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.

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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.

It’s Summer! (and there’s a new short documentary out!)

Let’s welcome the summer by watching a short documentary about a group of volunteers who teach children how to skateboard and body board! I promise it to be fun, light and with great music!

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Alex Melendez, director of Puerto Rico Surf & Skate Club with his son Edward (L) and two students at a recent body boarding clinic in Manatí, Puerto Rico

The group, Puerto Rico Surf and Skate Club, is a young non-for-profit organization that came about after needing to find new athletes in the sports of skateboarding and body boarding. I met their director Alex Melendez, when I was filming Forever Boogies. I was impressed by his down to earth persona and the dedication to the children he’d been teaching.

When I met him, he’d just started his organization, but his dedication for the sport, for the children was as if he’d been working with the club for decades – and while the sports are deemed to be “extreme” this man was using these extreme sports as a way to help children diagnosed with autism, down syndrome, ADD, ADHD and more. But, how can children who have these types of diagnosis even focus on something like skateboarding and body boarding? Easy, it’s something that is physical and requires focus and ease of mind. I’ve witnessed children who are on the verge of having an anxiety attack immediately calm down once they get on a boogie board and start paddling out, their faces lighting up with indescribable happiness when they’re riding a wave.

I won’t go on and on about it, I invite you to click on the link and see it for yourself: https://youtu.be/DbnSvayGSN4

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Documentary Q & A

Forced into Silence (Poster 1)How did Forced into Silence come about?

I have to say, that much like the general population, at one point I thought that men could not be assaulted, abused, or victimized in any way unless the perpetrator was another man. It never dawned on me that it could happen. Then, while I was doing some investigations for a series of articles on gender-based violence I stumbled on an article where a man relates his experiences with being raped during conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His experiences were very similar to that of women who experienced the same attacks. Several years later I saw a surge of organizations and articles detailing the signs of abuse and what men could do in order to seek help. Not many at the time were taken seriously. And some were extreme about their views – and that was damaging. However, there were events that were happening closer to home that made me want to really dive into this topic and bring to light the long lasting effects of abuse towards boys and men that we, as a society, continue to dismiss.

What were the challenges while making the film?

I’d say that besides finding the proper funding – the biggest challenge was getting people involved.  As a filmmaker you think that because you believe in a project, that it will translate to others and that you’ll miraculously get some sort of funding for your film. But that’s not always the case. This documentary is a good example of that. After researching for several years and making a few videos for The Good Men Project and for fundraising purposes – I still failed to get people interested enough in the film for them to make an investment. Although I did get some donors via GoFundMe and KickStarter (a total of $200.00 from both sites combined) it still wasn’t enough to make the film happen like I wanted it to. And even as KickStarter didn’t release the funds that were pledged to the campaign because it missed the mark by the due date – I still credited these people for their donation, why? Because they believed in it and did whatever they could to see it happen. When it came to getting people involved, it was another monster in itself. I’d reach out to people – both specialists and ordinary and they’d agree to be a part of the film. But when the day to record came they couldn’t be found or they’d cancel the day before. It was quite frustrating. All of this let me know that people didn’t want to speak about the abuse of men. The victimization of what society deems as the stronger gender – instead of deterring me from getting the film done, what this did was further motivate me. To me, there was this huge demographic of victims that were being ignored and forced into silence (redundancy intended) that it enraged me. So, I made this film with what I had – footage I had from a visit to New York and put it together with some interviews recorded via Google Hangouts and hoped for the best. It’s raw, it’s harsh, but that’s the nature of the subject matter and it fits perfectly.

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Google Hangout w/Christopher Anderson of Male Survivor

What is the basis of the film?

The film features interviews with medical professionals (e.g. physiologist, counselors) and speakers who have specialized in the area of healthy development of young boys and men when it comes to their sexuality and relationships. They also specialize in counseling those young boys and men who have experienced some type of abuse during their life. It also features an interview with speaker and abuse survivor Christopher Anderson, CEO of Male Survivor, along with other abuse survivors with the purpose of providing a platform for those men who have or continue to experience abuse to seek help by realizing that they are not alone, they do not have to conform to the antiquated (and very damaging) views of what a man should be.

But, doesn’t this go against feminism?

No. I believe that, much of the accomplishments done by the empowerment of women around the globe, we have to create a movement where we defy what ‘real men’ are supposed to be and create a conscious platform that includes emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing for men and women around the world. As a feminist, I believe that we should be equal in all aspects and have the right to be emotional in our own way. Just as we should have equal pay, we should have equal protection under the law and not be shamed or have our claims doubted when we accuse someone of rape because of our genitalia. Furthermore, Misandry should not be confused with Feminism.

What can we expect of this documentary?

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BTS: Bryant Mancebo in Harlem, NYC sharing his experiences

Plenty of things. Those who participated in the making of the film share so much information about treatment as well as their personal experiences that it would be a disservice to summarize it in a few words. I’m eager to have people see the interviews with both Levi [Louis] and Bryant [Mancebo] who experienced different levels abuse by their former partners. Both men had the courage to open up about their experiences to me that I can’t wait the audience to hear what they have to say.

When will the film be released?

Right now, the documentary is making the festival rounds – having been submitted to the Warsaw Film Festival already, with a few more to come during the next few months. I’m hoping that it gets selected for at least one. But, the film will be available to the public by next year. I’m also trying to organize a private screening party for it – so right after that happens it will be available for streaming.  

What’s next for you as a writer, director?

At the moment I’m working on the next documentary while simultaneously working on the promotion of Forced into Silence – principal photography for Beneath the Waves will be happening sometime this week, as well as working some grant proposals for submittal (for financing). At some point I’ll start working on another short documentary that will also be focused on the environmental theme. In the near future I hope to start filming a docu-series further exploring the theme presented in Forced into Silence, as well as a scripted short film that can be tied to it all to put some more perspective as to why this particular theme is so universal and important for us to continue discussing.

That’s a full plate if I’ve ever seen one! You mentioned a scripted short film, are you working with writers? Is that something you’re interested in doing in the future, directing scripted films?

Hahaha! I guess it is! Right now I’m working on developing my own screenplays. The short film is an intense film based on real events and I think would make a good addition to what I’m doing right now. When it comes to doing scripted work, I mean if the goal is to be a visual storyteller, you cannot limit yourself to any one genre – as a director you’d have to be able to not only successfully tell stories that are scripted, but also non-scripted work like documentaries. My point is to tell compelling stories that people can identify with. Stories that will make people think, and want to do something about it. To tell stories that will change at least one persons mind.

The preview for Forced into Silence can be seen on YouTube here: Forced into Silence Official Preview

 

 

 

Production Starting Soon!

For the past few weeks I’ve been getting ready to start production on my next documentary – finally it’s going to happen!

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early b-day gift, can’t wait to start using it!

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.

Ocean Therapy: (est. length: 25minutes)
Genre: Documentary
Writer/Director: La Shawn Pagán
Language: English/Spanish (sub)

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’!