Immigration Tango is the story of Elena, a Russian immigrant studying in Miami and Carlos her Columbian boyfriend realizing that they are running out of legal options for staying in the U.S. Then the couple switches partners with Betty and Mike, an American couple who are also their best friends. All is well until the stress of keeping up appearances to their family members and a savvy immigration enforcement agent eventually begins to take its toll.
Here is our interview with David Burton Morris, director of the Immigration Tango.
Bijan Tehrani: How did you first come up with the idea of Immigration Tango?
DAVID Burton Morris: Well it wasn’t really my idea but the way I got the job directing is rather interesting. I got it on the internet; I received some sort of spam for a movie website and it was free for six months so I signed up. As I was looking through the site I saw an advertisement seeking a director for a film being shot in Miami. I responded to the ad and I got the job.
BIJAN: So was the script already in place?
DAVID: Well no, it was originally set in Seattle and it was much different. When I got it, it had been moved to Miami. The premise of the script was the same that you see in the film, which I really liked about couples switching green cards. I did a lot of writing on it myself as well, it needed quite a bit of polish before we could get ready to shoot.
BIJAN: What influence did you bring to the writing of Immigration Tango in terms of the setting, storytelling and characters?
DAVID: I guess my biggest input was the comedy in how the scenes were written, and the way things were staged. I like the genre of romantic comedies and I think a lot of it depends on the set up. I did a movie in the nineties called Jersey Girl with Jamie Gertz and Dylan McDermott where a woman smashes her VW Bug into his Mercedes, and that was how the two characters met. So I liked the unique terms in which the main characters were brought together in this film. The main characters include two couples. They all already know each other when finding out that Elena from Russia and her boyfriend from Cuba are being deported because their Visas have expired. Their American friends Mike and Betty decide to have a sham marriage with their friends in order to get them green cards and things get interesting when they end up falling in love. To me it was interesting how this swapping of couples created all sorts of complications. It brought to light issues involved with sexuality, when thinking to sleep together, or not sleep together when starting initially as best friends. It was a really good plot for a film, especially for comedy.
BIJAN: What are the chances that there is real-life situations like the one depicted in Immigration Tango?
DAVID: Well I‘ve heard a few stories, but I really don’t know because I was born and bred here. I think it happens quite a bit, whether the couple actually falls in love, gets married and lives happily ever after, well I’m not sure if that actually happens.
BIJAN: How did you go about casting the film?
DAVID: All the actors came from New York. Carlos Leon had worked with our producer Elika so he was the only one that I did not read. The actors that play Mike and Betty, we all saw in New York so they were all casted that way.
BIJAN: Do you do many rehearsals before the shoot or do you encourage improvisation during filming?
DAVID: The way I usually work is that we usually do a table read; I give a lot of freedom to the actors because they know more about the characters than I do so I encourage a lot of improvisation. It’s a group effort so I let them put in as much input as they want to put in. If you cast the right actors you really don’t have to do much directing.
BIJAN: How did you come up with the visual style of Immigration Tango?
DAVID: I worked very closely with the Director of Photography. Miami to me was the third of the five characters in the film. The water, the boats, the heat and the sunlight were very important for me to capture. This is the lowest budget that I have had since I was a student, and this was also the first film that I shot in HD.
BIJAN: How much time did you spend working with the editors during the post production process?
DAVID: Editing this film was one of the most enjoyable things that I did. I had two Editors, Lee and Misha. They had final cut pro and we cut it in my home. I think we had it assembled in about two weeks. We had a screening for about twenty of our friends and I realized that the first act was just way too long. I realized that I had to move a lot of stuff in the first act to later in the second act and that enabled the film to play properly. It was eye opener for me because obviously the first act was too long in the script but I could not see it until it was laid out on film.
BIJAN: Have you had any public screening of Immigration Tango?
DAVID: Yeah, the film was in Boston where it won best picture and Carlos won best actor. The laughs are there and when you do comedy it’s always good to hear laughter.
BIJAN: Do you have any new projects lined up?
DAVID: Yeah I’m working on another romantic comedy called Tableclok Waltz, I’m not sure when it’s coming hopefully this spring and I did another Romantic Comedy that just aired on Hallmark this past Saturday night called Accidently in Love starring Jenni Garth from 90210.