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!

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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.

Never Falter

Forced into Silence (Poster 1)

As most of you have read up on, I’ve been heavily working on my passion project Forced into Silence for the past month and am happy to announce that, after three years of film production, and a total of five years of planning, researching, pre and post production the documentary is finally completed and ready to make its festival rounds – which has already officially begun, since on Monday, April 4 – I sent the first submission kit out for consideration!

I have to admit, there were many days in the past that I wondered if this film was ever going to see the light of day. I wondered why I wasn’t being awarded either a filming grant or journalism grants to finance the film. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, or if I was even taking the right steps to get my film made. But one thing I never once second guessed was that the message of the film had to be heard.

I remember when I first began production on the film, when I began reaching out to therapists and former victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; I was invited to give a talk at a college in New York. During the talk I was asked by one of the students if I would ever give up on making this film. My short and quick answer was “no”. The student, a young female who seemed surprised by my rapid response followed up her inquiry with “no matter how long it takes?” again, I said “no matter how long it takes” and I explained that I’ve known of filmmakers having to wait seven years to complete films and release them. A most famous and perfect example would be that of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – granted it is not a documentary, but to dedicate oneself entirely to a film and it’s message that it took about 12 years to make – I could think of no better example of dedication to the making of a film. This was something I was ready to do with Silence.

During a prolonged moment of frustration at what seemed to be the end of my project, I decided I wasn’t going to let it die. There was no way that I was going to give up on something that I was so determined in making since 2012. Most importantly, I didn’t want to leave male victims without a voice – something, that while there have been more reports about men being victimized in current mainstream media – is still a challenge for many people to admit, believe and even face. Their voices need to be heard. The crippling social stigmas need to be challenged, so does the extreme factions of both a patriarchal way of thinking and feminism.

Bryant Mancebo - FiS

The way we’re living is changing. We need to change with it.

This documentary means a lot to me. Not because of the responsibility that I’ve placed on myself without anyone asking me to, but because I’ve seen many men who are close to me struggle with their victimization, and struggle even more when trying to speak out about them.  I couldn’t go on without doing something. I couldn’t continue living in a world where women were taken seriously about the violations towards their minds, bodies and emotions, but men were being laughed at, dismissed and shamed because they were violated in the same ways. That to me has never been acceptable.

For now, I’ll leave you with this update and continue to work on my other projects and developing stories for the future – I just want you to remember: Don’t ever falter in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t ever give up. If you do, you’ll never experience the incredible feeling of happiness and satisfaction that comes with making your dreams come true.

No rest for the wicked(ly ambitious)

Hello readers. Happy half-off-of-all-valentine’s-chocolate-sale day! I’ve been up to some really crazy things lately. Editing the footage (new and old) of Forced into Silence along with coordinating some more interviews with the help of some amazing production team members in the U.S. things are moving along quite amazingly.

I’ve been working tirelessly on this project for the past three and years and am really excited about this project finally coming together and seeing the light of day. For a moment I was worried about it not making it out. I even resolved to not seeing this project completed, or released for that matter, for at least seven years.

There was something inside me however, that once I said the words “even if it takes me seven, or twenty years…it’ll be done” during a recent podcast interview, that snapped. I couldn’t wait that long. People couldn’t wait that long. I remembered one of the talks at La Guardia Community College on this very subject. When I was done with the talk I remembered how one of the female students came up to me and thanked me, that she had been questioning her actions with her new partner. I also remembered two students, one male and a female who came to me to verify that he’d been sexually assaulted during a recent food delivery run. I remember giving them the information to a place he could get help and counseling. I also remember him saying that it wasn’t a big deal because it was ‘just a crazy lady’ and how his friend said “it doesn’t matter if it was a woman or a man – it’s not right either way.”

My responsibility to them and to the countless others that I haven’t yet spoken to reignited the fire inside me and made me even more relentless in the mission to complete this film. Even without acquiring funding for the film, while facing people that do not want to know about the subject…I could go on…all these things that could serve as a deterrent to many other directors in making a film. But to me, it’s motivation. As a storyteller, I have the responsibility to tell the stories of those who aren’t heard. I have the responsibility to tell them they’re not alone, and they can get help – because there are people out there who are working really hard to make things right for them.

Truth is, I can sit here and take tons of webinars on how to make a successful film, how to market the shit out of it, and how to break into the industry – but if I’m not sharing what I’ve learned so far from my research and my interviews – I would have failed.

What I have…and what I have can potentially change the game for all those men who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and/or rape – the information I have so far is important that it will be difficult for people to ignore.

“Sexual orientation is defined by who you’re sexually and romantically attracted to…”

There are myths that come with being sexually assaulted if you’re a male. Some of many things that people think that will happen after a male child is abused by an adult male are:

  1. The boy child will become a homosexual when they reach adulthood;
  2. The victims will become sexual abusers themselves;
  3. Because of their violent history, these victims will become delinquents;
  4. These men will become perpetrators of domestic violence.

All unfounded topics that I explore in the film.

According to William Pollack, Ph.D. “society places boys in a ‘gender-straightjacket’ without being aware of doing so, society is judging the behavior of boys against outmoded ideas about masculinity and about what it takes for a boy go become a man.”  Pollack’s book Real Boys explores emotional and psychological issues that are unique to boys and their emotional development. In the documentary, I explore these problems boys and men still face today with an experienced and accomplished panel of experts that have made it their life to speak about these issues and to let men know they’re not alone in their plight. Still, as many publications and some movements promote a more sensible man, as a society we’re still asking them to be the stoic man who can take care of everyone else whilst never displaying a sign of weakness or vulnerability of their own.

Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D. writes in his poignant book Silently Seduced that “…instances of boys being violated have been underreported…many boys report being sexually violated by their mothers, stepmothers, aunts, female neighbors, and babysitters…the myth that ‘men are just more sexual than women and always want sex’ suggests a young boy would welcome being sexually stimulated by an adult woman and would not necessarily feel victimized. On the contrary, a young boy just learning about his body and sexuality is overwhelmed to have a woman touch him in a sexual way.”

Meaning that there is no way that a boy as young as eight cannot “loose his virginity” to an adult woman. Furthermore, it proves that a woman can sexually abuse a male child. It proves that the language that mainstream media uses when reporting a female-on-male sexual abuse case (i.e. ‘having a relationship with underage boy’) needs to change. Moreover, our societal views about how boys and men should be, how we treat all matters pertaining to boys being victimized in any way need to change…it further proves that Forced into Silence the documentary is needed in order to help those who have been victimized understand that they’re not alone and seek help – along with helping those who love them, to understand what might be happening with their partners.

“It all comes down to that one common theme; we must protect women, but men must protect themselves…”

But the exploration of the effects of sexual abuse and/or rape isn’t the only thing I discuss. Domestic violence is an issue that goes underreported and hardly ever discussed among men.

I remember when I first began working on this project and I was speaking to a Latino male about the idea. He blatantly told me “you should speak to white guys, they’re always being abused by their spouses” as if a particular race of men are more susceptible to being victims than others. Truth is all men can, and have been victims of domestic abuse in one way or another. According to HelpGuide.org the signs of an abusive relationship are:

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screenshot: HelpGuide.org

These signs do not apply only for female victims, but to any person who is being victimized – and they are one of the reasons why I continue to work on this film project and bring it to the audiences regardless of funding, or general support from the media. There are people who are suffering in silence because of the pressures of what it means to be their gender.

If you want to know more about help specific to your needs as a male victim of domestic abuse or rape visit: MaleSurvivor.org, RAINN.org, or NOMORE.org

Self doubt is not accepted

While I’ve posted my struggles with body dysmorphia I haven’t really gone in depth on how this has affected my confidence to make my films.

Coming from a small coastal town, having most people tell me that I’m “way too ambitious for my own good” has quietly seeped its way into my subconscious and made me doubt my ability to make things happen efficiently.

Most evident was when I was in film school. One of my professors gave us an in class assignment of how our production company would work out budgeting and breaking even – we were given about 20 minutes to work out the first few details to give us an idea of how things would work once we graduated. My response was simple: to produce one of my documentaries the cost for a small 3 person team for travel, editing and other production expenses along with limited distribution (as in “available only in these theatres”) would be an estimated $150,000 – this would also cover merchandise for the film that would be available for purchase online and at the theatres at a special table next to the ticket booth, I also mentioned that to attract more theater goers to make sure I either break even and make more than the invested I’d be available to do a Q&A the premiere night and the closing night.

The professor’s reaction was that of his jaw dropping and telling me “wow, you’re certainly ambitious and talking a big game, but you won’t be able to do that right out the gate – best you start small” While he was right, and I have already done the small time promotion steps of distribution (see on the side bar Forever Boogies). Not once, did he mention we should think small when talking about our potential productions hitting theaters. What was so wrong with my idea then? It was too big of a thought for a person who was coming out of nowhere.

That professors reaction, along with the fact that I’ve had it drilled into my brain that I’ll never be the person I imagine myself being – has served as a giant disservice for my career. I’ve made proposals after proposals with low production cost and thinking how I could get all things done with just under $40K for a documentary. Thinking “if I could make it happen with just $1,000 [the true cost of making Forever Boogies] I can make a larger film happen” but what will that leave me with really? I won’t have an adequate team, the film quality will probably be shit, and then that means I won’t have the reach I’d love for it to have.

So, time has come – and after fail Crowd-Funding campaigns [in great part due to doubting my abilities as a filmmaker, and over all abilities to create compelling content] to tighten up my boot straps and make things happen for real. I’ve gathered up a small team of people, and have adjusted the budgets for my next three documentaries. All of which will be pitched at the same time to several documentary production agencies. Why all at once? Because they are all compelling stories, that need to be brought into fruition for the audience to see. Self doubt is no longer accepted at this production table.

Wish me luck.

4am

“Where do you get these ideas from?” I’m often asked by people who are curious about my inspiration to write stories. The answer is ‘life.’

I remember one of my first editors telling me “stories are everywhere, it’s up to the writer to see which ones are worth exploring” – she couldn’t be more right.

Stories can be found in every aspect of the day. As we read newspapers, web/social media posts, watch TV shows, movies, etc., along with each thought that we have…all of these can, and often are conducive to a remarkable story. It is up to us as writers, as storytellers to develop them into something compelling.

I’ve always have an insanely imaginative mind. Thinking 100miles a minute about situations, thinking about the different scenarios and how something can play out – this has helped me to objectively tell a story from all points of views. It helped me a great deal during my early journalistic years and it continues to help me now during my screenwriting and story development years. During the times I’m not sending pitch emails to potential investors and/or producers I am thinking of scenarios my career could take me if I had more means than what I actually have.

These crazy imaginative settings come with the hopes of one day being awarded an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay – a very ambitious hope, but one that is not impossible. You have to shoot for the stars people.

Once I’ve thought about the scene that eventually helps me build a story around it, I write down in my notebook of “story ideas for future development” – if you’re wondering why not just type it on the computer, am I that old fashioned the answer is both yes and no. I like writing in long hand, and also, writing ideas down in a notebook makes me feel safer than doing so on a computer than anyone can (hopefully won’t) hack. I keep my notebook in a safe place in my home office.

It is there, in that Cambridge Limited notebook, where I write the ideas that spring into over drive at 4:00a.m. – Yes, that early (or late) in the morning I usually get my ideas. Be it by way of a vivid dream or just by me being silly and imagining something happening to me or someone I care about and my reaction to the situation.

After that early epiphany I wake up and further develop the story before I write it down – most of the time I’m smiling at the originality of it and how crazy my mind is. Why? Because without my imagination I don’t think I’d be much of a story teller.

Feeding your imagination is very important as well. Constantly keep learning, exploring ideas in your mind. All great filmmakers have one thing in common, they devour films during their down time – which is something I’ve done for most of my life. I remember one summer my Dad and I walked into our local video rental store (the times when Blockbuster was king, and Netflix wasn’t even an idea) and we perused all the movies in the store. Wall to wall we searched for films we hadn’t seen – it was after a few hours of standing in the store that we both realized we’d seen all of their movies. Including the B-films and their crazy cult-classics and some I didn’t even know where to classify. We got in the car, drove to the next town and filled out a membership to Blockbuster.

My point is, feed your voracious film worm and make sure that your story idea is original. You don’t want someone to tell you “that sounds a lot like this other film…” or worse, be sued for unknowingly copying a story idea. One thing you can be sure of, is that you will have a brilliant story idea at around 4am.