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!

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.

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.

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

 

 

 

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