Questions for an Independent (woman) Filmmaker

I’ve had several people come up to me and ask me how I’ve managed to write, direct, produce and release two short documentaries, one feature length documentary and the pilot episode for a docu-series – all without funding.

Also, people wonder if I just pretend to not have any money and continue to work and magically produce funding for each film. So, with these wonders (or questions) and others I’ve yet to mention I’m making my first entry in a while to clarify a few things; both professionally and personally. So, here we go!

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Q: How do you make your films?  

For the past few years I’ve been making my films with a Canon DSLR Rebel T3i Camera, a Panasonic audio recorder and editing footage with Sony software. The camera I’ve used it since my days as a journalist and has never failed me – well, once, because it was under the sun for too long and it over heated. But after a few days to recover it went back to working just fine. I don’t have much money to spend on making films – so I turn to technology a lot as well as try to get in touch with people at the placed I can afford to travel to. While many people may find it a bit difficult to see past the low to “sugar-string budget” of my documentaries – I hope they can see the message and story I’m trying to tell with each one of my films.

In essence, to make one of my films it’s about $1,000 on average with the resources I currently have. I try to extend each and every dollar, so I do most of the work myself. I direct, I manage camera(s), I edit, I use a free online music database under a creative commons license – I distribute, send out press releases and submit to film festivals all on my own. This takes a lot of work, but the even a single positive comment on a film is more than enough compensation for all the hard work I’ve put into one particular project. Also, the internet is a wonderful platform to distribute films, and it’s free.

Q: If you don’t have any money to keep on making films, what keeps you motivated?

Let’s face it, not everyone is made for this. While I don’t have the finances right now, I have to say that my determination and my passion for making films is what drives me; it keeps me motivated to continue with being a story teller. Why? Because while, it is somewhat about me and attaining my dreams, it’s also NOT ABOUT ME, but about the stories I tell, the people in it and the characters that represent people who have gone through hard times. My passion for making film is way bigger than the whole in my pocket. Because of this, if I feel a topic needs to be discussed or addressed in film, I’ll find a way to make that happen. Also, knowing that this process is what would be considered a “marathon” and not a “sprint” it gives me the patience to continue working slowly and surely on achieving short and long-term goals.

Q: You seem to lead the perfect life, how do you stay so positive all the time?

I don’t lead a perfect life – my life is quite complicated, the thing is I like to keep things very private…and I’m not always positive. Truth is I struggle with depression and I’m under constant stress over taking care of my father. Yes, I get to go to the beach whenever I want, but I don’t always have the time. Yes I live in a tropical island, but that doesn’t mean eternal happiness. Yes I smile all the time, but that doesn’t mean that I’m always happy. The way I deal with it all is: meditation. I have to take at least 2 hours to myself to work out and meditate right after. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be struggling with depression, the depression would take over completely and I’d be paralyzed with pain and despair. Like I mentioned before, my determination to keep moving forward and accomplish my dreams is very big – bigger than my depression and my wallet.

Q: How do you balance all your responsibilities with work?

Simple: Scheduling – there is a time and place for everything and I heavily rely on scheduling and sticking to time frames. I also have to accept days as they come.  There are days that nothing can be done about anything….where stagnation is the theme of the day. Instead of fighting the fact that I can’t accomplish a particular daily goal or get something done that dayI just go with the flow and let things take their course. If I fight, that only adds to the stress and I have enough of that already. Meditation helps so much with keeping me mentally balanced and stable and throughout the day I meditate for a few minutes if I need to. Just take a moment to breathe, acknowledge thoughts and move along. Also, having pets and spending time with them and basking in their pure unconditional love helps plenty.

Q: Are you in a relationship? Aren’t you afraid of intimidating men with your independence, intelligence and self sufficiency?

I am currently single…and NO. While so many people have advised me to tone down my “strong” characteristics, but, I’ve found that the person who is right for me will not care about my sense of independence since I’ve had to do so much for myself for so long. They’d understand me, support me and encourage me, just like I’d do for them. The key is to find a person to care and show they care in the little ways – because it’s the little things that count. So, no, I’m not afraid of intimidating anyone with any bits of my personality. Just the same way they shouldn’t feel afraid to intimidate me with any bit of theirs. If that happens, then they’re not the right one for me – or I for them.

Q: How far do you plan to ride this “filmmaking train”?

For the rest of my life and into the Oscars, BAFTA’s, Cannes, Golden Globes…and all the awards before that…

Q: How does your own experience influence in your writing and film ideas?

It influences plenty. There are many things I’ve gone through that can be found in my writing and things I’ve seen firsthand that influence the topic of documentaries I make – I have a few screenplays that have tidbits of my life, but people won’t know what they are unless they know me personally – it’s fun!

If you have any questions for me, you can send it to me via email (see side bar) or just add them to the comment section!

To stay up to date with the films I make and upcoming series subscribe to my YouTube Channel and be sure to watch Forever Boogies and Salt Water!

Review: One Day at a Time

Hey guys! I’m sorry for not posting in so long, but I’ve been engaged in the resistance to today’s increasingly tense political climate – while I’m fighting to keep the rights of POC, women, the LGBTQ community and immigrants both in the US and in Puerto Rico – I’ve also been watching some crazy awesome movies and television shows. One of them being Netflix’ One Day at a Time.

Creators Gloria Calderon Kellett, and Mike Royce did good by the reboot of the beloved sitcom that debut in 1974 and ran for 9 seasons.

one-day-at-a-timeStarring the incredibly talented Justina Machado as a former Army Nurse Penelope Álvarez, the legendary Rita Moreno as her widowed mother Lydia, and Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz as Penelope’s children Elena and Alex – they are the all-(Cuban)American family who reside in California – their landlord, Schneider (the hilarious Todd Grinnell) is more like an adoptive family member that doesn’t annoy with his quips or presence like many other characters do.

In the seven episodes (out of 13) that I’ve seen the show has dealt with  work place conflict, gender wage gap, sexism, immigration and deportation, Trump’s wall, domestic abuse, divorce, re-entering the dating scene after a long relationship followed by a painful separation, self love, and more.

All characters are well rounded, rich in complexities and all actors play each with such ease it’s easy to feel as if you’re watching your own (Latin) family deal with all the intricacies of day-to-day life dealings.

I especially love this show because it’s the first one I’ve seen that I can absolutely relate to. While I’m not Cuban, I know what it’s like to be a Latin person moving to a place where people either hate you, or just don’t know anything about you – therefore they…hate you. The strength of Penelope’s character is inspiring and Lydia reminds me of my own grandmother, but with more sass. I also love how the Latin-Caribbean language was not altered – something that is often misrepresented in films.

All in all, I give it a 10 star out of 10 and name it an absolute binge worthy show.

Festival Update

Hello again!

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have submitted Forced into Silence to several film festivals and it is currently being considered in about 5 of the 11 I originally sent it to. The evening before yesterday I get an email from IndustryBOOST telling me that the documentary has been selected to be a part of the competition as well as a finalist for the grand prize!!!

Still, the way the competition works is that I need people to vote and comment on it and if you can do that for me, after watching the film (you have to create a profile on IndieWise – which is free btw) if you can vote, comment, and share with your personal networks I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you so much in advance, here are the pertinent links to do all the awesome supporting I’m sure you’ll do for this film:

IndustryBOOST Competition on IndieWise: https://getindiewise.com/5jwqmwARBQK

November Update

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Salt Water will be undergoing more edits

With all of what’s happened during the past few weeks it’s been difficult to keep myself together with my work, but here are a few things that’s happening or that are scheduled to happen this month.

  1. I moved to a new location – we’ve known that I’ve been looking for a new place to settle down and I’ve finally found one that I’m incredibly happy with.
  2. While I haven’t had much time to sit down and work, the few moments, hours I’ve had to do so I’ve realized that I’m not happy with the final cut of Salt Water and will be working on the edits once more. Once I’m incredibly happy and super satisfied with it, I’ll release it (thank God I didn’t release it already!) and submit it to film festivals, and later on upload it to my YouTube Channel.
  3. I’ve started to think of the perfect way to edit the pilot for the Silent no More docu-series. I do need a bit more footage, and do some additional recording myself – then it’s going to be perfect.
  4. There’s an upcoming surfing event (the Saturday after thanksgiving) and I’ll be covering that for the No Boundaries X Magazine – a publication that focuses on extreme sports and healthy lifestyle here in Puerto Rico.

What’s going on with the Film Festivals?

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Forced into Silence is still competing at Film Festivals! 

So, I’ve been waiting to hear from the 11 festivals I’ve submitted Forced into Silence to and while I’ve been accepted to one – and voted to win the Best Documentary award for that festival, there are other festivals that the film is still “in consideration” and others that have already rejected it. Why? Well, I don’t know, since they don’t give explanation for their decisions. I’m thinking it could be anywhere from the fact that I used Google Hangouts (because of budget restrictions) to make most of the film happen or the topic of choice of the film – again, I don’t know. However, I’m still hopeful that it makes the cut for those other festivals it’s still in consideration for. I also keep on getting invitations to submit to festivals. It’s all confusing and exciting, so I’ll keep you guys posted on that as I am informed of decisions, invites and more.

Political postings and rants

It’s been a tough couple of few weeks for me and my fellow liberals – and although I’ve never made a posting about politics, the results of an election, but I felt that this was more personal than any other election. I’ve been accused to be part of the snowflakes that are too delicate to deal with a real Presidential candidate by those in the alt-right – to which I say: “I’m too progressive to regress to segregation, religious registration and prevent a possible genocide of any kind” therefore I made a post about how I felt the political outcomes of both countries I’m directly involved with affected me personally.

Moving forward…

20160802_163946I’m putting together a group of amazing people in order to launch a podcast for those who need to hear about how to take on challenges in this world. So many people come up to me and confess to me their admiration for how I deal with issues in my life and ask for advice and that has inspired me to make a podcast to give people a new perspective as to how to see and deal with issues in their lives. I’m often told that I put things in a viewpoint that perhaps they would have never thought of – and maybe the podcast will enable me to help people that aren’t just my friends. Right now it’s an idea, so it’s going to be a while before I get that off the ground and running – still, stay tuned!

And since it’s November, happy holidays to everyone out there!

Fear and hate; the real winners of the 2016 Elections

November 8, 2016 – a historic day that determined the path of the modern world. A day that revealed the truth of the people in one of the world’s most coveted, admired countries – a day where I knew, for sure, where I stood as a woman, as a Latina, as a human.

For a while now I’ve seen how the first world is slowly moving towards the inevitable 3rd global war, and for that time I’ve often told myself that I am just imagining things, that the face of America I’m seeing is a figment of my imagination, that Americans are smarter than to elect someone that will surely damage the progress the country has made during the last eight years. That Americans will surely never regress to the racial tension, segregation, and violence that during the 1950’s…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Today, November 9th – I think that there is a great possibility that I might see a sign that my father once saw when he was stationed in Louisiana during basic training for the US Army – a sign that read “no niggers, no dogs, no porto ricans’ in that order.

What happened in Puerto Rico?

Fear is what happened.

As the results for the next governor of the US territory invaded my television screen and radio airwaves, I witnessed the push towards a different path my fellow islanders and I are so desperate for, as more voters chose the independent candidate Alexandra Lúgaro, who earned a record 11.11% (a total of 172, 882) of the votes – unprecedented, un-thought of for a candidate of this kind, it wasn’t enough for her to win. However historic this was, ultimately fear of letting go of big brother won; leaving the politically inexperienced and ever-redundant Ricardo Roselló, the candidate for the Partido Nuevo Progresista – PNP (New Progressive Party) with a 41.76% (a total of 649,569) of the votes, making him the governor-elect of Puerto Rico.

Disappointment. Still, I know that while Puerto Rico is very set in its ways and is extremely slow to change, if I learned anything from yesterday is that change is going to happen. Independent candidates like Lúgaro and Manuel Cidre (who earned an equally historic 5.72% (89,051) of the votes – making that double the amount than the candidate for the third primary party, Maria de Lourdes Santiago, who ran under the Partido Independendista Puertorriqueño – PIP (Puerto Rican Independent Party) and walked away with 2.13% (33,173) of the votes – proved that. The results show that we are, in fact, tired of the partisan government and pushing for a major change. We just need to push harder.

The meltdown of the United States Democracy

From the island, a place where my permanent residency has been established about 4 years ago, therefore stripping me of my right to vote for the President of the United States – those who “own” this island – I watched as the mainland shifted, and revealed my greatest fear: Trump winning the Presidency.

I need to stop for a moment and ask; what really did win last night?

From where I’m standing, I saw hate, racism, degradation, sexism, and the encouraging of gender, sexual orientation and religious persecution win. From where I’m standing, I saw elitism win. I witnessed as racial divide made a reappearance. From where I’m standing all those who voted for Donald Trump under the pretext of religious beliefs, all of those who voted against corruption (or ‘crooked Hillary’), all of those who were desperate to find a solution to the economy while trying to create more jobs in the US, along with the excuse that they were fed up of the same failed promises of previous and current candidate(s) – I saw you all vote against the hundreds of millions of people who are part of your own country. I saw as you voted against immigrants, both legal and illegal, I saw you elect a man who has a tragic history of business management, a fraudulent record, and a bully a rapist, a bigot, a man who has bragged about physical and sexual assault – I saw you elect that man into office with a great deal of sadness in my heart. I saw as you praised the Lord for giving you the  man who has outsourced hundreds of thousands of American jobs to cut costs, and thinks is smart to commit federal crime (tax evasion) as President.

As I watched his campaign earned more and more followers, and saw him encourage violence, assault, hate – I saw you cheer him on, while letting him get away with the violation of women, the verbal abuse of the disabled, and heard you continuously label him as what “God chose” to lead Americans into the next four years of your and our history. With my heart is still broken, I am not surprised that this is who you truly are. In the face of Donald Trump I see all those people that denied me opportunities because of my gender, because of my race, because of my weight or all of the above. I was reminded that as people often think of the United States as the land of opportunity, it has been the land of opportunities for me to realize that I, and millions of others like me are nothing to Americans. I just didn’t think that any of the people that I once considered my closest friends saw themselves properly represented by this man. Then again, we really don’t know who our friends are. We never really know one another…

For those who voted for Trump because you wanted to vote against Clinton, you ultimately voted against me. For those who voted for Trump because you saw in him your Christian values, you voted against me. For those who voted for Trump for any other reason, you voted against me, against the LGBTQ community, against the right to choose, against women, against opportunity, against social, gender, and pay equality, you voted against freedom – you all voted against anything that is different than you.

You elected hate, racism, segregation, deportation, censorship, and lynching – if you’re of immigrant parents, you voted against them and their life’s sacrifice. If you are a minority, a woman, Asian, Muslim, Black, Latinx, a member of the LGBTQ community, disabled, poor and voted for Trump you, my friend, voted against yourself and your basic human rights. If you elected Trump with the hopes of him bringing back jobs, making “America Great again” think that this is a man who cares not for the welfare of the people, he is a beneficiary of the Dakota Access Pipeline – one that contaminates water, violates treaties and sacred lands – you voted for regression, not progression.

Because of you, millions of lives are now at risk.

The stories as they should be told

The beauty of being a filmmaker is that I’m able to work on so many projects in different genres – but I keep on being asked “why are documentaries important to me?”

As a journalist and overall filmmaker I think that telling the stories, as truthful as possible, whenever I can is a responsibility that I have to my audience. Yes, I would love to, in a near future, direct scripted material – but for now I feel there are so many stories, involving the violation of both human and environmental rights that I need to further develop these stories and start a conversation that no one is having.dr-vibe-interview-transcript

I want to talk about domestic violence for a second (or two, or three)…

There has been a lot of talk about the struggles men face while coming out as victims of domestic violence – while the issue has been surging for the past few years there’s still a long way to go when it comes to providing help for men who say they’ve been abused by their partners – an injustice if you ask me.

According to a recent Business Insider article “a report released Tuesday by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) shows that Jacob, whose story is detailed in the report, was hardly alone in his struggle to find help. Surveying 1,976 instances of LGBTQ intimate partner abuse from 2015, NCAVP found that nearly half of survivors (44 percent) had been turned away from shelters.”

Why? Because most shelters have a “no men” policy in order to keep the women they’re helping safe – and they should be kept safe, but the administrations to these shelters and clinics should also recognize that men can and often are victims of domestic violence, rape and child sexual abuse – and rarely, if at all get any help.

While, and I reiterate here, the progress in the help women have gained throughout the years has been great and should be continued in order to help those who have been victimized by their partners – I feel there is a large demographic that is being ignored here, and until we address the other victims of domestic violence, we are only doing half of the work that is required to put an end to partner abuse and/or domestic violence.

Which is why the film Forced into Silence came about and now Silent no More is a docu-series will further explore the issues presented in the film. My hope is that people will see the importance of a gender-inclusive conversation of victims of domestic violence and will begin to realize that men and those in the LGBTQ community that face the gender-restrictions that force them to continue to go through these human rights violations, when they clearly need help to get out of their abusive situation.

As of today I began making the first edits to the interviews I’ve done for the pilot of the series, once done with that, I’ll be submitting it to festivals and pitching for funding for more episodes. All with hopes that producers  and/or financiers see the need to have this conversation, if I’m not successful with that, the docu-series will be available to be seen in different online platforms such as Vimeo and/or YouTube for everyone to see, learn and interact with. The point is to keep the conversation going and to help bring awareness that domestic violence is not a gender-exclusive problem, but everyone’s problem.