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.

 

October Update

There is so much to tell about these past few months!

Let’s start with the most exciting; after working on a film for so long it was selected to be a part of its first festival, which did well because the overall rating for the snippet shared on Get Indie Wise came up to a 9.2 on their 10 score scale. I’m really excited that people want to see this documentary and voted for it. It’s truly heartwarming, humbling and overwhelming to see that while some producers might not see the value of a story, the audience does and that’s what really matters to me – to any filmmaker I know really.

Furthermore, I began filming on the docu-series Silent No More in the first episode I speak to James Landrith, who has made incredible things as a speaker and writer about that one horrific time a woman raped him. His declarations are compelling and I can’t wait for you to hear him. I also include an interview with William Murray, a theology student who is focusing his thesis on criminal behavior and how we, as a society, can change the way we educate ourselves when it comes to aggression, sexuality and religion – all of which are the three main causes of harassment and/or crime in my opinion. It’s going to be a real treat for you to see the series. The goal is to really explore the topics I mention in Forced into Silence, which because of time restrictions couldn’t really go into it – because that would have made a 10 hour film….and no one wants to sit through something like that…also that’s what series are for!

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In other (short) film news, I began….and completed shooting Ocean Therapy and changed the films name to Salt Water (<<< click to see the preview) – I thought the latter had more “oomph” and would be more poetic and direct at the same time.  Salt Water is the second installment of the environmentally themed trilogy of short documentaries that began with Forever Boogies. The short runs about 33 minutes long and features interviews and snippets of the work done by two of the most amazing people I know. Yesael Rivera and Lisandra Baez are setting out to change the world they live in and by working with children with Autism and Down Syndrome through their free clinics/lessons of body boarding, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and skateboarding.

Baez, a former physical education teacher and athletic director in Dorado was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2009. Still, she competes in may SUP events, recently winning first place in women’s division in Rincón.  Rivera, a former Olympic qualifying and Central Olympic swimmer, is coming up with some amazing proposals for coastal safety as he co-directs an innovative non-profit in the North-Central area of the island. It’s a great film filled with anecdotes, positivity, inspiration and how the ocean is providing so much for people who find themselves with so little.

In other news, I have come to work with a fun magazine called No Boundaries X Magazine; it’s a new local publication that focuses on extreme sporting, athletic development and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and environment. It’s a lot of work, but it’s enjoyable.

I have to admit, being the managing editor and social media manager for the magazine, as well as a filmmaker, caregiver and business woman…it’s satisfying, but also a lot of responsibility and at times a bit overwhelming. Wherein comes scheduling in order for me to make everything I need to make happen…well, happen. I like working at the magazine because I get to see how people are improving their lives through their efforts, and their passions are contagious.

Although I work incredibly hard, I make sure to take time for myself. To recharge, to disconnect from all the things that, while amazing, they can be stressful – so I go out to the beach and ride some waves, or take a dip or two after I cover a coastal event. This is part of making sure I don’t lose my mind, or how I usually say it ‘lose my shit’ – I have so much to do and I’ve been neglecting other things (like making diaper bags for one of my best friends and her husband because they just had her first child) – but that’s okay, because I still have time to make these things. I just have to make it fit my schedule (hahaha).

Also, if you follow me regularly, you might have noticed I took out the Patreon page for donations. Why? Well, because no one was pledging and it was annoying me – so I took it out after closing the account. I understand the economy is bad, and that’s okay.

Weightless

I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe the feeling of being in the ocean – yesterday, I interviewed someone for my next documentary on using the ocean as a form of physical and mental therapy and he used the perfect word to describe it “weightless”. He went on to describe how he felt as being superman, as if he were flying on water – a sensation that he’s never experienced before.

It reminded me of the first time I went on the water – how weightless and at home I felt. As I was completely submerged in the ocean, I felt the earth hug me and kiss me. Nothing else has made me feel quite at home, or at peace – not even hiking excursions or dips in the rivers. It’s the ocean where I feel most at home.

Because of this feeling, as well as the feeling of rejuvenation that each beach trips leaves me with I started to wonder; how would this make a child with autism feel? How will a child with Down Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, and more – because I needed to ease my curiosity I went to see how kids with these ‘learning disabilities’ benefited from being in the ocean, even if it was for a day. The results were outstanding. I saw children who were incredibly anxious in the morning to tirelessly smiling, cheering and hugging as soon as the water kissed their toes.

According to CoralReefSystems.org “Creatures found in coral ecosystems are important sources of new medicines being developed to induce and ease labor; treat cancer, arthritis, asthma, ulcers, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases; as well as sources of nutritional supplements, enzymes, and cosmetics. The medicines and other potentially useful compounds identified to date have led to coral ecosystems being referred to as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century by some, and the list of approved and potential new drugs is ever growing.”

So, why aren’t more people looking towards the ocean as a form of therapy? Why aren’t we taking better care of our oceans, when we can benefit in so many more ways than just economically? These, and many other questions, I decided I was going to try to find answers to, by asking the right people in my next documentary. Yesterday I began filming the first interviews.

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Yesael Rivera says that being in the ocean makes him “feel like Superman”

Yesael Rivera, a kind, soft spoken student of biology and physical therapy agreed to be a part of the film – he spoke about his passion for swimming (he is a former Olympic-qualifying swimmer), helping others and how he balances his day job, studies and his volunteer work. His weightless feeling in the ocean, coupled with his love for nature and conservation is part of what keeps him motivated to work with children and people who suffer from any ailment. It has been his experience (which is similar to mine) that the ocean provides the necessary tools to open up a persons’ mind, heart and soul to be able to improve physically, mentally and emotionally.

These, and many other benefits of the ocean is what I will explore in this unique film that I’m sure you’ll all love.

In the meantime, I will go on filming and feeling weightless, and much like AquaWoman – because in the ocean is where I know life continues. Even while we, as humans, try our best to destroy it – it evolves, it heals itself, it thrives and is ever constant.

Film Festivals and more!

After 5 years of production to finally be able to hit “render film” brought tears of joy and an incredible sense of accomplishment, completion and pride for my determination to complete Forced into Silence and have sent it off to festivals!

As of today, Forced into Silence has been submitted to 10 international film festivals!!!!  (festival locations are: UK, EU, US and Mexico as well as virtual/online screening) – Although it was “disqualified” for one of the fests, I’m still really excited about this and hope that it gets picked up for at least 2 festivals!!! Furthermore, I’ve written a 32 page screenplay that I’ve sent out to 2 screenplay/film fests! So that’s even more excitement! Even if the film gets picked up by just 1 of these festivals, I’m confident that it will help many people – men and women alike when it comes to victimization and learning how to deal with the aftermath. 

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With that said, I’m starting this another and even more ambitious project to further explore the topic, while setting up a platform for those who feel ready they can speak about their experiences with boys and young men. The project (a 13 episode docu-series) will feature interviews with men who have been victimized and have turned these traumatic events into a tool that can help others. Example of which, is the amazing James Landrith – rape survivor turned speaker, writer and overnight manager for RAINN.  Landrith was raped by a woman when he was a young 19 year old Marine – this event was traumatic and, as any traumatic event should, left a lasting impression on him (you can learn more about it in this Huffington Post video).  After 18 years of the event, he decided it was time to speak about his rape and let others know that this does and can happen to men – more importantly, that women are capable of rape as much as men are.

While this is a sensitive aspect of rape that many people still struggle with, and I fully understand why since women have been perceived for centuries as the “weaker sex”. Often portrayed as the victim, the defenseless person attacked by the mean man who wanted to violate her, take possession of her body and quite possibly kill her. Never, unless it’s in a Lifetime movie, is a woman seen in any other light. So speaking about men being abused, assaulted and/or raped by a woman has caused an incredible amount of backlash to me and my work. One thing I want to make clear is, I AM NOT BASHING MY OWN GENDER, I am being the feminist that is looking for equality – namely in the areas of the law that punishes perpetrators for their crimes and helps and protects victims.

With that said, my next project, Silent No More, has already begun filming!

The idea of this series is to further explore the issues presented in Forced into Silence and also serve as an outlet for victims, former victims, and their loved ones to seek help, solace and understand what’s happening.

Screenshot 2016-08-17 16.07.22Along with a great interview with James Landrith, the pilot episode will also feature a second interview with NYC tour-guide turned actor Bryant Mancebo, who appears in Forced into Silence. I wanted to bring him on the series to speak about his career, how being a survivor of partner abuse influences the choices he makes in roles and what he hopes he can do with his career as an actor to those men who are or have been abused by their partners and more. I believe this is a great choice for a pilot – once it’s completed it will be submitted to festivals for consideration and shopped around for producers, networks, financiers, etc.

For those of you who are wondering about it – I haven’t forgotten about my environmental projects! I’m working with a special group of people that are informing me on the best possible ways to film Beneath the Waves, location wise as well as another short documentary with some amazing people that are doing some incredible work. So, with all this, I have my work cut out for me.

I’ll keep you posted with the news about the festivals, and further project developments!

Recap of The Dr. Vibe Blab (podcast)

So, as you know I was on The Dr. Vibe Show on Thursday, and I have to say it was amazing…it was on fire!

Screenshot_20160804-202613For those who missed it, I went on the show to talk about my latest documentary Forced into Silence and the five-year-process it was to make it. Many people tuned in, interacted and asked important questions – questions that are crucial to the understanding, the acknowledgement of male victimization in domestic abuse, sexual assault and child sexual abuse cases, and THAT was the purpose of the film.

I’m really happy to see that even before it is released, Forced into Silence is making a difference in how people are seeing victims; genderless, unbiased, and without fault of what was done to them.

If you didn’t get a chance to log in to Twitter or Blab, you can go ahead and watch the show now through this link.

What’s in a SUP lesson?

Last Friday I was asked to tag along with for a SUP (stand up paddle boarding) lesson with the Puerto Rico Surf & Skate Club feat. the Sirenas Taínas (link leads to video of the events) and I was blown away by the magic that children with autism and down syndrome have when learning something. Anything.

There were about 20 children at the Vega Baja summer camp, all of which have been diagnosed with autism. I knew that they were going to do well, what I didn’t expect was the exceptional way these children took to water, the SUP boards and how easy being in the ocean came to them. There is no other way that I could describe it as incredibly special, motivating and breath taking. Here are some photos of the event, you can see more on my flickr account (see side bar to connect to it) and please watch the 8 minute video I’ve linked above, you’ll be sure to see what I mean by magical.

New Material released! (and coming soon)

I’ve been working on a few projects the last few weeks (almost a month now) and I’m happy to announce that they’re all ready for viewing!

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subscribe to the PR Surf and Skate Club’s YouTube Channel to stay up to date on their awesome work! (and also mine…lol)

Partnering up with the Puerto Rico Surf and Skate Club has been a great deal for me. I’ve seen how they work in the past, but I didn’t quite realize the impact they had on children in the neighborhood, until working with them in creating videos for their newly created YouTube Channel. The non-profit works with children who are interested in learning the sport and with parents whose children have been diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities – so they can gain the focus and social skills they need to lead productive and independent lives.

You can watch the 12 minute documentary about the club here. There are also a few interview videos you can watch if you know Spanish, you can see them here and here. They are fun and short videos about volunteer work, their motivation and the impact the children have from their clinics in the beach and the local park they learn how to skateboard.

Writing is an art best left to flourish

Besides working on these videos with the Club, I’ve written the script for a short film that I’m sure, will make a huge impact on the audience once I’m able to produce it.

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The Speaker, inspired by actual events (short film) written by me! 

Logline:

The story follows a girl who’s ready to give one of the most important talks of her life – She’s nervous and when she closes her eyes she’s reminded of all the events that brought her to where she’s standing. The gritty, the painful; the moment she realized she wasn’t alone and most importantly the moment she realized she wasn’t worthless because of these bad experiences.

It’s a powerful script, with very jarring scenes. The sort of jarring scenes you only see in real life, which is apt, because it is based on real events. I’m really happy with the script and will be soon submitting to screenplay festivals to gain some funding to be able to produce it.

Skype is seeking talent

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still shot from my proposal video to Skype

With all that’s been happening (submitting Forced into Silence to festivals along with the aforementioned work) I’ve submitted a grant application to Skype Shoot the Future with hopes they select my docu-series project proposal.  The proposal is to produce a series of short documentaries further exploring the issue I present in FiS in a pragmatic and inclusive way to be able to find a solution to a problem that only continues to increase as the years go by, a problem that affects us all as people, as partners, as a beloved to anyone.

So, plenty has been happening with my professional life! I’ve been working really hard to be able to continue to produce content – even without any funding. Because not all filmmakers get to have donors, or financiers; even if they have pages like Patreon up and running – which you can see with mine there’s not one donor signed up to it. Oh well. Still, I’ll continue to make my work happen the best that I can without the money – I won’t let that stop me.