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.
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!
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.
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
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.
For the past few weeks I’ve been getting ready to start production on my next documentary – finally it’s going to happen!
Last week I got a new Vivitar Action Camera from my Dad as an early birthday gift. According to the online reviews the picture/film quality is just as good as a GoPro, so I’m really excited to start snorkeling this week as production starts to roll for Beneath the Waves – I’ll soon be posting still shots from my adventures in the sea!
Today, I decided that after failed attempts at Crowd-Funding I would launch a “monthly donations” page. Inspired by a musician who I donate to, I thought that if a modern day troubadour can get monthly donations from his fans, why can’t I? It’s hard making it in this business, but with your help, it can be that much easier! I think this way, people can take take control of what they see, and what’s released in film – bringing in the audience as participants in the makings of the films that they see is something exciting, innovating and possibly game changing for the industry.
Hopefully, this donation set up (which doesn’t expire) will be successful and I would be able to complete the next three films I have in mind; three wonderful documentaries – here is a little bit more about them:
Beneath the waves: (est. length: 50minutes) Genre: Documentary Writer/Director: La Shawn Pagán Language: English/Spanish (sub)
Synopsis: Focusing on the health of coral reefs around Puerto Rico, the film will feature both healthy and at risk areas in the Atlantic and Caribbean Seas that surround the smaller of the Greater Antilles. Focusing on how the combinations of over-fishing, climate change, along with human contamination have negatively affected the health of the islands coast – while presenting a possible solution for same.
Synopsis: A short film about how the ocean and water sports (e.g. surfing, body boarding, SUP) has been proven effective to treat autism, multiple sclerosis and depression.
Forced into Silence (est. length 60minutes) Genre: Documentary Writer/Director: La Shawn Pagán Language: English/Spanish (sub)
Synopsis: A film set to focus on men who have been sexually assaulted and victims of domestic violence at any point of their lives. With a look at the emerging centers that care for their specific needs in The Netherlands, Sweden, and the newer centers for men’s care in Australia, and the U.S., Additionally it will look at the current laws that protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and what makes it so hard for men to be recognized under these laws, furthering the struggle of men to find a voice in a (increasingly extreme) feminist world.
These films are incredibly complex and diverse in nature, but the subject matter is one that needs to be discussed and explored by a greater audience. Beneath the Waves and Ocean Therapy are incredibly relevant for today’s climate change affected world – how we are affecting the planet beyond the surface and how it affects us in return (Ocean Therapy). Whereas with Forced into Silence will (continue) to explore the complex topic of male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The production on FiS has begun, but was halted because of lack of funding – this is a huge disservice to the men AND women who are struggling.
I kindly ask you, to check out my new monthly donation page on Patreon and sign up for as low as $1.00 a month to help me make these films. Who knows, one day you’ll be able to be say you ‘produced an award-winning film’!
For the past seven months I’ve been working really hard to really make an entrance into the filmmaking world.
For years I’ve been looking to produce a film that made a difference in my life as a person and a story teller. Never did I imagine that a short film about surfers was going to do that.
I knew I had something good in my hands, but I didn’t know how good it was. Surfer dudes looking to help the environment and community by organizing beach clean ups and promote surfing, body boarding and long board skating to the next generation – this was a topic that I knew people would want to see. That the surfing community would want to share with others to challenge the negative stereotypes they’ve been labeled with for far too long.
In that process I didn’t know how this small film was going to impact, not only me as a person, but my drive to continue exploring this topic and bringing the message of conservation to the masses.
However, through the process of submitting and being officially selected from the 1,500 submissions, to be among the 87 Puerto Rican filmmakers to be able to showcase their films in such a huge platform like The Rincón International Film Festival, has been an incredibly learning experience. Here are the top 25 things I learned from it
I’m way too hard on myself – it wasn’t until I saw the title of my film on the big screen in a jam packed room of people eager to watch the documentaries for the evening schedule, that I was convinced that it was all really happening. Still, I managed to see the mistakes I made and think “I need to make that better” and “God that’s an awful cut”. A lady from the audience came up to me and gave me a hug for a job well done. I was surprised.
Being a solo filmmaker doesn’t make you less of a filmmaker – As the single writer, director, editor, producer and location scout I had my hands more than full during the process. It also made me more confident to compete with the teams of filmmakers that were present during the event. Not once did I think I didn’t belong there. No. Instead I found myself full with certainty that I belonged. There was a deep sense of gratification and satisfaction knowing that what a team of five or 10 people accomplished I did all alone.
Having a huge production team doesn’t guarantee you a win – while watching the judges award their selections, I noticed that among them was a team of two – so it’s about craft, storytelling and dedication to the piece.
Being informative doesn’t mean you have to be boring – There were some really awesome films that made an impact and were fun to watch.
Being artsy doesn’t mean you are being informative – while there were films that were fun to watch, the message was a little lost. There has to be a mixture of both informative and artsy.
My car hates me – seriously, she hated me for driving her two hours to the west. She got so mad she fumed and didn’t want to start. It was only after I stopped for gas, let her cool down, gave her some water, coolant and some special liquid treat that she turned back on. She also does not like traffic (she rattles in it), but when coming back home, she was so excited that the smooth commute took a little less than 2 hours…wtf?
Fun music in a road trip makes all the difference – I mean, seriously, I kept on thinking how horrible it would be to be those guys in the Volkswagen Passat commercial with the Spanish DVD…So I want to thank: Adele, DJ Marvl, Calvin Harris, George Ezra, Calle 13, Cultura Profetica, Sia, Matisyahu, and Ellie Goulding for making/mixing some awesome music that people can drive to.
My fear of public speaking > anything – really, the most dreaded part was speaking in front of the audience about my film. I mean, everyone became a blur, and I noticed I was having a hard time standing….
I should worry less – there are many things that I do, and one of them I shouldn’t be doing is worry. I worry if the work is good enough, if the message is good enough, if the audio, if the music is perfect…I should trust my instincts more.
Puerto Rico has an incredible amount of talent – it’s really exceptional. I knew there were some pretty talented people here, and I was lucky enough to be recognized among them, but there are so many more talented people, so many artists, so many great filmmakers here, it’s amazing.
The Expresso (Freeway) turns into local PR-2 around Arecibo – really jarring for me. Usually, when going to a place I have to navigate the dozens of un-marked streets. This trip made it extremely easy to drive those hours because it was straight driving, only two turns; one right towards Rincón, and left to go into the hotel.
I’m really attached to my dogs – all the while I wished I could have at least one of them with me…
There are moments I want to cherish without a photo – not everything should be photographed, or shared in social media.
Experiences like these give me motivation for new projects – even when crowd-funding hasn’t been successful and I’ve resorted to starting my line of handmade beach and tote and shopping bags in order to raise funds. I’m even more motivated to start on the next project now than ever before. There is no amount of obstacles that can make me say “I’m not going to make this piece”. I can’t wait to get behind the camera again!
Never give up (even when others insist you do) – Your dreams are yours, and you should reach for them no matter what. Doesn’t matter if others understand them, support them, or not, never give up on the things you want to do. The rewards are countless once you reach that goal. Trust me.
Don’t worry about the people who aren’t there – When I was checking in at the Filmmakers table, I told the girl “I have three people coming in” and she asked surprised “Only 3?!” I smiled and nodded. If I would have said that three years ago, and heard that reaction I would have cried. But last night I didn’t care. Three people I knew, one of which came with his small family came to support me, support the film and say “we’re here”. And while my father was home bound (his health has been incredibly poor lately), I knew in his heart he was incredibly proud. Every photo I posted of the event he shared within minutes. He called me twice to see how things were going. I got text messages from friends and some family in New York City congratulating me. That was way more important to me than having an entourage of people coming say “we’re here for you”.
I’m not the only one who has a “producer parent” – nor will I be the last.
Even professional filmmakers make transition mistakes – I saw it, with my own two eyes and I felt better about mine….hehehehe.
You’ll find support in the most unexpected places – truly. After the second time I had to go up and speak in front of the audience, as I was walking back to my seat, a lady hugged me. She loved my film so much, she hugged me. She wanted to see more of it and that was priceless. That is what I’m looking for with my films, to make that sort of impact. It was incredible.
I should be upset with my equipment – although I’ve been dying to get new filmmaking equipment, I shouldn’t knock the one I have. It’s worked well for me so far, and I should be grateful that I have it. Because without it, I wouldn’t have been able to make the film, nor would I have been able to get a warm hug from my first fan. Awesome – I love you Cannon Rebel T3i!
Rincón is beautiful, and it’s also called “Stella” in Google maps – Which caused me to want to enjoy a Stella, in one of their amazing water for developing countries chalices. I also wanted to scream “STELLAAAAAAAA!”
People will try to help you if they see you have car troubles – no matter where you are, there are genuine nice people that will offer a helping hand for car troubles. In turn, that restores my faith in humanity.
I am a filmmaker – despite the fact that I still can’t believe it. I am a filmmaker.
Being obnoxious is not pretty – nope…not at all.
Humility, tenacity, and willingness to continue to learn will take you a long way – it will also ensure your career is a long lasting one and your success is consistent.
After several uneasy weeks of anticipation, it is my honor to announce that my first short documentary Forever Boogies has been picked up by the Rincón International Film Festival (RIFF)!
I received the news today, and I have to say that there is nothing more exciting or more humbling than to hear that your first project will be showcased at such a high platform. The excitement I’m experiencing is the mixture of nervousness, happiness, and positive shock. It felt like it was yesterday that I was only dreaming of becoming a filmmaker, not daring to pick up that pen and write a script. It was only yesterday that I dared to say “I will follow my dreams” and here I am, with my first short documentary, being screened at a festival like the RIFF.
Although many (jaded) people would say ‘well it’s just being screened, it’s no big deal.” Let me just say that being selected to be screened with hundreds of other filmmakers as part of a festival that celebrates the artistry, hand work, and sacrifice that is filmmaking is a big deal. It doesn’t have to be a huge nomination for it to count, just being selected to be a part of this event is exciting and humbling – it’s a further acknowledgement on the potential of director’s creative work, as well as being an indication that I am on the right track in my career selection.
As a new filmmaker I know that there is a lot that I need to learn, but to know that I have this potential and that others see it is extremely encouraging and motivating to continue working on project like these.
For those who are in the island and would like to attend the festival, I’ve included links to their website and Facebook pages in this post for you to keep track of their schedules and dates each film category will be screened. It would be great to see some of my readers there.
So, I’ve started these two campaigns on booster to help raise funds for my second film! These two separate campaigns are for two (t-shirt) designs and it’s meant to raise funds and bring awareness of the importance of coral reefs. They are surf themed, because people like surfing and will pay more attention to that before looking at coral reefs – it also makes for a fun design that even non-surfers could wear. I think it’s more effective than other fund raising methods since it’s meant to provide the donors/buyers with something in return.
I’ve been working incredibly hard on this – and so far I’ve sold a few reusable tote bags on my own. But local economy has led me to reach out to the international public for further and larger fundraising.
What am I doing to make this happen? I’ve reached out to several organizations in a production/sponsorship stand point to finance this project. I’ve submitted my first docu-short to 2 film festivals that will enable me to have more exposure (and hopefully acquire producers that way), but while I’m waiting on the responses from the already applied agents, I’m readying applications for three more agencies. as well as having come up with new tote-bag, and t-shirt designs that I will be making myself – yes, I will be cutting, measuring and sewing fabric into awesome original designs, as well as a implementing new designs for body board covers/sleeves at the suggestion of a local rider – which is absolutely brilliant really.
It’s all very exciting, all very challenging, but also fun. So please, help me get the word out there and even venture out to getting shirt for yourself and/or your partner! (if you have one…hehehe)
Thanks so much for your help and continued support