Category - Reel 2 Real

Geo Santini on his New Satire Film ‘Like’

Filmmaker Geo Santini talks about his new indie film Like. This film is about the character Lil Tito he plays who must undergo a moment of seeking validation, losing himself, and rediscovering his path in life. This character is a mirror to the constant problem on how social media influences pop culture for this generation and for the younger generations.

Interviewer: Gabrielle Alexandra Smith

ATM: “Like” has one syllable and four letters, so how has this word tremendously shaped social media and American pop culture?

GS: We are in a time where everything is created through likes, especially while being in Hollywood and in the music business and after seeing everyone chasing likes and clicks. These ‘likes’ have actually become more of a currency for some people. Many people wake up and shape their day exactly in the pursuit of how many likes, or of how many pictures they are going to post and what attention they are going to get. This movie touches on this from the perspective of what is going on today in music, social media, and the actual consequences of putting everything on the line just for attention.

ATM: “Like” is considered a positive word. However, it seems today in society it creates an innate dislike for someone.

GS: The thing about it is that we have become addicted to these “likes”. It is a positive word that has developed into having a very dark undertone. Everything starts out as positive, but when you seep into the culture and getting more attached to a phone, an artist becomes more dependent on what is going online instead of the art itself. It has created an underbelly that is darker… an obsession and an addiction. It’s bad.

Now we are addicted to this constant need for attention. What is it doing to our psyche and even to young women? This movie is a satire that takes all these funny situations that happen in music and the need for attention. We have fun with it, but the context is very serious.

The movie is a hybrid that starts with a comedy but has a serious message at the end. It shows you that we are in a generation where we can say and do whatever we want online, but we do not see the consequences. Now we are starting to see younger people getting in trouble online, especially in Hip-Hop and in music. It used to be: You leave your certain standards behind because it was a positive thing to get your career going. Now, you cannot leave your career behind because it starts online. It is like you constantly have this need for attention.

Some of these kids are willing to do whatever it takes and keep crossing boundaries. The movie is a look at one artist who puts everything on the line for attention and what overcoming this means. How does this word ‘like’ relate to everything? How does this word relate to fashion, or dating, or Instagram? The validation of a ‘like’ is a kind of merit for this generation and us at the beginning of it are starting to see the consequences of it. We are getting ready to see how long all of this will play out and what will happen in the next two decades with technology and the generations we are raising.

ATM: How does the noun validation move through your series?

GS: It is interesting to see because when you look at music and study artist going back to Madonna, Pop, and even in Hip-Hop, you see there was a long time of development. There used to be a cliché saying stating that that it took five-to-ten years to become an overnight success. Now this is not even a situation. You have kids making a song or someone doing something overnight and they can be instantly famous. This “overnight success” that previously took so long now really doeshappenovernight. Currently, you have a situation where there are artists, vloggers, or entertainers who have immediate success and have never struggled for it. They have instant validation. They are constantly addicted to validation. The minute they do not have it – what happens to them?

I have seen YouTubers that I know and social media people I know personally go through this. They came in a generation about six or seven years ago. Now the generation that was watching them has gotten older and don’t know that stuff anymore. Their numbers are slipping. They do not know how to go on because they had never taken a loss before. They had never had to grind or struggle because success was instant for them. Then, what happens when you take a loss from this former instant reward? You do not even know how to deal with it. This is the scary part. This is the character study we see in the film to know where this goes. We start out with comedy. Our movie is a comedy. It’s silly, and over the top, but there is a real message and context to it.

ATM: As soon as a person gets addicted and obsessed with the term “like”, do you agree this starts the process of them losing their sense of self?

GS: Yes. My generation and my culture are transitioning into this world. I have friends and you see they are posting how great their lives are. They are putting more attention and emphasis in living their avatar vs. their real life. Their avatar seems to be a mess. It is the message we are sending. I know girls, Instagram models and YouTubers who live or portray this fantasy. People are looking at this and think everything looks so good. This person’s life looks perfect.

 The message that is presented to followers makes them compare what they see posted with their own lives and think their own life is not that great in comparison. These people who post are not that great either. They are not showing you their struggle.  Followers will not see that their rent is due, or that they did not book the job this month, or a sponsorship for this month, or even that their sponsorship numbers are down. Everything that they portray reflects a false positivity.

If you do not tell these kids that there are negative aspects to certain situations and struggles, that we are all the same, and that there are ups and downs to life, then they are going to feel less about themselves. While developing this project, I knew people who said they hated going on Instagram because it upset their day. Meanwhile they were still logging on and liking the content. Then I asked: “Why does it upset your day?” The response was that they feel all these other people are living better lives than they are. This in itself is a social problem that we are going to have to start dealing with.

ATM: Many people have witnessed the downfall of those who are in the limelight. This meaning that when they get into an emotional situation, these situations make them get into drugs, addicted to alcohol, and sometimes go as far as to commit suicide. So, if the non-entertainment viewers are receiving this information, why do people still want it? In addition, how did you work to show this in your character Lil Tito?

GS: It is a simple story of every musician, but now it is on the Internet. It shows someone who gets instant gratification and instant success. At the same time, he gets manipulated, he is not himself and he indulges into an image. The image he becomes takes over everything. The same beats that created him came to get him and he could not deal with it. You see these struggles. The moral of the movie touches on a lot of basics. Everything that shines is not what it seems at first.

We are in a world where everything is not as it appears for it to be seen. Sometimes you just be yourself. It might be cool to read these stories that show that an artist you liked had a rough day. This way people can relate to these stories. The Lil Tito character shows flawlessness in making decisions and choosing attention all the time while putting so much emphasis on the audience’s attention.

There is also a moral for artists. For them to work on their craft, to forget about just trying to seek influence, power and attention, or to seek being on the top of the trend. Work in your craft. The quality of element, of music and entertainment is also getting lost with a lot of artists. We are in this fast-paced world that just keeps requesting content. It is saved and heard, but then audiences immediately ask: Ok. What’s next? This alone is very tiring for an artist. We are not in a day and age when an artist drops albums every two years. Now, especially in Hip-Hop, when you drop your album, you need to have another album or people will lose interest in you.

ATM: Artists are on contract. A lot of their contracts require a certain about of albums. Some fans are not aware of this. Typically, when putting out the album people listen to it, then three weeks later the fans want more.

GS: This is exhausting for an artist. This culture also creates this aspect of an artist who now says they are going to record every day. They are going to out whatever they record. This does not have any development. Before, artists used to play a song, work on it, tweak it, and redo the verses. Now artists are in a situation where they record in the afternoon and pop it out in the evening. This is what the monster of the Internet wants. We are feeding it. There are old traditions from the music industry about the manipulation of an artists and how they make them change who they are.

The story is about being yourself and the consequences of losing yourself.  It all deals with the Internet and with the classic issues in our society. Young kids are so impressionable. We need to understand that image does not mean anything. I would love to see artists say it is okay to have a tough day, but after it’s all done, you get up the next day. It is okay to lose your money because now, as a result, you have learned a lesson: When you get the check, you invest.

Instead, we just see splurging. “I got this Lamborghini. I got these jewels. I just bought my dog $150, 000.00 dog collar.” This is not tangible or real. It is tough when you sell this image.

ATM: Some artists skip steps to live for the fans or live for what is out there. They do not want to become scared to think no one is going to like them or that they are not staying up to date. This strips the authenticity and the substance. All you really are doing is putting out a beat.

GS: This is what we are talking about. We talked with producers. I have a lot of music guys in the movie. We are picking up a lot of stuff with DJ’s in New York. We touched base on it. The movie is very fun, but we do have a serious message that we do address in it. We are in a day and age where we constantly have to produce. I always believed on following one’s dreams and passions. Put your content out there, hustle and grind. Do not lose sight of the content or lose sight of who you are. We should never lose sight of who we are. We should not be scared to be ourselves. We should not pretend that if you are from this neighborhood you will get more shout outs, or you will get more influence and dominance. We have to shoot the effects of this and the effects of how you get so far.

We are in a culture where everybody believes that whatever you say is fine. You can say anything on the Internet and that is fine. We are also starting to see that there are consequences and that your actions do have consequences. There are a lot of artist that brag about what they have and all of a sudden, they get their houses robbed. This is an example of a true consequence, because you have to be knowledgeable about being in entertainment and having a show to put on. You also have to be real when you talk to people. To tell them: “This is sometimes not all of what it seems. We worked really hard to get this and have had to constantly promote on the Internet to move forward.”

My character Lil Tito loses himself. An avatar is what he perceived to be his identity. All he did was work for this avatar and eventually these decisions have consequences and he have to face them.

ATM: Have you ever lost yourself subconsciously and embodied a fake persona?

GS: Yes. I came young to Los Angeles. I had a three-picture-deal with Paradigm by age 26. You do lose perspective because you get caught up in it. You get sad when you lose everything. You do not know how to cope with it. You see your friends moving forward and you feel like a loser. This starts building these insecurities in you. You start valuing yourself differently. You have to learn that everyone’s path is different. I learned that, and I am going to take these loses and make myself stronger. It has made me stronger with everything I have done. It has taught me new lessons. It has opened my heart to artistically be free and love the art of what I am doing. What people perceive it, or how much money this product makes, or how many views it gets is not under my control. My job is to do the best that I can; to put the message out there and have the fun I want to have with it. I did lose sight of myself. Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. This is what happened for me.  

ATM: I just had an epiphany. When a person is infused into the limelight, embodying this fake persona, do they see this fake persona? Or do they see their real life when looking at their reflection?

GS: I believe there is a person that we know that is our complete 100% truth. We hide a piece of ourselves. There is something about us that we do not want to let out. A lot of people dealing with entertainment now are more guarded and hiding this thing in themselves. When they start, people take it out. I am not talking about everyone, but everyone is different. I am just showing a trend. I know artists that are very secure in what they are doing. It comes from experience. Some people are just naturals. We all must deal with identity issues and insecurities. Look at how many memes are out there. “Love yourself.” There is truth to this. Instead of just saying this, you need to really analyze what this means.

There is going to be a point in time when everyone must face this. You will eventually face it as an artist. You will eventually face it as a human being. The problem is that we are not teaching this to the culture. We post this picture, take a selfie; we get some ‘likes’, look sexy, then check to see how many ‘likes’ and views we get. The record labels do not care if the music is soulful. Someone like Jill Scott or The Roots could not get a record deal today. It would be impossible because we are looking at the streams and the internet. When looking at streams and clicks the numbers are what get signed.

You start losing a little bit of the soul. Decisions are being made on this. It is a catch 22 that we are dealing with. I think they see themselves and a little bit of what they morphed into. They are changing their appearances. They are tattooing their face now. This is cool while you are young, but what happens when you are 40 with tattoos on your face? You don’t think when you are young. I did not think either as a teenager. You do not think far ahead into your future like you might reach 29 or 30. “I am going to put some tattoos on my face. This is the image. This is cool.”

When we were shooting this character on Hollywood Boulevard there were so many young kids coming up to me saying: “I like your look. I feel your look.” It is crazy. I felt like I dressed up in this character and with so much element. People rocked to it because it is all image. There are certain artists out there who are more accepting of who they are. There are more people chasing an idea of an image or who they want to be.

ATM: Everyone in any entity in entertainment goes through this stage. This could even be the business side. Some do not come out of it. If you look very close, then you can almost put a partition to see the ones who have come out of it versus the ones who have not. You came out of it, but some do not get this.

GS: I agree with you. There is so much fun and crazy stuff happening on the Internet. We like to see the turned up, the wild, and the hilarious. We play on this. We are putting out a message. I am not saying who you have to be or what you have to be. I am just showing you what happens in my movie. There is a consequence. There is a consequence when you lose yourself. You can play this metaphor so many times. It is not just in your career, it is in your life. It is in how you deal with your family, loved ones and girlfriend. I know girls that have lost relationships and friendships because it is so important for them to post. There is this obsession with constantly getting attention and what this means. This means more to them than a human relationship.

Director/Writer Joe Penna Talks ‘Arctic’ and Survival

ATM: How does a human being going into the unknown make them more comfortable with life?

JP: This is a great question. I like this and have never been asked this before. In the beginning, I tried to place our character Overgård in a place he was comfortable and where he had a routine. There was no energy to try to deviate from the routine. Any deviations could spell out his death. I did this a long as I could in the film and tried to set up this pattern in the beeping of the watch so that it becomes this rhythm of his life. We strip away his humanity. He does not get this back until there is a different human presence there. Until there is this chance, he is going to be saved. His emotions are what returns to him.

ATM: What is your perspective on the main character figuratively becoming his own authority figure?

JP: There is so much of this film that relies on his internal conflict inside of his own head. You see him wonder sometimes out loud. “Should I take the three-day path or the five-day path? The five-day path is somewhat closer. Should I do this, or should I do that?” There is not anyone to bounce anything off of. In fact, in an earlier version of the screenplay we did. We made him have his own internal dialogue where he was talking to himself out loud a little more, so you could kind of understand what is going through his head. This is not the version of the script we ended up because Mads does so much with just a look. To me, it is a little bit more interesting trying to figure out what he is thinking through his actions.

ATM: Do you believe this wondering stem from his internal or external side? Which do you think makes this decision?

JP: So many of his decisions are predicated on expending the minimal amount of effort. Especially since every step is treacherous in this setting. How does he get from A to B? He does not have anyone to bounce this off or any way to exposit out loud.  It’s interesting to me to have the audience try to figure out what is happening.

ATM: When a film has the two genres of drama and thriller intertwined with each other, how does this manipulate how the viewer sees the film narrative?

JP: It is interesting because I do not see it as a thriller label. I see it as an escalation of difficulty for him; more of a survival drama. I suppose it is riding the line, but far closer to the dramatic side of things.

ATM: What does the beginning scenes exhibit about the ways a human would move through life or what they would need to move through life?

JP: There is a moment early on where he is looking at a picture, he found on her. He sees that she is a mother and has a little child. I think he understands that hers is not going to be the only life he is going to impact. I can imagine a scenario where he waits for a rescue crew, they don’t come, and she dies. If he were to then be saved, no one would blame him. Everyone would say that it’s okay that he stayed in his plane… but I don’t think he could live with himself after this. He thought two or three steps ahead and thought, “I have to do this not only for her sake but also for my own.”

ATM: What is true in a person that makes it through a survival experience?

JP: Our will to live is our most basic instinct. This is the driving force behind everything that we do, not only humans but everything that fights to stay alive. Everything that is alive wants to survive. This is why I wanted to tell this story – because it is so easy to understand this instinct.

ATM: On the 18th day out of 19 days of shooting, what new epiphanies and findings did you have about the film narrative or the main character?

JP: We came up with a back story for him. I came up with one, and my co-writer came up with another. Mads came up with a completely different backstory. We did not use any of them. We never wanted this to come through in the film. We tried to impart as little characterization on him and to only judge what he does in the moment. As opposed to what got him there, or where he came from. It does not matter if he is a pilot, a co-pilot, a researcher, or if he was knocked out in San Diego and woke up in the Arctic. He is still somebody who is going above and beyond for someone he does not know. He is inherently a good person. This is what makes us care about him. Our character cares for someone he barely knows – and hopefully that’s how we feel about him, too. The audience doesn’t know much about his backstory, but hopefully they’re invested in his struggle.

ATM: As the writer and director, describe the internal feeling of falling in love with storytelling and depicting it?

JP: For this particular story, I think this film is not, or at least not only, a parable of man against nature. It is about the endurance of altruism even under extreme circumstances. When we first start watching this film, our immediate fascination leaves us trying to determine what we would do if we were in the same situation as our protagonist. After that, I hope Overgård inspires us to carry a bit of his courage out of the theater with us.

Marcelo Martinessi Speaks on His Recent Film ‘The Heiresses’, Politics, and Gender.

ATM: How did you think to up rise the gender bias dynamic in your country and show it in this film?

MM: There are certain things that happen naturally in the society where you were born, but it takes you a long time to realize or analyze them. Growing up in Paraguay, as a boy, you are expected to be confident, to know all the right answers. We (boys) are supposed to show no delicacy. So, I found it difficult to have a man at the heart of this film. My aim with this story was to question many things that are given in my society and to try to explore the place where I come from. That angle would need a women’s perspective, will be approached better through female characters. Maybe, I see that most men in my society are shaped by a fake security and that doesn’t give room for any vulnerability. And vulnerability was key in this film.

ATM: How does your film being female dominated manipulate a male viewer’s observation?

MM: Perhaps the same thing might be happening to you when watching a film from Paraguay. It does not belong to your culture. It shows you other angles of life or a different sense of humor, other ways of behaving that many of you might not be familiar with. It is still the film I wanted to make. And it allows people to explore worlds that are culturally, sexually and age wise away from their comfort zone. It’s beautiful for me to see, for example, a 22-year-old straight man talking about the film and saying lovely things about it. Film affects us in different ways. I always try to present it as a universal story told through a lesbian woman. Many people who have different life experiences can still feel connected to Chela’s aspiration in the film, they can also connect to the desire of breaking from barriers. I always say that one of the starting points in the film was the feeling of confinement in Paraguay. As well as the strong class system.

ATM: When have you been pushed out of your comfort zone? How did you continue to deal with this?

MM: That’s a good question. Most of the time you learn a lot more when you are pushed out of your comfort zone. In 2010, I started working as Executive Director of the first Public Television in my country, during the only time in recent history when we had a progressive government. We created a project of communication with a public spirit. At that time, I felt that we were part of the construction of the country we really wanted. Most of us were excited and ‘in love’ with the idea of being Paraguayans.

But two years later a majority of the (corrupt) politicians decided to provoke a coup d’état against the president, with the support of the private media and the petit bourgeoise. So, the president was impeached and replaced by a new conservative government, belonging to the same group that ruled the country for more than 60 years.

Seen that, in order to keep their privileges, the social class I was born into supported a coup – that kicked out a democratically elected government – was very strong for me. More than abandoning my comfort zone, I would say I lost the feeling of belonging to a certain social class. It might sound difficult but at the same time, it was a moment full of excitement. I was 38 at the time. It was good because even though I lost the sense of belonging to the society where I grew up, it also opened many new possibilities. It gave me a possibility of reinventing myself and rethinking life. I lost some confidence and there was a sad side to all these. But at the same time, that moment helped me to understand the feelings of non-belonging. The Heiresses is somehow a result of that moment.

ATM: When the main characters started selling the objects of sentimental value, would you agree that this opened a new space to let them bring in more stuff?

MM: Yes. That is in a physical sense but also in a metaphorical sense. It forces the character of Chela to be exposed a bit more. It was not only about selling stuff. They lived in a very dark house and the crisis also pushed them to start opening the windows, then the breeze and the light come in. It is a moment of opening in many ways.

ATM: What is a sentimental object that you have once given away or may have lost?

MM: To tell you the truth, I have given up sentimental objects many times. Especially when I decided to get out of Paraguay because I wanted to become a filmmaker. I did sell furniture, bed and other objects I really liked in order to save money, travel to London and study cinema. So, I can easily relate to this feeling of giving away something you love. It can also be a beautiful feeling. It seems difficult but once you do it, it’s interesting. You are allowing some things to go for new things to come. Right now, I’m torn because I feel the need to sell my old 1978 Citroen. It is a car that I had for 15 to 20 years. I have to sell it because I cannot take care of it in the way I used to. Do you know the Citroen Dyane 6? It’s almost a collector’s item today and I will have to get rid of mine!

ATM: When you give up something, the universe will give you something better or more valuable in return.

MM: Yes. This is why I am not scared of doing it. Even though when you get rid of something you very much like, it feels as if there’s a part of you that goes with it. But I’ve done it many times. I’ve to move countries again and again. So, I had to get used to it, to letting things go.

ATM: What is the lifestyle or expectations of an average Asunción male?

MM: It’s a very macho society. It’s a country where men are expected to be a lot more independent, to leave the house earlier, to do whatever they want while women traditionally were expected to be taking care of house chores and needed to be very careful about any step they took. Happily, this is all changing. But there’s still a strong structural violence against women. It’s in the language and common practices of everyday life. We are a very conservative society, probably with similarities with some small town in America.

ATM: What do men do with their freedom? Do they use it in a less artistic way than a female would?

MM: I’ll try to explain myself better. Men were usually expected to support their family. So, on the one hand, the average Paraguayan men would look for a secure profession such as being a doctor, architect, or businessman, he’ll look towards traditional roles of a breadwinner father. Doing art, music, cinema is still not well seen by the older generation. For them, what we do is considered a hobby, even if we can support ourselves or our families with our work.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that the average men would always be responsible for the children he has. We have a huge number of single mothers that raise and support their children by themselves.

Ana Brun, the main actress of the film, has mentioned in many interviews that she always felt the need to postpone herself in order to support her husband in his profession or to raise her children. Now, when she is more than 60, she is finally allowed to do what she always wanted to do – which was acting -. I don’t think this is good for men or for women. Sometimes it feels like a society that wants to tag you or force you into being someone you are not. It takes some courage to break from this. Chela in the film would not usually have the courage to change, but the circumstances have put her in this specific position to rethink her own life and do something.

ATM: It seems as if women more inherently have to become selfless.  

MM: Yes, they always have to be there for other people, to abandon their dreams, or what they want, to support their husbands or families. Historically, it has happened like this, even though it is now changing. Cinema gives us a mirror and lets us rethink our roles as well. Many people told Ana Brun at the end of the film “I am looking for my car keys” which means ‘I am looking for a way out from my own prison.’ This means there are many men and women wanting to break from whatever circumstance is trapping them.

ATM: Would Asuncion be considered a third world country to you?

MM: I do not know what the idea of a third world country really is. Especially when it comes to people in the film.  Chela and Chiquita belong to a world where they probably live in a similar way then they would live in Kansas City. They have a car and they have all the means that a person in America would have. If you’re rich in America, you might also have maids, people serving you, have a gardener, etc. So, you have helps doing things for you that probably in a first world country it would be very difficult to afford. We have been fighting for a long time for the right of domestic workers. They get a very low payment for many working hours. They are exploited by the system for not having the means to survive. And their world (house, food, access to clean water, education, health system) is closer to what is conventionally called ‘third world’.

ATM: They are exploited by the higher class. This sort of fits into the term Karl Marx supported called relations of production. This is the domestic workers or the proletariat getting exploited by the aristocrats or the rich.

MM: In a Marxist logic, the means of production in my country are only owned by a very low percentage of the people, the ruling class. Our wild political history did not give us the sensibleness to discuss and change that. In addition, we do not have a strong or a solid middle class. So, the case has always been: a ruling class that exploits, and a working class that is exploited. And even today, the fight for worker’s rights is still not well understood.

ATM: This term was used to show the relationship between the people who own the means of production and those who do not who are the domestic workers. It shows how the ownership of the production is systemically used to exploit the domestic workers or the working class. They become used to it and they do not consciously realize they are being exploited.

MM: We did not have a revolution like 1917 Russia. Our country still needs a huge transformation. We need to rethink our social order. I was talking earlier about the 2012 Paraguayan coup d’état. It had to do with the fact that the country’s ruling class will not allow any government to take their privileges away. So, today, the rich still pay fewer taxes, they exploit their ill-gotten lands without any problem. Basically, no one cares.

ATM: I see why the coup d’état was started. The people aside from the ruling class had no power. It sounds like people are in power because of nepotism or red taping. This is sometimes the avenues as to how and why a coup d’état gets staged. Sounds like people are mishandling the government for various reasons. I do not think a lot of people over here in American knows of this.

MM: The United States has been a strong influence and one of the reasons why we could not have positive changes in Latin America. The dictatorships of our sub-continent historically had a strong support from the USA. Torturers from the Paraguayan police came to learn their lessons in America. So, we have always been very connected to America in many ways. I don’t know if that is known or not by the average citizens in the US. Today, America is still strong but has less control in our region, compared to the 70s and the 80s.

ATM: How did your hometown regain its social structure or go back to normal after the coup d’état was staged?

MM: Hmm. People do not realize it. Most of the country isn’t self-critical and doesn’t have the means to analyze what is happening. 98% of the population just continued with their lives. They have to worry about everyday chores, surviving, business, or earning money. So, they can only see political matters from a distance. And the media doesn’t help, keeping an agenda too close to their own interests. If we can help a bit from the arts: photography, painting, literature, or cinema, maybe we should aim at finding a way to rethink what happened in our recent history, or even in our history.

ATM: It would take people living where you are to know about their history and to become educated. I would assume your society should educate people to know what exactly is going on. It is important. You chose two lesbians, why did you choose two lesbians? I understand you wanted to make a female presence in the film, but why two lesbians and not two female friends who were just close together?

MM: For me, it wasn’t an issue. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a story about aging and an economic crisis. They could be sisters or friends. Considering their age, I thought it wasn’t going to be a scandal in Paraguay to portray their relationship as natural. But it was.  Two women who have been living together – I always use the phrase ‘as a fading couple’ – and they are no longer passionate about each other. The awakening of desire was new and key for one of them. This was one of the many things that will happen to this woman, besides feeling confident about doing a bit of work, earning a bit of money, and being a bit more independent. It was not well received in Paraguay because Chela and Chiquita are lesbians. But, at the same time, if we never force a bit the fundamentalist limitations of certain audiences, I don’t think we can ever make interesting films, and nothing is ever going to change. It was natural for me to have a female couple at the center of the film, and I’m glad we did it that way.

ATM: How would you express the black race and immigrant presence in Asunción?

MM: Our racial issues have a lot to do with the class system and are kept underneath the surface. It’s awful to realize that many people want to see themselves separate from their racial or class origins. It’s a society where today, the only and main parameter to measure people is money.

People do not care where you get your money from. We had drug dealers becoming presidents. If you have the money, you can buy almost everything. In recent years, a man that comes from an obscure background bought the main political party to become president. And he was president for five years! Politicians are at the service of anyone who has money. It does not matter where it comes from.

ATM: Are white people dominant in Paraguay like in America?

MM: No, It’s people with money. There is no racial issue when it comes to power. It does not matter if it comes from a dirty business, drugs or corruption. It is just whoever has money.

There is supposed to be a democratic government. But when it comes to real politics, the dominance always has to do with money.

ATM: It seems like the government is more so through monetary nepotism. The true depiction or authenticity of what a high political figure is sometimes scraped away, and it is replaced here with the dominant trait of money. The media does not concentrate on this. The average American would not know what has happened or is happening.

MM: Of course. It has to do with American international policies that you guys do not really know. Perhaps because they’re government’s secret issues. America begins wars, but people have no idea why. This is the decision of politicians and the country’s elite. I do not think the decisions are ever made by people in America.

Producer David Joseph Craig Discusses ‘Boy Erased’

ATM: Explain both of your roles in the film.

David: He works at the facility of Love and Action. He is a militant got converted. He has been through the program himself and brought 100% into the program. He believes he has changed and wants everyone else to get turned. My characters the others should live and die by the rules of Love and Action. He is the militant one of the facilities. As the co-producer, I have worked with Joel for nine years. I got to see this project from the ground. I got to see him prep it from him getting the book and reading through drafts with him. It has been a whirlwind experience from seeing a movie from its flesh to its eventual birth. 

ATM: How does this film give us a view of homosexuality in males? 

David: A lot of our performers are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. The sensitivity of getting close to the material was telling a story that was a part of a memoir.  The book described the true story of a man’s life. We were honoring this. Regarding it talking about a homosexual man, it also spoke about what Garret said in his own words. The message of the film is that there is no fill in. A lot of what was done by these parents and by the program to these kids specifically was done out of love.

Even though it was harmful to him, it was done out of love. The one exact message we want to get out it is to respect the love of an individual regardless of them being gay, straight, or what gender that identifies. It is about love and listening. If we are able to preach this message in a real way, then talking about homosexual would not be a thing in the mainstream, but a normal thing.

ATM:  How could another real person going through this event see themselves in this film? How could they be more comfortable in their identity?

David: The major issue is that a lot of these therapies are in remote areas in the country that have no another outlet to other ways of thinking. I am not speaking for all. Majority of these conversion therapy facilities are within the church community where the church is the lifeline of the community. Unfortunately, there is no huge access to other information. If your community is telling you something is wrong with you, then it is tough to decide this is not the truth. The lucky part is that we have some big hands with Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman in showing this film in areas where it would unusually get seen

The author Garret and I partnered up with Radiolab and created a podcast that dives into the history of conversion therapy. We also have a website. I thought conversion therapy was this backward thing that happened before the 50s. It was more about the physical things happening to these kids. Now, it is much more mental and emotional. Getting this information is a way for them to levitate some of the stress. We must give people options. A lot of times you do not have options because of where you are. 


ATM: How could we see the love of a parent regarding their child as they go through this event?

David: I can only say this from my own situation. There is a lot of ignorance, and a lot of parents chose to parent because it just happens upon them. These are certain elements where people do not know how they will parent. When they become a parent, and they just do the best they can for who they are around. The lesson like situations in this story is the truly understand and listen to your children in what they want and protect them. This is how I would parent. In this idea, their way of protecting their child is sending him to conversion camp because the world around tells them this is what they need to do. If they listen to their kids, then the protection is from this world they are putting him in. A parent could get a sense of listening to what your kid needs and protecting them from the things they do not need.

Julien Landais Talks the Romanticism Period, Paris Culture & More

ATM: How would you express the moment when your modern day thinking of today’s period intertwines with the thinking of the period piece?

JL: Human nature does not really change even though we have different eras. Some of them are suppressed and others are open. We live in a world where it is more periods than it has ever been. It is weird, but it is history. I was drawn to the story and characters because it was done in Europe. Henry James said he had the idea of the story when living in Florence. I wanted people to understand what was behind the story that Henry James was saying but did not want to go too far. It was a very cinematic story. It is harder to do period pieces. It is kind of a miracle that we did it at all.

ATM: How did you observe the way in which Henry James embedded imprisonment in the story?

JL: It was a very difficult period. All of these characters feel kind of imprisoned. We can feel the constant spur for more. This is with the three main characters in The Aspern Papers. They knew it was original. It was in Washington Square. You have the double climax in the end. They find marriage and love. This could speak to so many people today with love and relationships.

ATM: What elements of expressing love do you feel has shattered from our perspective of love today?

JL: People are not writing as much nowadays. Love letters were popular during the time because of the Romantic period. There is incredible sexual freedom nowadays. We still love in remnants of the 19th century. Mixing marriage and love was not the case before. It is very pervasive to our modern society.  Before Romanticism marriage was of interest, but it was not loved like it is today.

ATM: Explain the reality of love that transpires through typical storytelling.

JL: We all want love, but when we do have it, then what is there to do with it? It is sustainable. I love Henry James because he asks questions but does not give answers. I do not think anyone has answers. Sort of like the Hollywood romantic comedies we have seen that is changing now. Happily, ever after is a great dream. We need to have it and everyone has it, but is it a reality? He asks questions and then everyone can make his own answers. I try to do this in the film. I am a bit more explicit than he is.

ATM: What was the mentality of the people living in the Romantic era?

JL: It was different. Henry James was not the Romantic era, but you can embody it. They were much passionate, expressive, and longing for this type of love. Romanticism was violent. People wanted to get back to the rough ages and middle ages. It was the time of the Napoleonic Wars. There was a sense of everything was possible after the Revolutionary War. It was very idealistic at the same time. This is the way they expressed their love. Their love lives were very cruel.

ATM: This version of love was stripping away the fantasy in front of people.

JL: There was a lot of this in the love letters. It was much expressed this way. In reality yes.

ATM: It was more so seen in literature such as romantic letters. Now, it is more expressed physically.

JL: They were inspired by the letters sort of like music. They were much sexualized through this.

ATM: A modern version of a romance letter is texting. Back then you could see the ink smudges. The crippled-up marks on the paper where their tears once laid.

JL: Times have changed for sure. It is accelerating in our 21st century world. It is a new version of it.

ATM: How would they have responded to texting?

JL: The poets? They would have been like everyone and still written books. It would be something like the Mick Jagger letter. The early music composers made music but it was very visual. It is an equivalent of these people these days. It is subjective to the times. The rhythms of different eras.

ATM: If texting went away and romance letters came back, then how would this change the current era of love being shared?

JL: Technology and the media. It is about the notion of time and how people relate to time. People do not take the time to discover others and think there are so many possibilities. This is the problem today with all these dating apps. People swipe these days. You do not get to explore all the great human beings. They do not get trapped, but at the time they did not have the choice. People can move on more easily. People can escape more easily without any means.

ATM: Would you agree that you are a cinematic poet with how you direct movies?

JL: This is because some of these things I have personally lived. I hope through cinema I touch people. Even if is a few people. I am a classical musician as well, a pianist. I want to appeal to people through people and also the visual elements.

ATM: Any relations to the main characters in the film?

JL: Yes of course. I would not say I identify with one of the characters, but all three in some ways. It is the same for Henry James. We have all been in this situation. It is never the same level of love. People respond to love differently.

ATM: What does the air showcase about love in Paris?

JL: The walls are beautiful. You can feel it when walking out at night. It is very romantic.

ATM: You feel the love through the air?

JL: Yes. It is a beautiful city full of mystery. It is great to listen to music and write.  

ATM: If you feel it through the air, then the art that is from renowned artists, the love is still repressed in their artwork. What does this air of love feel like?

JL: Yes, definitely. It inspires you. It makes you feel connected to people who have the same feelings. We are social creatures, so we need to relate to others. There is a responsibility through the art. You can feel in amongst human beings much more in New York. There are more socializing people than French people.

ATM: You believe New York people are more likely to socialize than people living in France.

JL: Yes. They are not as open in the French society compared to the American society. The language is more internal and less emotional. My music friends think about it like this as well. In English, it is similar, and you stretch the syllables. In French, the language creates a disconnect from emotion. You feel it amongst the people the way they express it.

ATM: What is the remedy? How do you all create expression through language?

JL: I have been living and studying in America for some time. I travel and meet people from all kinds of worlds. It enriches you, makes you more open, and able to express yourself. The world we live in goes faster. Even with social media. You meet people and there was not a way to speak before. This is great. You get to meet people all over the world and gain different perspectives about cultures. This is what people are afraid of in the world we live in nowadays. We have never communicated as much and shared as much. People are withdrawn because things go to fast. People would adapt. In the first revolution, we went from monarchs to republics. Society changed and now we are going into something else. People cannot live disabled from the world from others. It is too late. You can build walls. People want to preserve culture, and this is a good time. We are looking at what is different and singular about our time.

ATM: How would you observe the Honore Balzac’s term Rastignac as used in French society?

JL: Yes. Rastignac. This means ambition. It is the person that is willing to sacrifice and end everything to succeed. He is the architect of ambition and was a young ambitious fictional male character. This is pretty lost in French society. France is a country that does not value ambition culturally like Americans. It has been like this for the last 200 years.

ATM: So, you would agree that people of the American culture have adapted more of the tendencies of the French originated term Rastignac?

JL: Definitely. Ambition is not a bad word in America, but it is in France.

ATM: If you do not look toward ambition like Americans, then what do you all look towards?

JL: It is the normal level of ambition to be able to succeed, do better, and achieve things. This is exciting and the adventure of life. Ambition is an English word. This is not in France anymore.

ATM: America has the term ‘The American Dream’. What is the ‘Paris Dream’?

JL: This is a complicated question. You can speak for the whole nation. People do not know what they want especially right now. They are caught between two worlds because of communication.  I always felt in Paris that whenever you had a dream it was considered impossible. You always heard things were always impossible. This is true because of our culture. I felt this as a teenager and still today. People in America are more willing to give people a chance. When you fail, you fail. People try. They do not in France. It comes with so many things from the huge administration. It is much slower. It is in all fields of life. Everything is connected of course.

ATM: The typical thing in America is everyone wants to become a millionaire and to become famous. It was not like this 50 years ago. People more so looked to survive. Especially during the Civil Rights era.

JL: It is the same thing in France. It is a part of human nature, but we do not say it in France. It is kept a secret. They want to but do not say it like you all. It is a derogatory word in France. They do not say what they want, but they only say what they do not want. Not all people but the majority hold it in.

ATM: You just released a film. Do you go home and say nothing?

JL: I have some friends who knows. People are different. It is not the same as in American though. People know me but I would not say I am a celebrity.

ATM: If you are in a store, is someone more likely to ask for your autograph?

JL: Yes, but it is done more discreetly. People are less expressive over than in America. Natalie Portman would say people here are not complimentary. When she came back to America, she was in an elevator with a child. A woman came to her to give a compliment and she had forgotten how it felt. It felt so good. She had been living in Paris for a few years and had spoken about it.

ATM: And everyone wants to go to Paris.

JL: It is a very beautiful and good city. Living here is something else. Haha. It is very different.

ATM: Do you consider yourself a Rastignac?

JL: No, because I am not willing to end anything to succeed. I have a normal deal of ambition. I am not ready to sacrifice anything for a higher level of ambition.

ATM: Why?

JL: Because of the feelings and my love life is very important. I want to keep a balance to keep the ideal thing. I am ambitious of course but to a certain point.

ATM: Are you not willing to embark on the sacrificing part of it?

JL: To sacrifice everything for this? No. It would be bad because life is too short. I have a normal deal of it. When I started doing my film, everyone told me it was impossible, and it would never get done. They would never say yes. You will not get to do it. You will never get the financing to do it. I just followed my instinct and met the right people. The only person that did not tell me I would not manage to do the film was James Ivory. He was very supportive and knew how hard it was to do period pieces. I did not tell you, but I did not think it would manage after doing the film. I did not listen to the people who told me not to do it. It is here and it did. People are very happy. I fought for it. It was a real war. There is a creative part, but cinema is also related to politics and business in many ways. The reality of this makes it a war and a fight.

Antjuan Ward: ‘Differences’ on Male Perception & Gender Bias in Relationships

Antjuan Ward is the co-creator of the Miami Independent Film Festival Officially Selected Series Differences. The series highlights how people are asked to process and react emotionally, mentally, and socially to certain events/situations that occur in their lives. Derrick Peters, along with his friends Malcolm, DeShawn and Ralph struggle to tackle various issues within themselves, those around them, and who they choose to be with. Ward talks about not only looking in the mirror but how each gender should see differences in their actions.

ATM: Why do you believe you are a force to be reckoned with your talent?

AW: Sometimes it is good to master one thing. It’s also good in our society and our community that you are a jack of all trades. That person can help guide the people that needs to master one thing in the right direction. I am not only a director, but I write, produce, and act sometimes. That’s just on the film side of things but I am also on the music side. I am good at songwriting, producing music, and rapping if need be. There are not a lot of people who can say they do all of this at a quality level. I make sure that no matter what happens, the foundations of my work always has quality. This has come with a certain work ethic behind it. I work hard to study my craft, be a part of the craft, and make sure it is up to a certain standard and acceptable to a lot of people.

ATM: What do you believe is so special about black love?

AW: I think it is because of how unique it is, which makes it different. Black love has to come with a certain type of acceptance of flaws in society. I have to understand that the black woman is the MOST underappreciated woman in society. As a black man, this is a must to be understood. I have to show you that not only are you appreciated over here, but you are more than what society says you are, and I have to stand by this. When I end up loving someone this shows. This raises the black woman up in her confidence and has value in herself and in society. Also, it is reflected on us black men because of how we are treated in society and in the
media. When you can put this confidence in someone else, it’s so easy going. I can feel like I can handle everything out here because of her and what she does. This is why black love is important because you do not get this from what I see as white love. This is just love and regular love. You might deal with things in your personal life, whether you have hardships in your life, but not the societal side of it.

ATM: Do you think it is both parties being naïve to accept the imperfections between one another? Do you think this naivety is what holds them together before getting to the stage of realizing no one is perfect?

AW: It is a little bit of being naïve, but also not trusting. You do not know the person to display all your flaws. You think they might judge you or not understand where you are coming from. Maybe the communication is not there both verbal and nonverbal. This beginning spark of the relationship is trying to see can this person really understand who I really am. This is where you bring in the representation of who I kind of am. It is easy to take this, and I can slowly show you who I am. If you can take this, then obviously the love grows from there.  

ATM: Once the two parties get to know each other beyond the looks and the material stuff, I feel as though their love is one the route of becoming unbalanced.

AW: So, once they show you who they are, it becomes unbalanced?

ATM: For example, I would assume the two characters Tiffany and Derrick in your web series
‘Differences’ were happy in the beginning. There love is on a different level just by looking at it. I would say the more you get to know someone in the relationship this makes the love unbalanced.

AW: I see what you are saying. There is always a tipping scale in a relationship. You try to get it down as much as possible. Not to tip it, so it weighs too much on one side. These are two different people. They will definitely have some commonalities, but the differences are what makes us different. The things I could accept about you and the things you could accept about me are just different. The resulting process, the way you move, and how you act. These are the things that make me ask “can I accept this thing.”

ATM: Derrick hit on a great point about the unbalance in any culture or race. He says something along the lines of “When have you ever took me out?” This is the stereotype of the man is the giver and the woman are the receiver. Even if the man imposes on an idea of asking “When will you take me out?” “When are you going to buy me something?” “When are you going to buy me flowers?”

AW: This is a good point. You get comfortable a lot of times while in a relationship. Let’s say this from a male perspective. If you have never had a good man and suddenly you get one, then you are going to get comfortable in receiving what a good man gives you. Sometimes you say, “Oh, shit I have not taken him out. I have not massaged his back when he came from work. He has been doing this for me. I have just been enjoying and receiving it.” From his perspective, he is like, “You have not really done these things for me as well. Where is the 50/50 here?”
Sometimes with this complacency comes a lack of love. You are like “here I am doing all these things for you and you are not doing these things for me.”

This happens a lot in relationships where the man is the giver and not the receiver. Does this happen vice versa? 100%. You feel if a man does not have a good woman and then gets a good woman, then he does not understand “I should be doing something helpful for her and show her my appreciation as well.” This is something I hope based on this series will start a conversation with a lot of relationships. “I should do more for my man because he does more for me and vice versa.”

ATM: This should get changed or modified in the relationship culture. Sometimes this happens, but it needs to be more celebrated. Men should be pampered as well as women. It would take each party to know the true compassion, worth, love and value of one another.

AW: I agree. I know the feeling of “We have been going on dates and I have been paying. Suddenly you say oh there is no big deal.” The woman should say “Oh, are you free today? I should take you out.” The guy would say, “Oh, you took a whole day out for me?” It is just a better feeling and it does matter.

ATM: When some men get into a real relationship that is not defined with appearance, he knows
whether he will marry her or not. The woman should not pressure him.

AW: It is some truth to this. When you are with a girl and it is good, and it feels good, you want to do so much for her. You know the way it is going. You tell your friends “She is good.” You know as long as things do not get left that this will go right. Sometimes you just know. Most of it is that you have a good inkling about it. You feel this is probably the one. It feels right and different than the other ones. Because it feels different, this is probably the one I will probably end up with.

ATM: Some men are more passive toward the topics of marriage and engagements. They do not talk about it openly like women. You always see in the film, T.V, or in general, the women thinking and saying stuff about marriage.

AW: We are more so simple. I am not saying women are complex creatures. It is simply the idea of “I want to buy a home for you. I want to have children. I want to be with you. I understand the cultures of marriage. You want to have a great marriage. You sign these papers then you are married.” For example, when you are dating a guy and he starts calling you his “girl.” He has already made up in this mind you are his girl. No title is going to make a difference. This is it. “My actions are not going to be with any other girl.” He is letting all the other girls go and he is introducing you as his girl. You have made the title, but I have made the title in my mind. Then at some point in the relationship, it turns to “this is my wife.” It also comes down to certain people’s religion, beliefs, and faiths. We just understand that we want to get married. Women fantasize. A lot of people think the wedding day is the woman’s day and not really the man’s day. “We are here. I am happy to be here with you. I am spending a lot of money.” A lot of marriages that have been together for 15 or 20 years got married at the Justice of the Peace. “We spent our money on things that matter. The house and paying off our debts. It is cool. We can have a little reception at the house inviting friends and family over. We were already married, but we just made it official.”

ATM: I am not a guy, so express the feelings of when you have ever received butterflies because of a woman.

AW: Aw, man. It is different for guys in every situation. Sometimes it can be a smile. This could be it. The lady can just be looking at you and you are like “Oh, yes. This is the one. I love this smile.” It could be a situation where you are out with a girl, having drinks and laughing. She goes, “Babe, I got you.” He goes, “Oh you got me!” He feels special. I tell a lot of women that, “You do not have to cook or clean for me. I can do this for myself. But if you do, then you’re winning. Now, I do not have to do as much.” You are already adding to my life. For a guy, it is nothing better to wake up smelling breakfast. It is not just you’re cooking. You got up out of the bed and you thought about me. This gesture alone feels good. It is different moments when you feel butterflies. “She really likes me.” If I am randomly having a bad day, then you just initially start rubbing my back. You got me like this. These things tell us “This girl is really rocking with
me.”

ATM: In relationships, the guy could be doing everything right, but the girl leaves or cuts off contact. I feel the female is afraid of love. When two parties have a connection, it is often described as an internal feeling. We might not have the right words in our dictionary to even describe the feeling. The female is afraid of it. When you go into the stage of love, you are figuratively ripping off the clothes to your feelings. You are potentially metaphorically naked. You can get hurt.

AW: It is a mixture of being afraid of love and commitment. This is one. Then you start realizing they are missing something you knew you wanted but you kind of put it away, to the side. Now it is starting to magnify. Maybe that something that you used to value is the one thing you are missing. Maybe you are being petty. Maybe he is doing everything right in a general sense, but not in a specific sense. It could be something about not taking care of the house, you are not cheating, you are not lying to me, but the sex is not good. Even with this, “why can’t you sit back and watch a movie with me? Why can you not ask how my day was? You make sure I am good, but you do not talk enough.” This could be it.

ATM: Women talk a good game about men among their friends but get nervous once they are in front of a guy. They get nervous. They do not want to make the mess up.

AW: This is also true. Maybe they think the guy is not good for them, and they are not enough. “I was dealing with a messed-up dude. I have not gotten over yet. He does not deserve this.” This comes down to one of the premises of our web series, which is communication or the lack thereof. I need to know while dating you where your mind is at. What is something that you were dealing in your past that you have not gotten over yet? I am with you with for four or five years. I go in front of a counselor and now I am hearing stuff that I have never heard. I am a firm believer of making your environment comfortable for someone to talk to you. “Why did you not tell me this?” Maybe I did not make it comfortable enough or you were not comfortable to talk with me about it. “Why did we have to wait for a third party to get involved?” I am not saying therapy is wrong because it does work. There are a lot of things we should be discussing in the house. I should not sit back and get used to negative emotions. I should sit back to hear
you out. “What is actually wrong?” “What is on your mind?” “Where are you at? No, where are you at?”

I enjoyed this and had fun.

A Child’s Life in a War Zone: ‘The Distant of Barking Dogs’

Monica Hellstorm serves as the producer in The Distant of Barking Dogs. This film has recently made its way on the banter as a 2019 Oscar Contender for Best Documentary Feature. She opens up about her experience of watching children live in a war zone and see this type of living as normal. Hellstorm mentions how children’s reactions are portrayed, which is what the film touches on.

ATM: Express the family’s reaction when visiting New York compare to living in Ukraine.

M: It is a real difference. This is the most amazing experience for them. For them to have this chance to come to New York. For foreigners, New York is the place for human films. They had time to see the Empire State Building and other tourist places. They are overwhelmed by the experience.

ATM: Before making this film, do you believe an average person not from Europe would clearly know of the topic discussed in this film?

M: Yes, in Europe because it is happening so close. The force of the Russians role is big. Some of the reaction from the Trump people. They have had screenings in LA to understand where the conflict is. For the American audiences they know there has been something with Russia and Ukraine, but they cannot remember the exact details of how and why it happened. The focus has been to see what it means for children trapped in a war zone and grow up in the shadow of war. The particular aspect of war was not the reason we made the film. It can happen at any place in the world with children growing up and live a normal life while bombing is happening. We have made a big point in explaining too much about the war and this why this happens. We have two information signs in the film, and this is it. There is also a human story behind it.

ATM: What do you feel is the portrayal of children living in a war zone?

M: There is so much going in the world that it is hard to keep track of everything. Our focus has been to tell a universal story about the children growing up in these countries. There are many stories told here that are told in the U.S. America has followed public shows from Europe and other places around the universe.

ATM: As a producer, how did you want to bring more awareness to the children living to allow us to concretely understand their life?

M: We tried to get as close as possible. We tried to find out how to help the area in doing something in this situation. We realized it was too difficult to start something. As soon as the money moves it gets very complicated. We looked at the help of the organization in the area. We tried to point them to these organizations that already were in this area. This is also in the war and in Syria. So, the focus can be on helping children. Our main thing has been to help in the area and help the awareness of the focus on children and guide them. The film was shows how important close relationships like Oleg and his grandmother plays a real tribute to growing up. It is a healthy thing having someone in your life, caring, and protecting you in a way. . . because as a child you are still allowed to play and be a little bit aware. Also, they are aware of the dangers that are there so you can make choices in your everyday life.

ATM: How does America show children living in third world countries from your perspective?

M: It makes me sad how they live. The Western countries are so rich. There are poor countries where people cannot afford food or location. There is something wrong in the whole structure of our society and as a human being. As a mother, I want to help them and do something to make a difference. As a human being, this is how I react. There is a difference in war zones and poor countries where people are starving and how to help.

ATM: Do you believe the children’s reactions and the fact they see this as a reality is effectively projected?

M: Simon captured the real life in this area. We had many ethical discussions about this. He has been filming situations that have been dangerous. They have this hot gun shooting and Oleg gets hit in the foot. The bullet rebounded. We have discussions about how we protect them and portray real life. Simon stopped a lot of situations when going in the beginning. He was like this is too dangerous. He recognized this was their life and he must stay true to the life they lived. He filmed and went along with how they live. The film is really seen the eyes of children. It gives an understanding of what is needed to get through living in a war zone. Of course, war zones are different so I cannot talk generally about them. The way he lives in Ukraine, he would not be able to live in Syria. It is good to give love, hope, and caring while you are there. This is what is strong about the film. It is showing that love and hope that you do not get to see in other films that are about war zones and children.

ATM: What would a conversation with a child of a similar age living in a third world country converse with Oleg about?

M: They would ask about the dangers and what they have experienced. They would talk about playing football, computer screens, living with an older brother and cousin. Children do not see the bigger picture of what they are in their everyday life or the experiences of the things that surround them. They do not react to things. The grandmother stands in the situations and sees what is going on and sees the bigger pictures of where they are. Oleg is worried about reacting to seeing things and talking with his friends. If children were to speak to them, then they would ask about the war, but very quick talk about everyday life like being at school. All kids’ stuff. This is one of the best things about having children because they take it down to a different level.

ATM: What could you assess the high point of Oleg’s day?

M: Like any boy, it is having a girlfriend. You think about the girl you are liking. You play with your friends. You are afraid of what will happen when the living is going on. He lives despite the feeling. They are still trying to live a better life there. They try to make sense of the situation even though it is hard to make sense of this. They go to school and play with their friends. They hide inside when the feeling happens and become worried. They have to keep going and learning from the strength of their grandmother and how she approaches the whole thing. She is making sense of something that does not make sense.

Erika Alexander: Representing the Marginalized

Erika Alexander created and started the media platform Color Farm Media two years ago. Her goal was tackling inclusion and diversity. “Obviously, I am a black woman. It has been an issue my whole life. I wanted to make an impact on it. I think a lot of people think black people get power by getting roles. I think there is no power in black people getting roles. There is more power in changing the infrastructure. This is not only for myself but for the people coming behind me who pave the way for people to have the advantage. Color Farm Media was born.” In the birth of her media platform. There is hope for black people to have a more reliable source of looking at media that mirrors their life.

Color Farm media sets up films with Lionsgate and other film companies. The African American actor, producer, and writer mentions her creative development and process of writing graphic novels. She says, “Aside from Color Farm, I am a writer. I have written a graphic novel called Concrete Park. I recently co-wrote a graphic series. It was a spin-off from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is called Girl Blue. It was just released this year, and the collection was released in September.”

The popular actor has additional projects connected to Color Farm Media. “I also have tech a platform called Color Farm Connect.” This additional platform aims to teach people. “We are a targeted audience and creators who are of color. We need media skills to be successful in this world — there many people who do not understand that success depends on the level of their confidence. Media skills are not just communicating and writing. It is also about what you are sending out.”

Alexander’s second platform is entitled Blackness. This is a newsroom that is on an experimental platform that is made in a block chain. It is hard to explain. She continues to support the black community and wants the black community and other marginalized communities to get educated. Possessing media skills are not easy to come upon and will help anyone become a better well-rounded person to move toward success in their lives. 

Blair MacDonald on ‘Team Khan’

Blair Macdonald directed the film Team Khan, a film that follows British boxer, Amir Khan, as he prepares for the fight of his career. Macdonald takes us on a journey to better understand the sport of boxing and what it means to get back up to keep fighting. 

ATM: How do you possess the same endurance seen in a fighter as a director?

BM: The correlations in this film was quite a long game. It was more about the endurance. This is a film that 2 ½ years of filming and a 1 ½ year in post-production. It was two of us, and we were pretty much a two-man game with Oliver Clark and me throughout the production period. We worked with a small budget. Boxing is one of the sports where there is no guarantee. We knew the film needed to be on the fight win or lose to end on. This was the correlation, and it was more about the process with the film. We did not understand boxing when starting the film.

ATM: What ways you showed the essence of life in this film and in your directorial style?

BM: This film is about Amir’s life and everything around him. There themes in the film about family, religion, and the desire to leave a legacy. We can relate to this and wanting success. There is ambition and a human spirit in all of us. We want to leave a mark on this world. Amir’s story was no different. We were set in the backdrop of his fame, religion, and family. This is something we wanted to bring out. We did not want to focus only on the boxing. It was more of a character study of Amir as a person.

ATM: What did you observe about him balancing his career, family, and religion?

BM: Like any person, it is always struggling with finding this struggle. This family has been very involved in this career. There is an overlap, and this creates tension within the family sometimes. He does not want to be speaking to his dad who is his manager, but to his dad. There is an overlap of your dad as manager. You have a different relationship than other people do with their dad. Amir went to the Olympics at 17 and won a silver medal and came back to become famous quite early in his years. A lot of this fast-tracked his years. He spent every weekend with his dad since he was eight.

ATM: Why did you think he keeps fighting regardless of what is against him?

BM: He does not know anything else. He has been fighting since he was a little boy. Boxing has given him everything. It is his career and source of income. He is very knowledgeable in this one subject. He will struggle to find things outside of this world when he retires. He will continue his career in boxing as a commentator or something else. He enjoys the physical nature of this sport and the lifestyle around it.

ATM: What do you see in someone who loses a fight and keeps going?

BM: Amir has lost some fights. This is a clear indication of a fighter’s character. Amir suffers a dramatic loss at the end of the film. He was knocked unconscious in front of people. It is terrifying. He had a concussion. This is no different than getting into a car accident.  This is a very serious sport where you are putting your life on the line every time to go into the ring. 

Adam Reist Talks ‘Dare to Be,’ the Definition of Success & ESPN

Adam Reist’s daughter, who’s in 8th grade, was looking for something athletic to do. This led to rowing and changing his daughter’s life. Reist made ‘Dare to Be’ to show people that success comes in different ways and it is not just marked by wealth, power, or even fame. Success is granted by accomplishing goals as simple as running a marathon.

ATM: I am going to do something different. Let’s play a game. I’ll say, “Dare to be” and you and I will fill in the blank with a word.

AR: I dare to be Dirty Bold

ATM: I dare to be Authentic

AR: I dare to be Sincere

ATM: I dare to be True to my Passion

AR: I dare to be Honest

ATM: I dare to be Different

AR: I dare to be Myself

ATM: Did you ask yourself this question when naming your film?

AR: Yes. It was the idea and of the people I was following in the film. They were all doing what they dared to be. So, yes, I did indirectly come up with this same thing. The big part of the movie is how one defines success. Success can be defined in a lot of ways. I feel success in society is sometimes not always defined in the healthiest of ways. You can be successful at a lot of things than just being wealthy and famous. One of the things I loved about doing the film is that someone’s success can just come out of a daily goal or they just happened to go faster that day to achieve something. They were just daring to be themselves or doing the best they can do.

ATM: So, they became in competition with themselves?

AR: Yes, in a healthy way.

ATM: When making this film were you at any moment in competition with yourself?

AR: As I was following unique women and powerful subjects, I wanted to make sure the film was worthy of the story that was evolving in front of me. I wanted to make sure I had my game going as well.

ATM: How have you found yourself through the mistakes you have made as a filmmaker? Do you feel like you are still finding yourself?

AR: You are always. This is what makes you a continuing better filmmaker. One of the biggest mistakes is worrying too much about making mistakes. You have to be okay with failing. You have to take a risk and jump into the abyss not knowing. You have to hope you come out on the other side okay. You learn a lot from jumping in and taking those risks. Sometimes it is a failure, and you learn it did not work. A lot of times if you tried something and it does not work, and it looks like a failure on the surface. It is often a lesson. It is like the layers of the cake on a tapestry. It is teaching by layers of how to get to that success. If you did not have the failures to take you there, then you will never achieve this success.

ATM: Right now, what is your definition of success?

AR: It is to be able to feel like you have given your all to something. Whatever you gave your all to, you sit back and say you gave your all to it. This is a representation of what I can do. Success is being a good person and doing all of this and keeping your values. You achieve by being truly who you are and staying true to yourself.

ATM: Six months ago, I was asked this same question. I answered with an answer that did not make sense now looking back. Six months before that, I thought it was fame and money. Now, to me, success is when you are in a pool of no’s and you manage to get out. It is convincing people that your vision or passion works to make a difference. When this convincing becomes a yes, then it is a success. Success is the internal feeling that dictates how success will impact your life visually. It is not external. It is not materialistic.

AR: True success is defined by yourself. If you can be successful with something that is not defined by the outside society, then this is truly being successful. After completing the film, I was so inspired by the women completing their journey. A year ago, I saw my roommate from college run in the New York City marathon. My wife was joking about me running, and I said nah nah. I said I was not a runner, and this is something I have not done. I looked at the faces on the people that finished. They had pure exhaustion but had a face of achieving something in this sport. I had not experienced this feeling for a long time. I had seen these women do this. I spent a year learning this. I ran a marathon last month. People were asking about time. It was not about time. It was about finishing the marathon. I felt it was tremendously successful. You are not defined by the outside world.

ATM: A person’s number one goal should not be success. Success becomes the answer. It should not be the goal. Do I make sense?

AR: Yes.

ATM: For example, you ran the race. You made the film. You did not make the film saying I am going to become successful. You did not run the race saying I am going to become successful. Success is the result. When people say, “There goal in life is to be successful.” I say, “Success should not be a goal. It is the result of your hard work that sneaks up on you.”

AR: I agree with this. I enjoyed the training process honestly. I have so many amazing memories over the years. I was training because I was trying to run a marathon. I was not training to be successful that day. I looked back at this time feeling very fulfilled by it.

ATM: What was your observation of seeing this in the women that ran?

AR: I shot the film for 3 ½ years. I followed my daughter and people from her high school who were rowers. I also followed the Yale, Virginia, and California women’s team. I followed two women trying to make it back to the 2016 Olympics. I have no idea what these guys are going to do when making the documentary in real time. This is not a historical documentary. I do not know if they are going to make it back or not. This goes back to our success question. None of them achieved initially what I thought they were going to achieve. All of their outcomes were so much better for them and the film. I know for my daughter’s standpoint, and Abby’s, who is one of the women who I followed from Yale, their outcomes became major defining moments to their growth as people. Their journey and what they learned made it a better film. I learned tons.

ATM: People want notoriety but stop when life catches up. They stop because the journey is hard. A lot of people stop in the middle of the journey. It is the biggest thing as you said. This is the process that is talked about in memoirs, filmed in biopics, and that other things are based on. The notoriety and the success factor become minimum once you immerse yourself deep in the journey. You do not think of it.

AR: This is exactly what the film is. This is one of the things that attracted me to the film besides my connection to it. Rowing is a sport that has a lot of work, and you are doing it for yourself. You can become the most successful Rower in the world. The rest of the world and pop culture does not care. You can win a medal and still show up the next day looking for a job. You are not going to get famous or get on a Wendy’s box. It dives into the direction and idea of it being a journey.

ATM: Would you agree that a real successful person does not see or understand why they are successful? They go along with it because putting a camera in their face is the world’s definition of it.

AR: You look at these athletes, actors, and musicians and see they are not very happy. We think they are successful, but they are not. They are chasing something, or they are having to make sacrifices and not being who they are and be what society is calling successful. They are not allowing themselves to become internally successful, because they are letting someone else define it. This can make them feel unsuccessful.

ATM: I believe the true internal feeling of success lasts for one second. Maybe five seconds. To be truly successful it is a lifetime project. You have to keep working at something. When an NBA team wins a championship. They celebrate. The next morning, they mentally think about the next season. It is as if that excitement and that moment of success are over or that it has seized. It turns into memories. For this one second, your internal self meets with your external self, and it is like “good job.” But to keep feeling like that, you have to keep going.

AR: If you are not careful, then this feeling becomes a drug. You are chasing it. If this feeling gives you satisfaction, then it gets dull. It will not feel good the first or second time you did it. Now you have to do something bigger, or in your mind, you are not as successful as you were before. The act of trying to feel successful is making you very unhappy.

ATM: Explain your relationship and the work you did for ESPN.

AR: I first started working for ESPN in college. I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. ESPN would hire college students to work basketball and football games. I would run the mic on the basketball floors and the football fields. I worked the Ranger games when living in the city. I work MSG and ESPN. I stage managed for them. I did this for a few years. These were the biggest things.

ATM: How did you bring forth their models when documenting a game?

AR: Being around a network like ESPN and being a part of it rubs off of you. You are constantly learning from top shooters and top directors. You talk to the athletes sometimes. You see what works and how to best cover a game. I heard the director in my ear while shooting. At the end of the day, it is still a story. You have to make sure you are telling and are aware of the story. You want your audience to be a part of the story. This is whether you are covering basketball, rowing, or football. Who is the running back? Who is the wide receiver that just came back from an injury and was out for the last ten games?

ATM: Why do you feel men are stereotyped to always liking sports?        

AR: It is changing. Women have not had the opportunity. If you are a little kid and see a kid who is older than you, then you want to do what this person does. If there is someone not like you doing this, then it is harder to adjust to this. It is great women have more opportunities. You see things like the WNBA. Girls can look up seeing Serena Williams and want to be just like her. When they are doing the sport, then it makes them more interesting to do it. If you do not have the role models, then it becomes a catch 22. You either do it or not. Culturally little boys were taught to go out and play sports. This is what they saw.

ATM: I dare to be an Innovator.

AR: I dare to be BOLD.

ATM: I dare to be a Trailblazer.

AR: I dare to be Unconventional.

ATM: I dare to be a Role Model.

AR: That was a good one. I dare to be Unique.

ATM: I dare to change the world.

AR: I dare to be someone who makes a difference.