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ASU alumnus' film to be featured in the Phoenix Film Festival

Victor Vargas' 2017 film 'Check, Please!' will be playing at the Phoenix Film Festival

Victor Vargas

Victor Vargas poses for a photo in Tempe, Arizona, on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

ASU alumnus Victor Vargas' short comedy film “Check, Please!” will play at the 2018 Phoenix Film Festival.

Vargas graduated from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in 2016 with a degree in film and media production, and this is his second time having a film shown at the festival.

Vargas talked to State Press about his film and being featured in the Phoenix Film Festival. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

What was it like to write and direct a movie?

Last year, I had a documentary called “The Man Behind the Suit” which played at the Phoenix Film Festival. That was probably my longest and most extensive project. “Check, Please!” was actually being filmed while the documentary was playing at the festival, so that was pretty intense. It was really fun. Narratively, it was the biggest film I’ve done, with the biggest cast and the biggest crew. It was really exciting and really fun to do.

What was your inspiration to write this film?

I think of a lot of movies by talking to myself in my head and thinking of funny situations and jokes. This one was a very simple premise of a guy having to go on multiple blind dates with a lot of crazy women, which isn't something that's never been done before, but I thought of this cool shot in which the camera panned around a person’s head, revealing a different date, and that continuing to happen throughout the film. So, it was really just me trying to mess around with the camera as a director. A lot of times my film ideas come from conversations or situations, but this one came from me thinking, “what would be a different, cool way to film something?" It was interesting because this is the first time it’s ever happened where the inspiration came from different filming techniques.

Can you tell me a little bit about “Check, Please!?"

It’s about a guy name Gabe who goes on a blind date (with a woman) who actually stands him up. Then, his best friend Ralph comes in and says, “it’s all good man, I have somebody for you, don’t worry!” So she shows up and she turns out to be crazy and Ralph says, “sorry about that, I’ll bring you another one,” and each one is crazier and crazier than the last one, so it just has Gabe begging for the check.

What was it like to know that your film would be played at the Phoenix Film Festival?

It was really cool because I had a really good time last year. I met some awesome people; I got to watch as many films as I wanted, and it’s just a really amazing festival. Last year, we actually went to a few different festivals and interestingly enough, the one in our backyard was my favorite. They treated the filmmakers really well and I have a lot of good friends over there.

What was the process of filming and writing like?

Like I said, it all came from a camera technique that I wanted to do, and I kept thinking of different crazy jokes. I wrote this sophomore year in college, which was 2013 and 2014, so it was a while ago. That same year I thought, “I want to make it,” so I tried to produce it. I tried to do the cinematography on it, write it and just do everything. I didn’t know much at that time, so it fell through. I called a few different restaurants to film in and they said I could, but then when I reached back out to them, they completely ghosted me. They never called back, so I was in a situation with a cast of six people, no location and not enough equipment. It was bad. 

Fast-forward to now, my girlfriend is a producer. She produced my documentary and a lot of my other films as well as her own. She said she would help me with this one, and did a way better job than I ever could have done, so that’s probably why it came out so good — we’re a really good team. I got to focus on writing and directing it, and her and I are always throwing ideas back and forth on shot ideas, writing and everything. We both have a really good creative eye and we can help each other.

A trailer for Vargas' documentary "The Man Behind the Suit."

Was this film inspired by any directors or films in particular?

This movie specifically, no. However, I think there was a different kind of inspiration for this film that came from filmmakers doing things that I’ve never seen done before, or at least in a way that I’ve never seen before. Things like that get me really excited. People like Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan. "Inception" is one of my favorite movies, and watching the hallway scene I thought, “How could he come up with something like that?” Those are the visionaries that I like to look up to, so I try to think in that same way.

What sort of challenges did you face making “Check, Please!?”

I think the biggest challenge was finding a location. We had an awesome cast and an awesome crew. We actually got a restaurant, Mijana, to let us film on a Staurday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., because they opened at 5 p.m., so that was the only time available. So I was talking to my director of photography and he asked, “we’re not going to shoot this in one day, right?” And I had to tell him that we actually were. So it was this whole nine minute movie that had about 12 actors in it and a whole crew that had to get done all in one day. So again, that’s where my girlfriend came through, she was handling everything and taking care of things really well. It was tough, but we made it happen.

"Check, Please!" will be playing at the Phoenix Film Festival as part of the Arizona Shorts A program on April 11, 13 and 14.

Editors note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Reach the reporter at or follow @jsphprzprof on Twitter.

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