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

 

 

 

Wanna Blab?

2015-12-09 20.45.01.jpgYesterday, December 9, I was due to guest appear in the award-winning podcast The Dr. Vibe show, but due to some serious technical difficulties we had to reschedule for Monday December 14, 2015 at 8pm EST.

What is it going to be about? It’s going to be about my life as a beyond-indie filmmaker and full time caretaker of a parent. I’ll be discussing how I balance both, stay motivated and face the challenges both aspects of my life (career/personal) throw at me — I’ll also be discussing in depth my decision to start a Patreon page! I’ll also be discussing my next three film projects.

The podcast will be through the Blab application that can be easily accessed through twitter — you can interact by asking questions or by making comments throughout the live stream podcast.

To stay up to date on all things LSP (that’s me btw), follow me on twitter @LaShawnPagan where I’ll be sharing the link to the podcast as soon as I have it.

See you on twitter!

 

25 things I’ve learned from being screened at a film festival

RIFF program and tags 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.

full audience at the Rincon International Film Festival - Documentary Night
full audience at the Rincon International Film Festival – Documentary Night

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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….
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. I’m really attached to my dogs – all the while I wished I could have at least one of them with me…
  13. There are moments I want to cherish without a photo – not everything should be photographed, or shared in social media.
  14. 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!
  15. 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.
  16. 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”.
  17. I’m not the only one who has a “producer parent” – nor will I be the last.
  18. Even professional filmmakers make transition mistakes – I saw it, with my own two eyes and I felt better about mine….hehehehe.
  19. 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.
  20. 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!
  21. 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!”
  22. 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.
  23. I am a filmmaker – despite the fact that I still can’t believe it. I am a filmmaker.
  24. Being obnoxious is not pretty – nope…not at all.
  25. 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.

The wait is almost over

I’ve been anxiously waiting for this month to arrive; now that it’s here…I can’t seem to sit still. March is the month I find out if Forever Boogies will be picked up by either (or both) the Rincón International Film Festival, or The People’s Film Festival, and since I’m not an incredibly patient person, this is just nerve wrecking.

While I’ve waited to hear from them, I was urged by one of the director/organizers of The Puerto Rico International Film Festival to submit my short. So I did, it’s exciting times. I’m not at a place where I only dreamt of being. It’s so surreal. When I began pursing my dreams of being a filmmaker I made myself a promise. A way to guarantee long lasting success from myself – that promise was “if this doesn’t work out within the first five films, you’re moving to Massachusetts and becoming a brewer of beer.” Then I saw a commercial for scotch and said to myself “if beer making doesn’t pan out, you’re gonna make scotch.”

There is nothing wrong with making beer or scotch, in fact these beverages are awesome, but it’s not what I want to do with my life. I just want to enjoy a beer or a scotch or both every now and then, not make them. So, that way I can keep myself in check as I work hard to promote my films, bring exposure to my work and continue to come up with ideas for funding, distributing, and pitching to potential donors about my projects.

As I wait to hear from the festivals, I’ve been sewing. Keeping busy with designing new t-shirts, (both original and using templates already provided by booster pages) for fundraising, I’ve explored a new aspect of creativity that I was dormant. As an extremely creative person, I’m sure many people can identify with the different outlets the world has to offer. From making every day items, to furniture design, to clothing lines, which is why many actors have clothing labels, perfumes, and so on.

my fashionista mommy during a visit to Puerto Rico in the 1970's
my fashionista mommy during a visit to Puerto Rico in the 1970’s

Since I was a child I loved how certain clothes looked. While my mother used to use tights and long shirts every day – since she was around 33 until she died (excusing this with ‘it’s too hot to wear anything else) she had an eye for fashion that transferred to me. On special occasions she’d wear the most fabulous dresses and when we lived in New York she never dressed the same. Always sporting the best jeans, boots, sweaters and summer dresses that were available at the time, she was fabulous and loved it. However, when back home in Puerto Rico, the high temperatures can be a deterrent for jean-wearing, my mother’s ailing health didn’t help much either. She just wanted to be comfortable, so tights and long shirts it was.

With her influence on both comfort and fashion, my mother influenced me to know, at just 14 years old, that I wanted to wear a Carolina Herrera gown when I walked down the red carpet at the Oscars after being nominated for best original screenplay, best director, and best film (ambitious I know, but it’ll happen-have to believe it to achieve it!). Although I don’t like to shop much, because I don’t like the crowds, and I don’t like wasting my time – and I think shopping does that, waste time like nothing else can. I do like looking good, therefore I’ve always been into fashion. My closest friends always seeking my advice on how to put an outfit together, especially if they’re on a budget – I strongly believe that you don’t need to spend a ridiculous amount of money to look presentable, nor does excessive amounts of cash need to be spent on items that can make you feel sexy.

After years of thrifting, washing delicates properly, sewing my own clothes has made me one hell of a fashionista that doesn’t follow the popular trends but plays off the personality of people and what can make that shine, because personality is way more important than painful fashion – well, in my book anyway. And because Capri’s aren’t for everyone, neither are maxi-dresses, we need to make the perfect match for our daily lifestyles and not always follow what’s “hot” or “in”.

One thing I used to do when I was younger and was afraid to pursue a career in writing/directing/film production, I’d buy gossip magazines, not for the gossip, but for the fashion. I’d look at the photos of what the ladies were wearing in their everyday life and I’d combine the most affordable items and make them my own.

original design reusable shopping bag with storage pouch for easy storage
original design reusable shopping bag with storage pouch for easy storage

With my history in wanting to look great, and being comfortable as well as inspired on where I live and wanting to promote environmental conservation I’ve come up with a line of beach/yoga, Pilates blouses and reusable tote and shopping bags – what am I going to call it? I’m going to name it after my mother, who loved fashion and introduced me to my first sewing machine, beautiful fabric and how wonderful dresses can be. Although, I haven’t worn many dresses since I’ve been here, that shouldn’t suggest I don’t have them (I love dresses).

While I wait to hear from the film festivals, and continue to plan my next filming project I sew. I’ve also launched two booster pages with t-shirt designs for men (link) and women (link) to help fund my next project, because self-funding is hard and we all have to get somewhere. So take a look at the booster pages, get your t-shirt and follow or like my director Facebook page to stay up to date on my film adventures and get details on how you can purchase the reusable bags and other non-booster blouses.

I’ll post again really soon on the response from the film festivals, and with schedules for each if I am accepted to be screened – so you guys can stream it, or physically (if you can) go see the amazing collections of films screened at each festival 🙂

Booster t-shirt campaign

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

What happens when you’re a one person team?

As a filmmaker you have to cover everything, from the legal aspect to the creative aspect, making you a regular renaissance guy or gal; that is of course, until you are able to hire a team that will help you with everything. But that doesn’t mean you’ll stop working in those areas, no, you’ll still be aware of everything that’s happening, you’ll just have extra eyes, ears, and hands to deal with the growing responsibility of making film. Especially if you’re going for a feature length film – THAT requires a whole bunch of people to make it run smoothly.

While working on two projects as a producer, three as a director/producer, and one as a co-writer producer I’ve learned that while trying to make films I can’t just pick up my camera and start recording. No, if I want to do it right I have to get proper permissions, make sure all insurances are in order, that everyone is in place, and they have signed all papers, that all cameras are safe, etc. It’s hard work that can be overwhelming for a single person to keep track of. Something is bound to fall through the cracks (like I’ve discussed before). But with a person assigned for specific something, then you can just check in to see how they’re doing and lend advice or input if they encounter some challenges, subsequently you more time to do other things efficiently.

Then, there comes a time where everything is out of your control. A time when the universe gathers all its energy and says “you’re not going to do anything today”. Like your car doesn’t start.  What then? Well, as part of the ‘recording’ aspect of production is halted temporarily until you fix it. What do you do in the mean time? as a creative soul you have tons of options – you can start making phone calls to follow up on your proposals, start writing new story ideas, go through and come up with new marketing material, follow up on accounts, etc.

That is exactly what I’ve been doing since car troubles began for me. Being extremely selective with the days that I take my wonderful car out for a drive (until I replace its damaged piece) I’ve been doing a lot of marketing, proposals, reaching out to people, calling others for advice, following up with my new PR recruit.

“You’re so creative La Shawn, you’re like making films, writing articles, doing fashion, and saving the world!”
– Shawn Ling Ramirez, Political Science Professor at Emory University & BFF

While coming up with designs for the new marketing apparel that will serve also to raise funds for future short film productions as well as donations toward The Coral Reef Task Force in Puerto Rico, and other non-profit organizations that promote conservation – I’ve taken a bold approach to asking for donations and sponsors. While some might classify this as desperate, and very well might be, I’ve decided to openly tweet my need for both donations and sponsors for my work.

honest Tweet seeking funding and sponsors
honest Tweet seeking funding and sponsors

As crowd-funding takes the financing of art, film and music to a another level – I decided that Save the Coral Reefs  is so important for everyone to see that I need to take a much more bold approach to funding. I believe that openly and honestly sending a Tweet of my need for donations, and sponsors will open more doors for me. Still, I will continue sending private proposals and acquire funds through other avenues. But one thing I’ve been asked several times through the course of my short career making films – “does funding determine the production?” the answer is both yes and no. Depending on the project size, and if I can do most of it worrying only about gas money – then no, on the other hand for a project like Save the Coral Reefs, where I’d be required to get a special equipment to do the incredible amount of underwater footage for such a theme, along with other safety gear for snorkeling, diving, etc. Yes, funding is very much a determining factor of the production.

For now however, I will continue the best I can for the completion of this film – while I wait a response from the film festivals I’ve submitted my first docu-short to.