Santa Cruz for a bit and helped run their postproduction facility, before heading to USC where he got his MFA in cinema production. But once he graduated with around $300,000 in debt, he opted to get a job — even if it meant deferring the dreams of making the kinds of projects he first envisioned while at school.
He joined the budding video team at BuzzFeed where, among other things, he helped produce the early iterations of the Tasty series and the Try Guys series. A few years doing online video content for BuzzFeed, SuperDeluxe, and The Rock (yes, as in Dwayne Johnson) left him in a place where he can focus on his own projects. Which brings us to now: he’s promoting his latest short film, White Guys Solve Sexism.
The provocative title for this biting satire tells you bluntly what it’s about: two white guys have to come to terms with the fact that Harvey Weinstein, who’s been accused of several accounts of serial sexual abuse and harassment, had a hand in creating many of their favorite movies. Finally realizing how sexist the industry they love is, they set out to fix it, once and for all. We chatted with Guerrero about the absurdity of the film’s premise, the meta-humor that runs through it and the Latina-centered project he’s working on next. Check out our conversation below.
What first drew you to filmmaking?
My parents were teachers. I think that’s what gave me the confidence to explore things outside of what normal kids in Selma or Fresno do. You know, it’s a heavily migrant community. Really, the only export from there is goods of fruits and vegetables. It’s a very poor area. I was really lucky to be lower middle-class in an area that really didn’t have a lot of money. Because my parents were teachers, that opened up a lot of doors for me. As educators they were people who were always bettering themselves. My dad won a National Teacher Year Award and a Milken Educator Award. He ran a radio station out of his sixth grade classroom, and that kind of gave me the bug to do things like theater, radio drama and news stories. We interviewed lots of really, really famous people like Bill Clinton and Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. I’ve met Roy Disney. I’ve always looked up to my dad, who’s someone who wanted to enrich people’s lives. For me, that was [through] filmmaking, and for him that was [through] teaching.
Where did the idea for White Guys Solve Sexism come from?
I went to UC Santa Cruz, and if you’ve been to Santa Cruz you know it’s this kind of weird hippie bastion of liberal values place; it’s completely different from Fresno, and that’s why I wanted to go there. There was a lot of free thought. They didn’t use to have grades, and I was a “fuck the system” kind of guy. When I went to USC it was a complete 180 from that, where you’re making movies for this system that is really sexist and really fucked up. It really doesn’t give any people of color any freedom of speech. In the film program that I remember, I don’t even know if there were many women who weren’t white.
I graduated, and a friend of mine, who still kept in touch with some professors told me, ‘Oh, men’s groups are meeting at USC to lament the end of filmmaking because of the Harvey Weinstein thing.’ As if Harvey Weinstein was the pinnacle of filmmaking. And, as if no one knew sexism existed before that. They were so shocked. So, there’s this group of people that have to sit there and cry about it as a support group. I thought it was a really funny concept. And we really put it together all in all, in about 72 hours, from start to finish. These people are so stupid, but they’re so earnest about it. And I find that just very funny.
Is that kind of topic always on your mind?
I love playing with identity and showing the absurdity of things through a specific lens. A lot of the work that I was doing at BuzzFeed, for example, was about masculinity — which, for me, is such a stupid concept. I was sort of playing with this idea about toxic masculinity. I made this video called Guy Friends See Each Other Naked For The First Time. It’s a really stupid concept, but it allowed for this sort of conversation to happen. People read this title and they were drawn into it, and maybe they learned something while watching it. That’s kind of also [the case] with the title, White Guys Solve Sexism. For people on both sides it’s like, What does that mean? They’re kind of intrigued by it, and then they watch it. I like to use comedy to bring both sides of the table to laugh at themselves.
What kind of reactions have you gotten now that you’ve started showing it at film festivals?
It’s not about sexism. It’s about the idiocy surrounding people not knowing that it exists. Another aspect of it is that there’ll be people in the crowd — men — who are not laughing, and then after they’re like, ‘I don’t get it. Like, how is this funny?’ It’s all just going over their head: we’re making fun of you. This is the irony: you’re up there and you have no idea what’s happening. And I think if that does happen — if someone’s watching that’s not laughing — than someone who gets it is able to have a very candid conversation over why it is funny. There’s also been some other weird aspects of this, where people will be like, ‘Oh, I thought that was so funny. You should make a series out of it. You know, you should do Black Guys Solve Sexism, Asian Guys Solve Sexism …’ And in my head I’m like, What are you talking about? Sure, sexism exists everywhere, but this is about a very specific power structure, and it’s white people who are at the top of that power structure, specifically white men. It’s all sort of layered in there. If you did that with some other group, it doesn’t draw the attention to the actual systemic aspects of what the problem is.
What projects do you have lined up for the future?
Well, [on June 21,] I’m having the premiere of my next project Car Stealers at the TCM Chinese Theater in Hollywood. That’s gonna be real fun. It’s like a pilot, and it’s kind of my ode to punk-rock ethos and this movie called Repo Man. It’s kind of like a Stranger Things. It’s got a very 80s vibe and [it’s] punk-rock.
Then, I’ve got two other projects that are getting funded. We’re about to go into production probably in August. One of them is called The Cuck, which covers the same ideas about sexism as this short. It’s about this person who becomes a kind of an alt-right nut job. He’s writing a play to sort of make fun of “cucks,” but he’s actually the cuck. It’s like Alt-Right Synecdoche, NY. I’m working on another film, with my partner, that’s also very close to home called Girl Afraid. That’s about a young Latina woman in Fresno who’s trying to get health care. It takes place in the early 2000s, in this post 9/11 world, where this woman doesn’t know if she’s actually a citizen or not, and is trying to get health care and navigate the social services system.
White Guys Solve Sexism screened at the Mendocino Film Festival.