Jonathan Munoz on His Short “One Way”

July 16, 2020 | Harris Pacey

 Editor’s Note: This article was previously published on PBS’s Behind the Lens on July 2020.

Director Jonathan Munoz reveals that the Twilight Zone and his dad’s old office inspired his short film “One Way,” currently competing in PBS Short Film Festival 2020.

There is something darkly ironic about a travel agent who could only find the wrong way to leave his horribly hot office. What was the inspiration behind the plot of the film?

Jonathan Munoz: I think in our day and age, the mundane workday is universally relatable. Before I moved to LA, I worked countless hours behind the desk at our film school’s equipment cage. I would set up reservations and process orders day in and out. My time behind a desk would certainly grow dull after a while. As for the aspect of heat v cold, I’m a big fan of the original Twilight Zone series. There is an episode in which the earth is drifting closer to the sun. The entire world is about to burn up and we’re experiencing it through the perspective of these two women in an abandoned city. The psychological implications made by the episode always fascinated me. The need to cool down whether it be through consuming ice water or gazing at paintings of landscapes set in colder climates. There are quite a few references to this Twilight Zone episode that viewers with an eye for detail can absorb.

While we don’t know much about the main character of the travel agent, we feel like we know him because of how he endures the little indignities of his job, from the lack of air conditioning to dealing with rude customers. What was the casting process like?

JM: We knew we needed someone an audience member could empathize with. This is quite difficult to accomplish in a film so short and even more so with minimum dialogue. We had to have someone very expressive who would have little trouble conveying so much in such a small amount of time. Luke Edwards has been acting since he was a young boy. He’s also a long time friend of our lead producer, Gregory Thomas. I had met him briefly prior to hatching the idea.  Once we met, I knew I wanted to cast him in one of these fun short pieces. Luke, of course, starred as the lead in Little Big League back in ’94 as well as The Wizard in ’98. He’s got a wonderful talent for expression and subtle emotion. Allie Long was introduced to us through our producer Laura Leal and our Assistant Director LeGrand Love. She has a rich background in theater and film acting. She’s also worked on Chicago Fire. It was a great pleasure to work with her as well.

The technology in the office is outdated to say the least. The computer and the Google page seem to be from the 90s, and it takes almost a full minute to load a picture. Why did you want to use older technology in the film, and why was this technology what led to the travel agent’s fatal end?

JM: This piece is unofficially set in the late 90’s. There’s no clear indicator of it besides the tech inside the office. Being a 90s kid, I thought it’d be fun to set this story in that decade. The slow dial-up connection, the outdated monitor and the eggshell keyboard were actually inspired by my dad’s old home office set up which is where I used to spend a lot of time as a kid.

This year for the PBS Short Film Festival, the films are split up into different categories, like Race, Family, and Culture. The category that your film is in is Environment. How do you feel about your film being categorized in this way?

JM: The concept of “One Way” revolves around the polar opposites of heat v. cold. This elemental relationship is most likely what landed our film in the “Environment” category for the PBS Short Film Festival. Our main character clearly longs to venture across the frigid forests of Siberia or the frozen glaciers of the arctic. This yearning comes from his disconnection with the outside world, which is ironic since his profession has him dealing with clients looking to travel around it. He is longing for a relationship with nature; an affair to contrast his abusive relationship with the office space where he spends most of his time.

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