Category - Reel 2 Real

Alejandro Montoya Marin Puts A Theatrical Sense to ‘Monday’

ATM: How is the word Monday related to this film? What is Monday known for and what is the stereotype put on this day?

Alejandro: The action of the film all takes place in one day. The whole movie takes place during 24 hours in the life of the protagonist and everyone he interacts with. Mondays are usually known for being the day of the week that no one likes and a day when everything goes wrong, so they want this day to end as quickly as possible.

ATM: How does the film score continue to carry the story plot?

Alejandro: The main character is very pop cultured influenced. There is a great connection between movies and music. Tom Eddy and The Beatles are mentioned, and this had to be reflected with music. We were able to get a pretty concise soundtrack of different genres that was able to propel the movie to its energy. This soundtrack also made the movie feel as if it kept going and going. We included a mix of bands and original composing that was like the sounds of the 80’s. We used this approach because our budget was so low. We also had to spill color and background so that it did not look dark. This propelled us to let us use music and do this from here.

 ATM: How did this low budget movie change your perception or any misconceptions you had about film?

Alejandro: I have never done a project with more than ten thousand dollars. I do not come from money. I have had to penny pinch as much as possible. There were a couple of L.A. actors on this project, and they were like, “We need like 60 thousand dollars.” I was like, “Uh, no.” I tried to stretch the dollar as much as possible. I learned to be more patient, especially, because not only were we trying to do the movie, but they were filming us during while making the movie. Anytime there was doubt and things did not go right a camera would be in your face. So how do you keep cool but also problem solve in your head? This is what I learned the most.

ATM: As a frugal filmmaker with your first film, would there be money left over if given a bigger budget?

Alejandro: Oh yes. If we get a bigger budget, then I can pay rent and pay my bills. This would be amazing. We would get to do things that are more cinematic with bigger budgets. We can make the experience of the movie feel better. This is not going to change my approach to making films though. I am not going to always spend money just to spend money. I want to take advantage of every single penny that we have of the budget in details such as seeing if we can get a better song, or someone with a bigger name, or get a better location for the film.

ATM: In relation to the word Monday, how did you spend your Monday?

Alejandro: I went to work and did some writing. It was super boring. I watched some Film Struck. Unfortunately, Film Struck is getting shut down. This sucks… I watched Money Game. This is a good movie. I live a very boring life. I write scripts.

ATM: How do you think of different character analysis while writing scripts?

Alejandro: I want actors to feel comfortable. I try to give them as much of a backstory on their characters as possible. I am currently doing a 1990’s dramedy. I sent my actress a Walkman, two mix-tapes, and two 1998 Rolling Stone magazines. I also sent her a film. It was Blu-ray because I could not find it on VHS, but the point is I try to give them as much of their character as I can.  I tell them: “Your character listens to this song because of this”, so I gave them a mix-tape and other songs that were popular during 1999. That way they can build this portfolio of feelings and characterizations of the characters they will play. I do this with every project.

ATM: Looking back, was there an item that you did not need or that you spent too much money on?

Alejandro: I needed a monitor because I was also the camera person while we shot the film. There were a couple of shots that were a flop. We needed every cent. I built a shoulder rig with my DP Ryan. It would have cost us 10 dollars to make or 60 dollars to rent. It was uncomfortable. It was made out of metal. We were like: “We cannot do this”, and I wasted 10 dollars. Dammit.

ATM: Why did you pick neon lights in the trailer?

Alejandro: Most of it was for design. I wanted to utilize Austin’s background since we had little money. Austin is a big city, and there is a lot of depth of field. While standing on the street, it looked like the whole street set was closed off for us. It was not. It was to utilize the colors that are everywhere in the city. We tried to create this atmosphere.

ATM: How did the versatility in the location sets strike a mood in how someone could convey the movie?

Alejandro: This is a really good question. No one has asked me this question. I would love to share this. It is more of a strategy. I knew there were going to be constraints about locations and money while writing the script. I wrote the script to take place in places that were in abundance in Austin. There are always bars, office, houses, and restaurants. The biggest one was the record store, but I knew there were bunches of record stores in Austin. It is a huge music city. It was about utilizing and knowing the locations we could get. It was about what was easier for us to obtain a low budget.

ATM: Were there any moments when you felt you were too ahead of yourself? Or that this was not going to turn out how you wanted it to?

Alejandro: We had to pick the locations from a binder. We did not get to go location scouting. One of my actors was a martial artist who had to bail. I relied on him to do the action, and I had to shoot around him. We switched the role he was going to do to a woman role. We choreographed the scene. In editing, I would show you one movement, then cut to the outside. I would come back and cut to the fight. I did this to prolong the action scene and to make it feel longer. This day was stressful. I had a sub-coordinator and not only the two cameras on the phone, but the other director also brought two more cameras. I smoked a pack of cigarettes on this day.

ATM: Did the story of the movie come into your head as an epiphany, or was this a two-month mental process?

Alejandro: I had done a short film version of it. It was because someone told me, “Oh! You are going to do another romantic comedy.” I said, “No, I am going to do action just to prove you wrong.” I am stubborn this way. I did the short film version because I knew it would be hectic to shoot it. The movie lens itself is handheld, distorted, and a little shaky because the movie progressively gets crazy and falls off the rails. The camera does the same thing. And I had to write a story that I was more familiar with because it had to get written in three days.

ATM: What is it like to come out of the lens of what people expect of you and trying something different?

Alejandro: I love it. I do not just like one genre of music and movies. I love Sinatra and like U2. I want to challenge myself to doing things that I would not normally do. Doing the same thing is just boring. This is the reason I did not work from my desk. I try to challenge myself. I like to do projects where I want to spend an amount of time with the characters. If I want to do a romantic comedy, then it is because I love the character so much. I am fine getting consumed in this world for a year.

Nancy Schwartzman Explores Rape in ‘Roll Red Roll’

During a 2012 pre-season football party in Steubenville, Ohio, a young girl’s life changed forever. The aftermath of the situation shows the true perspective of this community. We see the elements of hyper-masculinity, social media, peer pressure, denial, and male ego in the sports arena. Nancy Schwartzman directs Roll Red Roll, which is a film that captures the stages of a rape in this community and further  explores more of what happened after the rape of the young girl.

A lot of the community sides with the male being a victim. The attention gets put off the girl and she get seen more as a suspect. This stereotype on rape victims has been happening for so long. With the place of social media, this is started to change. Why do you think socially raped female victims are look at as suspects more than victims? “For so long they were always on trial. It was about what she was wearing, what she remembered, and who she was. This was the way it was for so long because it was primarily men and law enforcement in the legal profession.” This was the before thought and stereotype of a female victim. This change evolved into seeing the rape victim as a victim and not a suspect. She is not very much blamed for what she was wearing or her name. “This was the way it was for so long because it was primarily men and law enforcement in the legal profession. A few things have changed. We are deal with an understanding of a wide and broad spectrum of violence against women. Women are not making it up. We need to be looking at the young men and perpetrator. This is who needs to be investigated. This is what happened in Steubenville. There were eye witnesses who were called to testified. It is time to shift the focus off the victim. There is a larger culture that enables the behavior. We need to look at the behavior for those who enacted. This is happened, and it is a newer conversation. We start to understand this is how we happened. These are the ring leaders and the ones who protected them. These are the people who get them out of trouble. This is what we saw in the film.”

This allowed Schwartzman to see and learn different aspects in the investigation. As a director on this film, she stepped out of the normal view of a bystander. What did you learn about this investigation? “As we drove deeper into the case, I learned the community and town. The type of culture everyone was in. It was being very protective of the status quo and of the young men. I learned more information from the general’s office about the investigation and evidence. We saw this was a pattern behavior. It was not the first time.” What scenes did you want to pick to showcase the importance of this event? “We wanted to tell a compelling story and understand how this crime could happen. This is how we chose the scene. We wanted to reveal details of the night and crime. Also, set you into the town.” This is an event that changed the community. People in this community picked different sides and we saw a division between residents. A conversation started to form, and people saw people for who they truly were.

Elan and Jonathan & the ‘306 Hollywood’ Documentary

Elan and Jonathan created a piece of history that was unforgettable when they found their grandmother’s remnants in the early 2000s. The pair dive deeper in the recordings and take us through the life of a 20th century woman. 306 Hollywood is the title of the film and was the address to their grandmother’s life.

ATM: What is it about this address that made it so magical?

Jonathan: We had the idea to transform an ordinary person’s life into something extraordinary. We had visited our grandmother in New Jersey our whole lives. This is not fancy and not Hollywood. When she was 83, we got the idea to interview her and we filmed these interviews. We filmed these interviews a few times a year. It equaled out to ten years. This became our whole visit with her. We asked about her life and questions we not normally ask. She grew up during the Great Depression and did not throw any object away. After she died, we went through out the tapes we recorded. We kept everything. We thought there was still life here and the people still feel like the present. We decided we wanted to use the language of magic and mythology to talk about this big life transition. What it was like to lose a love one. Throughout history people have used mythology, fairy tales, and magic as a language to talk about big life transitions.

Elan: We feel the magic and we feel the presence of our grandmother. Also, the presence of the people who lived here. When you use magical language to talk about their lives and bring them back. Also, to show amazing they really are.

ATM: While doing this longitudinal study of your grandmother, what different in your appearance the emotion for answers that really changed over the years?

Elan: The film is about time life spans, different indicators of how we are living through the amount of time we are given, and our mortality.  In the house itself, we found a hundred years’ worth of time, a hundred years are printed material, and a hundred years’ worth of different objects that represent almost the entire 20th century.  Regarding our grandmother, this was the span of her life that we were seeing through these objects.

We see this fan what transpired over the course of a hundred years. Putting her into this context is saying we understand the incredible quality of the fact we are all maneuvering and moving through these experiences. We are taking these experiences back into our homes. It teaches us about life and how we are intersecting with the wider part of the world, wider current events, and wider elements.  We can find this as a repository within one person and in the house.

Jonathan:   digging through her stuff we found pictures of her and a audio cassette of her of when she was really young as a young child and teenager. We found taped to her when she was 40 and 50 years old. Also, the recordings we did when she was in her 80s and 90s. We basically had a whole Archive of her whole life. We can see the whole transformation of her whole life and the past that she took. We also saw ourselves because as little children and teenagers and during our 20s and 30s.

We also went through our lives up until the point in the film. It was amazing to see the time of a whole family and the time of a whole century right in front of you and right inside of the house. It’s really cool that many people have the same experience.   Many people have all those things and those different documents objects from the past. This is because we all are form part of History and we’re going to show how old and every people are a very important part of History. It is not just the Rich and Famous who actually count.

ATM:  How was it Being from the present and looking back on the past? Keep in mind this is a time. I’ve never lived but you can sort of get the feeling of it.

Jonathan:  It was amazing. You go into an old house you see a lot of giving room wallpaper to the quarter plates and you can basically in the 1960s. Everything there is in the 1960s. You go to into room and go back you see the stacks of books and taxes from the 1940s it is like you are in this world for a moment.  Since we have these recordings of our family, we had the video cassettes.  It was as if we could hear the voices I can go sometime tonight.  We wanted to explore this because it was such a powerful experience.

Elan: The house becomes almost like a time portal.  If you walk back into a house and everything remains like it was, then you can almost ask yourself how I am not walking back in time. This is how the house was 30 years ago. There was a great wonder to have this opportunity with a portal to another era and moment in history. This made us think how we look at memory, time, and what remains of the people that came before. Most of it still exist. How do we get access to findings that have come from the past? What can we learn from it? These individuals are what have constructed the present. You see the larger picture of history.

ATM: For a second, what if we did not have memory? What if every second of the present erased every five minutes? How determinable would this be to all of us?

Jonathan: This would be crazy. There is a person in the film who is the head of the Rockefeller archives. She just talked about the objects. She said, “If we did not have any of the objects from the past, then the question would be whether it existed. If we did not have memories, then it would be the questions as to how we got to where we are. How do we become who we are? It is important to remember our history. It is important to remember the history of people who are often no included in history. This is how we got to where we are. This is how we are and who we are in the present. It would be crazy if we had no money.

Elan: Another thing that was said at the Rockefeller Archive was that the objects prove they existed. We thought a lot about this. Especially, when looking at our grandmother’s toothbrushes and boxes of coins. It is not like the objects themselves truly matter, but it is simply to say all the things that remain of someone create a story of that time. They create the essential element. They were once on this earth living their lives and here are the remains and remnants of this experience. For us, it is this idea to discuss and find things that make up the larger picture of the population of the U.S. Not just the power or people who create history. We are looking at the ways to fund a more populous history. This was us doing this.

ATM: When did you see your grandmother more than the title of a “grandmother?”

Jonathan: After her death, we started to see her as a philosopher. We started to film in 2001. In some cases, we did not listen to the tapes like 10 or 12 years later. We needed to remember what she said. You see she had this philosophy about how to live life, accept things in life, how to deal with difficulties in life such as humor, accepting herself. The things she is saying were actually lived by my grandmother. It is not easy to live. The more time we spent with the tapes of and we investigated her life after she died, the more she became not just a role model, but like a philosopher.

Elan: There is a moment when we asked her to try on dresses that was wore in the middle of her life. This was in her 90s. She finally gets the dress on and sits in her chair. She sums it up with “Where does it put me as in life?” It puts me in this chair. We are all exactly where we have landed. The key is that life has gotten you to this moment. You tried to get to the best places and as far as you could to survive or sustain whether life gave you. The arrive is that you have arrived exactly where you are right now. The essentialization of life philosophy itself in this perspective was something so simply, that we need to accept who we are and go from there. It was simply with standing down looking at life and taking a perspective on a bigger picture.

ATM: Do you believe the life that remains in the objects get personified? If so, then why?

Jonathan: This is interesting. Objects can tell different stories. Sometimes people ask did we keep the things or throw them out. We made the film, so we can get rid of the things because we physically could not keep them all, it was too much stuff. We needed this process to make sense of it and to find stories into it. These stories would lead us to people. We had started making portraits of our family through their stuff. The dresses all come to life in a dance performance. There are moments where the objects felt like the personifying of our grandmother, grandfather, or uncle. It is different kinds of stories that come out of objects.

Elan: Are they really personified? No. It is an irony and interesting situation. You have this alive and breathing person. Once they are gone you are left with the most useless objects that you are trying to make sense of. The reason they take on importance is because there is this absence. It is a little of an irony that something meaningless becomes meaningful.

ATM: Why do we concentrate on what is wrong and not what is right?

Jonathan: This is a good question. It has to do with the storytelling structure. To tell a good story you usually have to create a problem and resolution. This is what keeps a story going. Think about love stories, which are about people falling in love or when they break up. This is the most intense moment because they make for the most intense drama. Our film talks about an extremely long period of time. It is about the consistency of love and how this love can shape your life day to day. This is important. This comes back to family and valuing a woman, a matriarch who would not normally be a heroine in a film. This is finding the value in the film and to recognize the ways we are all important.

 

Brett Fallentine Gives South LA a New Name

ATM: How did you observe or perceive South LA and Compton before filming?

Brett: Perception is one of the main issues dealt with in this film. Treys from the film says, “Perception is a killer.” I grew up in Northern California. I grew up during the 1980 riots and when gang violence was the cause of the murder capital of the world. I had my perception of it because this was what the media portrayed it as. I heard about the cowboys through a friend who was a social worker. She was telling me about these guys she saw riding on their horseback. These were ghetto guys riding on their horseback. This was something I needed to see. I founded out where she last saw them. I had the sense that I was in a very dangerous neighborhood or place in 6am or 7am.

I return to this place a lot of in the film. I do not feel this same feeling anymore. This feeling was built on largely the perception of the media. The way that South Central LA and Compton has been perceived in the films and in the News. In the songs and music, this builds a perception of a place. I fell victim to this perception. I heard it was such a fun place. I am not saying these things are still there. The people that are in this world is not the same that the media is portraying. I wanted to saw a different side of South Central LA. This culture has been apart of South LA’s culture since the 1800s. People are looking to pass the representation of gang banging. What did you like about the film?

ATM: I enjoyed how it shows a different side to South Central LA. We get to see a different perspective and perception of cowboys. It shines a more positive light on the residents in this environment. We see the stigma that has been put on this area for so long get lifted and turned into something that is passionate and positive.

Brett: There are so many truths about LA. There is truth of the gang violence. One of our subjects fell victim to this. Some of our subjects were involved in gangs. This is the way of life and how it is. This is the truth of South LA. We are not creating anything here. This is another facet of this place that never gets any play. The style of the film is stylistic. I wanted to shoot it as a western because this is how the guys show South LA.

ATM: Explain the connection you saw the men have with the horses.

Brett: A lot of these horses are rescue horses and need to be rescued back to health. These kids that are involved in gangs are paired with rescue horses. They are taught how to nurse them back to health and feed them properly. The kid and the horse are creating bonds through this process. There is some bonding that takes place. This has gone on for years and years. Also, before it burned down. Calvin is a guy who loves his horse. HE always wanted a horse and was around others. He finally got Jazz. This made him see South LA differently and gave him a sense of freedom.

He did not feel this growing up in the streets of LA. It gave him a sense of respect and empowerment in the community that he would not have had otherwise gained. Chris has a more spiritual connection with the animal. It brought an avenue and Chris and something he could pursue. He could pursue a life career riding a bull. You have to be connected with the bull to ride it. It is his job to have this connection. Guam sees how the horses attracts these kids. He uses this lifestyle to help facilitate change in his community.

ATM: Do you have any experience riding horses? What does being a cowboy mean to you?

Brett: I did some riding when I was young. We never had a horse or a ranch. It was through programs growing up. The most riding that I done consistently was during the film. For me, being a cowboy is not a man, woman, black, or white. It is not any sort of race. It is a principle and a way of life. There is not too much into American mythology. The cowboy is apart of this mythology. This is something that speaks to everyone that lives here. This is a set of principle and values. It is a personal value system. We can look at it and fit it into our own lives. We should hold ourselves to and value. There is many definitions to the term cowboy. I wanted to break down the stigma of a cowboy. So many people think it is this white man on a horse. I do not think this. Guam does not think this. This is the perception that is out there. You break down the perception of who a cowboy is and the perception of South LA while watching this film.

 

Executive Producer Javier Braier of ‘El Angel’

A twenty-something Argentinian male is calmly on a rampage for violence. Violence seems to be what he really wants to get out of life. He does not want to follow anyone’s rules, not even the people closest to him. El Angel is a new Argentinian film inspired by a real man who was deeply infatuated with breaking the rules and following his own laws.

“As an executive producer you can be doing different things in a process of making a film. I am particularly close to all the creative process.” Braier continues the explanation about the creative process related to the film. He worked closely with the director in figuring out how to carryout the formation of the film. Braier reminisces, “From reading the script and making suggestions for a final draft to all the communication between talents, distributor, press agents and poster and trailer designers. I also follow from very close all the aspects of social media plus Festivals and Premieres. It is a wide aspect but at the end it makes sense to see all the pieces together.”

Things might seem different for the Argentinian producer since he is not of Hollywood. He still feels there is a hardworking aspect to the film industry. He says, “I am an Argentinian professional and as any Latino Americano producer things are tough but well work hard on making good films that can be enjoyed as worldwide as possible such as the latest films that we’ve produced in K&S Films, especially since Wild Tales.”

Time management and organizational skills are key in the work that Braier puts into film. We get to see the work while watching the film and we applaud it through our facial expressions through each scene. From his view, there are other elements that contribution to his job and the making of this film. “It is all about the project. The film itself gives you the heart of what is needed and when. It is very important to have a good communication not only with the directors but with rest of the producers, the cast, the crew, the distributor, the press agents and with yourself.

Director Wes Miller Tells Us Why the ‘River Runs Red’

ATM: Did you go through any struggles with getting this movie out as it depicts what is happening now in society?

WM: We did not have problems of getting it out per se. We were able to partner with a distributor who saw the potential and message in what we were trying to convey through the piece. But there is always a struggle getting an independent film off the ground. This was probably one of the most challenging things that I’ve undertaken in my life. We had a great cast and crew who believed in the piece. We prayed hard and worked hard. But it was tough.

ATM: Why was it the most challenging part of your life so far?

WM: I am a minority filmmaker and our leads are a part of the minority. There is still a stigma in Hollywood that films with minority leads do not sell well. This makes getting financing challenges. We had some issues during the shoot where financing fell out. This made it extremely difficult. Brought me to tears. You know, you have a team and crew who rely on you. In this, you still have to make sure you maintain the artistic vision and your goal through the outside challenges. We had producers on board who were able to make things happen. Anything that is worth anything is worth working hard for. We really worked hard for this one.

ATM: I have never seen a red river. Explain the metaphoric notes and symbolism of the title.

WM: The film does not have a happy ending. While writing it, I saw so many divisions in our society as far as race, class, and gender. Often we forget that we all flow from the river of life. This river is the constant that we have, which is our blood. The river runs red because the river of life runs with the blood of all of us. It does not matter your skin color. At the end of the day, we all swim in this same river.

ATM: In this film, and in our society, a traffic stop has taken on the meaning of life or death. From the moment a black person stops at a traffic light, they are in between life and death. For some people, they are just usually waiting at a traffic stop. For a minority, it is, “While stopping at this traffic stop, it is wondering if my life is going to end? Will I make it back home? Will I make it back home to my kids? Also, how does this film redefine or restructure the meaning of a traffic stop?

WM: This is a really insightful question. Let me tackle this from a number of perspectives as a black male. I went to law school and practiced law before becoming a filmmaker. Still to this day, when I get pulled over, my heart begins to beat a little faster, and I start to check everything. I remind myself on this stop, I am a black guy out here. We cannot win out here.

This is something I tell my son. “This is not the place to do the battle.” We can never win here. It is best to reserve the real fight for lawyers in courtroom regardless of our rights. This fear is real. It is heightened for our younger generation. We protect our kids from a lot of stuff our parents went through. As a child, I remembered seeing images from the civil rights struggle. I saw there was violence any time that someone wanted real change. Our kids are not taught about that or its, not in a heavy part of what we teach, I included.

Your question is insightful because a “traffic stop” does have symbolism. You are right. That stop, that little moment can be a difference between going home to your parents or your parents visiting you in the morgue. Very insightful question.

ATM: In the scene where Luke Hemsworth’s character is pleading for the Taye Diggs’ character and George Lopez’s character not to shoot him, Luke’s character says, “I have a son who is six years old.” The black fathers say in unison, “I had a son” also. What does this show you about the oblivious nature that a white person could have?

WM: What is your name again? You’re asking some really great questions that are really insightful. This is the whole purpose of this scene. You have a Caucasian guy with a son and you have these two guys who had a son. We are getting back to the premise of the River Runs Red. They are all fathers. The unique things are when Luke is out there with Taye’s son, he is trying to do what is right so he can come home to his son, which is trying to continue to protect and provide for his family. Taye and George are at a point where they still want to defend their sons but do not have an option to protect. In this scene, they are all motivated. Luke is motivated in trying to live for his kid. Taye and George are motivated to do whatever they decide to do for their kid. How easy is it for Luke to ask for his son? He did not have this same consideration for theirs. This is one the many subtexts are in this scene. I am really impressed that you picked up on it.

ATM: Gabrielle. Also, in this scene, Luke’s character has the nerve to ask about his son. Taye and George faces are like, “What? You took my son away from me. Or your race took it away from me. So, no.” Who exactly was Taye’s son to the white officer in the movie? In hindsight, who and what were these minorities boys to Luke’s character?

WM: Good question. If I had to dive in the character psyche a little, then I would say he was not seen as a son. He was seen as a danger. No important consideration was given to what he was about to do. That kid was about to go to the police academy to be like his father. They do not consider anything. This often happens. We are often not considered “people.” They rarely see past our skin color. Taking in that he was, a young African American did not happen.

ATM: The transformation and perspective of how the son get seen changes. This is also with people in general. Once you walk out of your home, you take on a different identity. Some people forget this or are subconsciously unaware. To Taye’s character, this was his son; he was his baby. He helped bring him into this world. This identify form stops as he walks out the door. He is perceived in other contrasting ways outside of what his father sees him. As the director and writer, did this make you think back to how the “black body” has gotten treated through history in this society?

WM: Yes it does. There are a few things we wanted people to consider. Taye’s character is an African American who is in the system. The same system designed to protect everybody. Society has enacted this system to separate us from our essential nature in the world. We should trust this system, so we do not take guns and do for ourselves. The questions you are raising, the film does not really try to answer this. What happens when a person in the system, who is also African American, would the system work for him? We see the system does not work for Taye’s character? If this system fails us, then what are we left to do? Do we sit there as George’s character did for a while? As a father, do you say, “I am not going to take this?” The film does not sensationalize. I do not think a man has to break his psyche to take a path that is not necessarily the best path. These fathers are hurting, and they are trying to get true justice. The system failed. What happens when you take the system out? We revert back to the wild wild west. That’s why we need the system to work.

ATM: Similarly, to George’s character, what happens when a parent sits down and does nothing?

WM: This is a good question. A parent came up to me after the screening who said she was very touched. She felt we had captured the feeling that the child’s mother goes through when their child gets killed due to police brutality. In this scenario, if someone took my sons, then I would feel defeated as I go through my day knowing that someone who took my son is walking the street. This would just eat at me.

Society says you just have to take it. Why do we have to take it? We take it because we trust the system. We need to make sure this system works for everyone.

ATM: About this situation, do you believe in our lifetime we will ever see 100% justice?

WM: 100% is hard to say. The justice system is made up of men and men who are inherently flawed. So, I do not know if we can get 100% justice. We are not even at 50/50. The system has so many inherent biases. People electing the right officials will assure people will work hard to know that decisions are going made. And to make sure people in uniforms are not getting by because they wear a badge. We have a long way to go.

ATM: Express your exploration while writing Taye’s character.

WM: Primarily as a writer, I wanted to explore a person who was inside the system. Also, who lost something and show how the system fails them. I wanted to explore the beats of what justice alludes really. What is justice? What should we do if we lose somebody? This judge who fought for something and believed in it was failed by the same system that he was a part of. We see him go through disbelief. Even he cannot get justice. We do not want to answer questions but raise questions. With an independent film, you have to make sacrifices because you do not have enough time, money, or resources. But, also in the independent world, you work to make sure what you set out to accomplish in the beginning is actually there. For me, this was a great tragedy. At the end of the film, you are left to wonder if certain decisions made earlier would have stopped people from sliding down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol.

ATM: What were some sacrifices you had to make?

WM: I’m really happy and proud of the film. Always looking back to reflect, I realize we did not have enough time. We did not get the big cranes, the dollies, and a lot of these nice tools to open the cinematic grammar up a little. I would have wanted less pressure and more time to work with the actors to go deeper with a couple of spots. It is little things like this. Oh, it got really cold. So, we had to make some changes with shooting locations. It was unsafely cold outside.  But truth is, you need more time and money with any film.

ATM: Do you believe the media hypes up the process of an industry professional?

WM: Give me an example.

ATM: Someone coming into this industry or had the aspiration do not see the emotional hard work aspect of the people they admire. They do not know the self-reliance you must gain even to be considered, they do not see the blood, sweat, and tears. They do not see how some cry after auditions. They do not see how some at 2 am, or 3 am feeling like they are the worst person, etc. We do not see their tears after some did not win an Oscar, Emmy, or Grammy, etc. If this is shown in a non-exploitative or non-embarrassing way, then the “starstruck” energy will turn into a more “appreciative” energy. People will realize these are just people who just happen to have a hardened desire and passion. Their passion happens to consist of a camera in their face.

WM: The short answer is yes. The long answer is that the media does put a lot of spotlight on people after they already reached their certain level. What is not seen often is that 99% of everyone in this industry has been told “no” more times than they have been told yes. We do not see this.

We only see them after. It is a very difficult and tough industry. “No” is the norm. It can wear on you, but you have to have confidence and have faith in God. You have to persevere. Social media does not help. It only highlights what you are doing now. Yet, there is a lot of hard work happening that we never see. I admire the actors and producers I have worked with. It is a miracle to get a film out there and to have it as a limited release. I am so driven in this “no” industry, I take a step back and keep pushing forward. The media does not show the quiet times. It is like, “Oh, they made it. Let’s give them camera time.”

ATM: We do not see the emotional effect of the no. We do not see the hard work of an Oscar winner, or Emmy winner. We just look at the results, but NEVER the process. If about 99% of people in entertainment are hearing “no,” then wouldn’t this mean that the people who are looking for a “yes” are also apart of the group saying the “no’s?”

WM: Good question. Yes actually. But it’s like this, those who are trying to make it are told no and then when they do make it, they become part of the no’s. A lot of people will argue that the no’s are necessary to weed out people who say they want it from the people that actually want it and who have talent. That may be 50/50 truth. The other part of that truth is that people don’t want to take the risk of losing what they have gained, so the easy answer is no.

ATM: Do you remember when you were considered a “no?’ Express this moment.

WM:  I am still considered a no. I hear it all the time. Of course its hard to hear no. But I know I have a lot to prove, and I work hard on my craft so one day the no’s will not be as many and as loud.

ATM: See people need to realize a “no” in entertainment regardless of the entity has a different effect than a “no” in the “normal” world. Same word but a massive difference meaning and feeling. It has more of an effect than the word “yes.” Who knew two letters could have a more powerful effect than the three letter “yes.” It’s more powerful than a “yes” because a “no” in this industry will challenge you to the highest degree, make you a mature and disciplined human being. You become in competition with your internal self and external self.

Director Bill Oliver Interprets his film ‘Jonathan’

ATM: How can this film exhibit the power of the subconscious mind?

BO: It explores the idea of identity and what makes a person conscious and what drives them. You can call this the subconscious or consciousness or desire.

ATM: How were you looking to exhibit from what was on the page of the script to what we could understand through what you depicted in the camera?

BO: I was also one of the writers throughout writing process. I had to rely on the main actor’s performances. He is not only portraying one but is portraying the other on video. This was one of the ways to interpret the scene. We capture this very well.

ATM: Did the self-title of the movie in any way influence how you approach as a director?

BO: The title that we come up with really worked. We tried different titles, but it did not work. The movie is about Jonathan and what he goes through.

ATM: How can this film allow a person to have questions about the view of their identity?

BO: It is jerking. You get emotionally involved in the topic of the movie. What we are watching in this film, is about the real world. It is about stability in our world and ourselves. I hope this overlay to it as more than one person. You are, who you are.

ATM: Often people are like “Oh, I want to do this or that.” Is his character visually portraying these thoughts, but in this film these thoughts are in a subconscious state?

BO: There are two people. One person is more emotional of the two. They share a body and empathy for each other. They have to accept each other. One of the things is individuality. At work, you are one way, and when you go home, you are another person.

ATM: Do you believe this film gives a realistic depiction of human beings or how we might be?

BO: This story is about how are, but also how are go about change. The Jonathan parts represents how everyone feels. It is a part of this space, but you have to back up a little bit. In order to change, you must open your mind and take off the gray to grow.

ATM: How did you see Jonathan before bringing this character to the camera?

BO: He is very meticulous and organized. He does not reveal very much about himself. He has drive and ambition. He wants to try to prove himself to people. They have this control issue. He is trying to seek self-preservation. I pictured him in this way. He is very uprising.

ATM: How has other perceptions from people on this film made you think different about the subject matter?

BO: There are always Q&As at festivals. You get different questions and interpretations. People connect to it in a different way in how it connects to Jonathan.

ATM: Would someone be missing the picture if they related this film to mental health?

BO: No. People would view the film in this way. In addition, the film is very loosely based off a dissociative identity disorder or some kind of mental health issue. I am okay with this. This film Jonathan is not meant to depict this specific disorder. People can interpret this film in any way they want. One of the characters suffers from depression. I am have also experienced this. This is one the things I wanted to explore, which is how depression affects a loved one. This is an interesting situation. They share a body but not a mind. So, is one depressed or is the other one depressed? Also, how do these connect? Some of the actors dissected this point.

ATM: How someone still does the normally expected things moments a person has despite going this even? Love interest? Movies?

BO: It is a real thing. There have been other movies that have explored this topic. Sybil was a 1970s movie that depicted this well. This was based on the true story of a woman who had different personalities. She has a love interest. It is complicated. There is a fear or intimacy and losing the other. This film is also about love. Also, how do you go about risking it and it is also very emotional.

ATM: Could this be expanding the capabilities of a human being? Is it exploring what it means to be human?

BO: This is something we wanted to put into this movie. It is a sci-fi movie, and it is about what it means to be human to the world today. This is not necessary for the future. I talked to people who were at the forefront of psychology and divisive technology. This is developing demographically. We see this today in different positions. We want to enhance the ability of people on a robotic level. It does sort of touch on this stigma.

ATM: How did you want the art department to understand more of the plot summary?

BO: The story takes place in the present day and living in an alternate reality.  We wanted to give it this slightly other world layer. It is a slight future film. It is slightly filled. Regarding the art department, they were in slight in control of the location, but it was the architect who wanted things a certain way. This film captures the emotion state of a character. For the cinematographer, we looked at sci- fiction moves. We wanted this element.

ATM: How did this film help with confidence in classifying your position in the film industry?

BO: It certainly is a major boost, and it is difficult. I have directed short films. The thousands of mistakes that is learned in your first film. It is about learning these things and knowing you want to improve. This is how it is with any artistic endeavor. It is hard to call yourself an artist as a filmmaker. It is a lot of struggling to get there, and some people do not know this to be true. Most people do not often understand it.

ATM: How did some of your mistakes or imperfections help you see the bigger picture of the industry?

BO: It leads to a greater respect for the filmmakers I admire. It is very difficult. There are a lot of things that go wrong, and you have to adapt to situations. There are a lot of people working with you and it is again very hard. There a lot of money involved, and this adds hard pressure. When looking at filmmakers I admire, I recognize they have gone through this.

A Look at Homelessness in LA

Remi Kessler directed and produced the film, The Advocates, that looks at the struggle of homelessness in the LA area. and shows a different perspective of the social problem. Remi discusses with ATM about the film and the effect of homelessness.

Gaby: How do you feel America and this world treat homeless people?

Remi: We do not want to look at homelessness. So, because we do not want to look at it, we just do nothing. We just turn our heads and hope this problem is going to be solved. This is how I think society looks at it.

Gaby: Although there are organizations for homelessness, why do you feel it is not focused on?

Remi: In terms of us as a society?

Gaby: Yes.

Remi: I think that we do not recognize that people who are sleeping on the streets are just regular people like you and me. I think this is really the first thing. We need to look at them and acknowledge they are a human being. This is what is missing right now.

Gaby: How does your film add to what is missing in the representation of homeless people?

Remi: My film does not represent what is missing in homeless people. My film will show what a community can achieve when they get together. This is what the film is about. There are solutions. The film shows what do we need to do.

Gaby: Express your most turning point when shooting this documentary.

Remi: The turning point I had was about five years ago. I was sitting at a lake in Los Angeles with a friend. We were having a cup of coffee. A gentleman came and asked me for a dollar. I turned him away. My friend took out a dollar bill. I asked what that was all about. And I said who am I to judge them. Somehow this was the turning point for me. I started to wonder why I was angry. It took me some years to understand why I had these reactions.

I looked at this gentleman in Brooklyn Heights in LA. I asked him how he was doing. I looked in his eyes. What I saw in his eyes was my turning point. When you start caring for these people and you want to wonder what happened to them. I thought maybe to do a film to express my own journey with people that send them away to someone who could bring in a conversation with these same people. It took a long time. I did not want to film out of misery.

Gaby: How can you say their mentality transformed from once living adequately to living a homeless lifestyle? How do they perceive life now that they are living below the lower class?

Remi: They feel invisible. People do not talk to them. This is terrible because the more they feel like this the more they think this way. I have seen many times once you stop engaging with this people, they come back to you. You can very quickly forget they are sleeping on the streets.

[I once was] flabbergasted after witnessing the conversations of homeless people. It was surprising because we say they are out of society and they use us. They are just regular people even the ones with mental illness. They have the same concerns and the same needs. It is very easy once you understand this to communicate with them.

Sevier Crespo Discusses New Film ‘Deceived’

Sevier Crespo produced the recent film Deceived. Crespo plays a brother who risks a lot for the safety for his sister. He realizes sometimes people do not want to be saved while in dangerous situations.

ATM: What are some differences you noticed in the atmosphere while shooting in Puerto Rico compared to what you saw as a kid?

SC: Puerto Rico has grown. The areas are very modern today. Everyone has a cell phone. Old San Juan still looks like Old Spanish and it has barely changed at all since growing up. The cars are different. Some of the areas we shot in were the same.

ATM: What persona did you want the female main character Betsy to possess? What did you want your audience to learn from her?

SC: Everybody could use the help. Sometimes life deals you a hand that is not the most positive and you do the best that you can with it. Sometimes things do not work out. This is also with the choices you make in life and what causes you to make them. The fight that he has while looking for his sister is the fact that he also did not make the best decisions in the past. He also realizes what he should have done. He tries to make this right, but it is too late.

ATM: How could a real-life brother and sister relationship that is in turmoil learn from the connection with your onscreen sister in this movie?

SC: I do have siblings and while we made this movie, I thought about them a lot. To me, there is no question that you must help your brothers or sisters if they need it. I think the key is to make sure you yourself are in a good place and getting the help you need in life, so you are of value to them. It’s like when you are on a plane, if the oxygen masks drop, you put yours on first then those around you, and that applies to this question. My character in the film had his own issues that he needed to sort out as well as needing to help his sister.

ATM: How do you help someone that does not want to be helped?

SC: Number one, you make sure they know that you are there when they are ready for your help. You offer them solutions and gently check in on them but never enforce your own point of view. You have to make yourself available and try to offer help but ultimately someone has to come to their own decision that they are ready to be helped.

ATM: What if the good intentions do not match up with the reality of the situation?

SC: You have circumstances in life. People get into drugs or find a way to get money for whatever reason. Whether it is an upbringing or an educational thing. It is almost like if someone drinks after work and this causes them to stay out late and not be ready for the next day. They do not understand why they keep repeating the same thing over again. This does not make them a bad person. This just means what they are dealing with and their circumstances are not the most survivalist way of operating.

There are no classes in the high school of how to balance a checkbook or how to create a budget for yourself. These kids get thrown into college and they become this young adult unsupervised. They are learning by bumping into each other. Credit cards approve them for an endless amount of credit. You did not teach this person anything about credit and how to survive with it. It is things like this. It does not mean they are bad people. It is very measurable. People will judge you on this vs looking at it being a part of your environment or circumstances. It does not mean you are a bad person who does not have goodwill.

ATM: What are three words to describe the film?

SC: Independent, creative, and controversial.

ATM: Explain why watching foreign documentaries without subtitles intrigues you.

SC: I really like watching people. People are fascinating. There is a documentary that is subtitled called White Hack. You have these regular people who are citizens helping each other. You hear bombs in the background destroying buildings. These are your regular mailmen, teachers, firefighters, doctors, husbands, and wives. They are running toward these locations to save people. This is an example of mankind being great. I am fascinated to see their storytelling. There is a saying that if you can watch a movie with the volume off and understand it, then this is the way to go. The message is being delivered. You can see the storytelling and the emotion of what is happening. It is interesting because you are dealing with filmmakers, creators, mankind, people, and stories. We have all seen stories told a thousand different ways and in scenarios. I always wanted to see how others are telling a story and how it relates to me without hearing the words.

ATM: Do you like 20th-century silent films?

SC: I do! I love Charlie Chaplin films. I watched the very first silent movie, which is just pictures with words on it. It had these title cards. These are fascinating and brilliant.

ATM: You see more of the emotions within the character.

SC: Exactly. They can feel “over the top,” but this was a part of the time period. The emotion and the fears.

ATM: Why do you like Google Maps?

SC: I have always been fascinated with maps and where things are located. Before moving to Los Angeles, I lived in Texas. They had something called the Thomas Guide. You had to find the Thomas Guide for that city or state. I would just sit there and look at all the maps. I could be watching a movie and become fascinated about the streets. I’ll go on Google Maps on street view and will cruise around. I’ll get a street point of view. I question if I would want to be there and who would I know. It is fascinating, and I like it.

ATM: This is a very smart way of traveling.

SC: It is a very cheap way of traveling.

ATM: You can go to like 50 places in five minutes.

SC: Exactly!

ATM: Are they any other projects in the works?

SC: I have a few films that are in development. We already have the financing and things in place for Subversion, which will start during the first quarter of next year. I have another project that I am looking to go back to Puerto Rico for, which is in the same stages. It is going through the process of signing contracts and casting. This is called Killing Class. This is primarily a 90% Puerto Rican and Hispanic speaking cast. This is a Raising Arizona meets Fargo and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing type of film. I am very excited because it is very mainstream without it being mainstream. It shows this aspect of it to the rest of the world. Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and we are U.S citizens. African American films have escalated tremendously and have been a massive huge success. They have crossed into this mainstream. Now you have more television shows and feature films. For me, I am excited for this on a Puerto Rico level and style.

ATM: Explain the decision making of your interesting titles.

SC: Subversion is based on overtaking the control of government and corporations that cross paths. What are their intentions? This is very much a psychological thriller. It is like Sicario with the foundation of usual suspects. What you see is not really the outcome. Killing Class is kind of playing on words. This is based on a true story. The names were changed. It has to do with one of the character’s name. His last name is Class. It is about killing this character name Class and it is also about social class.

ATM: Talk about the significance of your production company Peanut Gallery Group. What is the significance behind it?

SC: When I was brainstorming about what to name my company, people responded well to the name and it was catchy. It comes from an old Vaudeville term. I am Puerto Rican, so I am feisty, edgy, and creative. I have been known stir the pot a little and play outside the norm and take risks. I like to show people what they are not used to and this name really encompassed all of that for me.

ATM: Do you like Peanuts?

SC: It is funny because I grew up eating peanuts with my family and my dad. I grew up eating Peanuts and watching baseball with my dad. We would watch baseball and eat peanuts out of the bag. We, of course, made a total mess. My mother would hate it. I still see my dad eating them. You cannot ever just have one peanut.

The Dream Team Directors

Dream Team Directors Bayou Bennett & Daniel Lir are a husband and wife duo who live to inspire and empower people in the film and entertainment world. They talk with ATM about their YouTube show The Dream State and success stories from people in different industries.

 ATM: How did you all brainstorm for this show?

Daniel: We have always wanted to host a show. We felt there were so many potential barriers in accomplishing goals in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. We really wanted to give people a road map. Sometimes there is so much confusion as how to do this. We wanted to take away the mystery and confusion from the entertainment industry, and to bring bigger and better understanding, inspiration, and empowerment in this area. This was our initial idea.

Bayou: We mentor a lot of filmmakers. I was a Professor of film-making at New York’s top schools. My favorite thing is being able to inspire other artists to make their dreams come true. We realized we wanted to inspire all artists, not just filmmakers. This is what we do with our show. We bring on fine artists, graffiti artists, musicians, fashion designers, actors, and filmmakers. We like to show behind the camera as well as in front of the camera that this is how these top creators have done it.

ATM: What have you figured out the top components as to how these people working in Hollywood have reached success?

Bayou: I keep hearing over and over to be optimistic. When barriers come up you cannot focus on them, but you just keep going and creating.

Daniel: Each story is an individual one, which is what makes it so interesting: their passion, purpose, and persistence. Devine Evans was a story that really captivated us. He really wanted to be in the music industry. He was at a point when he was homeless and living at an airport in Atlanta. Evans would go there every night to sleep. He just kept being persistent and he met people. It is also about meeting people. Now he has worked with Justin Timberlake, Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna. He would say it was about creating and educating himself on technology. He does so much preparation on every project. He kind of thinks about what could go wrong and troubleshoots so nothing will go wrong. He just really knows his technology very well. Everyone is different.

Another interesting person was Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. We brought him in to show artists how to think big. How could it be manifested at the biggest possible level? Maybe it is not making a small indie film. But, how could I go from being like Ryan Johnson who directed an indie film called Brick to directing Star Wars? Nolan really taught us step by step how to do this. He did not really have the money or the backing. They just had this idea that “they would never be as crappy as they were last year.” They just kept advancing and advancing. They did it through passion, optimism, imagination, and creativity.

Bayou: Jason Dohring from iZombie and Veronica Mars said it is also a business. You have to promote as an artist. You sent out your head shots when things get slow. You keep doing it and this will get you a job. He said today it is great that you do not have to get in front of the right people. You just have to make the most amazing film that can go viral on YouTube.

Daniel: He also said people ask about “how do I get an agent?” He said the first thing you should be concerned about is, how do I become really good?

ATM: How can a person turn constant rejection into resilience?

Bayou: We have been in the industry so long. Daniel started in New York City. He always found a game in it and recreated himself. We always would recreate ourselves. We had a film called “Text Me” that film got into film festivals all over the world and is viral. We created this on our own when things were slow. You get more creative when you have time on your hands.

Daniel: The things that we did when we did not have jobs were the things that pushed our career the farthest. For actors when they have a lot of rejections, they say screw it and produce your own film. Empower yourself. Do not depend on others to give you that “yes.” It might be based on looks, tall or short, blonde or blue eyes.

ATM: How would you define success?

Daniel: Being successful is being influential. I have heard many definitions of success, this is the best one for me which I got from top street artist, Chaz Bojorquez.

Bayou: I also think it is when you are happy at what you are doing, and you feel like every day is not like work. We are going to a location scout for our music video. It is not a job for me, it is fun. It is hard work. It could be a 12-hour day when we are shooting. It will not feel like hard work because we love what we are doing. When you get to continually do what you love doing, you get to make a difference in the world. We only do content that makes a difference in the world, uplifts people, has messages, and makes people feel better. It feels better to be able to choose this as a creative artist.

ATM: When did you all individually find your own purpose to inspire in life?

Daniel: For me, it was only recently in the past. We did a project about food rescue with this organization called City Harvest in New York. I also worked on this film called Carbon Nation, which was a solution to global warming. Only then, did I really see we could do something about the state of the planet earth. After this, many of our projects had something to do with making the conditions better. Working with someone like Oscar Nominee Mark Ruffalo made me say this guy is so passionate and is using all of his power to make things better in the world. Like changing policies and changing our behavior in oil.

Bayou: I was a film-making professor and dancer. Earlier than that, I was experimenting in my Master of Fine Arts with visuals. Film-making kept coming into my universe. I said this is what I should be doing because I can mix all of these things together. As a Director, you are directing the whole process and as a teacher, you are directing your whole class. As a dancer, you are creating aesthetics from costumes to makeup. My purpose of being a filmmaker is to uplift, inspire, and make a better world. I will reach these billions of people through being a filmmaker. This was my whole goal as a filmmaker.