Boss Level is a Hulu original film starring Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Grey) in a wild action movie that draws inspiration from video games, 80s action films, and a comedy classic. Cinematographer Juanmi Azpiroz (White Lines, Wheelman) shot the film and had an epiphany while doing it.
In Boss Level, Roy Pulver (Grillo) wakes up every day to utter chaos. Machetes, bullets, and bombs come flying his way, and when they successfully kill him, he wakes up yet again, and the cycle begins anew. At the heart of this repeating cycle of destruction and death, maybe Roy’s estranged wife played by Naomi Watts and her misguided boss played by action movie legend Mel Gibson. Roy has to get better at this repeating level of his life to find a way to stop it all from happening.
PopAxiom spoke with Juanmi about becoming a cinematographer, making Boss Level, and the epiphany I mentioned earlier.
Juanmi, short for Juan Miguel Azpiroz, calls San Sebastian in northern Spain home. “I think I told my parents when I was about 13 or 14 that I wanted to make movies,” he says, “At the beginning, I wanted to be a director.”
“My passion was photography,” he adds. It might’ve been for the best since another creative endeavor had a lot of competition. “In my hometown, a lot of my friends were musicians, but I could not do that to save my life. I started taking pictures of the people in my hometown.”
“At 19 years old, I got to work on a movie as a camera trainee, and I never looked back.”
About Boss Level
Boss Level is exclusive to the streaming platform Hulu. How did Juanmi become a part of the project? “I did a movie called Wheelman produced by Joe Carnahan. While I was shooting that movie, Frank Grillo was in it, and Joe asked if I wanted to shoot for him. I thought he was joking, and he said, ‘I never joke about this stuff.’ So, I said yes.”
A short while later, Joe “came to me with Boss Level. I had a blast shooting that movie. Joe has a great visual mind. He thinks in pictures and is a great storyteller.”
“I don’t think we had a conversation about the look of the movie per se,” he says, denoting a deviation from the usual order of things. “We started prepping the movie with a small crew. We started talking about the movie. There was never a conversation saying that the movie had to look like this or that. We put out ideas, and it kept growing and growing.”
Of course, a lot of the ideas were fueled by the action films of a particular era. “We’re all suckers for 80s action movies. Joe and I are around the same age, so we have a similar cultural background. We love the same movies, same bands. From the beginning, we said Boss Level was Groundhog’s Day meets Die Hard.”
Juanmi’s love for 80s movies runs deep. “In the movie, there’s even a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know, Indiana Jones isn’t infallible. He fails, and he pokes fun at himself for it. We drew that as inspiration.”
Every film project is a unique beast of equal parts beauty, and chaos. Here’s where we get to Juanmi’s epiphany as a cinematographer with dozens of projects under his belt. “One day, while sitting in front of the monitors at video village, I was looking at my Instagram, and I thought ‘What am I doing? I’m living the dream of my life. I’m with a great director shooting a multi-million dollar movie at a hit studio with an amazing production designer and amazing cast; this is where I’ve wanted to be my entire life.”
“So, I don’t have social media since that day. I’d rather be here in the moment enjoying what I achieved.”
“There’s a lot of good cinematographers, and I try to learn from all of them,” he says. “Probably my all-time favorite is Roger Deakins. I hope one day to be even on the same planet with him as a cinematographer. I try to watch everything and learn from all of it.”
“I won’t say no to an Indiana Jones movie or a James Bond movie,” he says, adding, “Indiana Jones would be the dream of my life. The only movie poster I have in my house is for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It seems impossible, but dreaming is for free, right?”
Boss Level is available on Hulu. So, what’s next for Juanmi? “I’m prepping a thriller that starts shooting in a couple of weeks. There are two or three more coming, but they’re not confirmed as of yet. Cop Shop, another movie I did with Joe Carnahan, will be out soon.”
Is Boss Level on your watch list?
Thanks to Juanmi and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.
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