Vote for Forced into Silence!

As a finalist for the IndustryBOOST Competition Forced into Silence needs all the votes and comments it can get in order to win! please go to: https://getindiewise.com/5jwqmwARBQK to watch this, and many other amazing films from great up and coming filmmakers – but watch this one first, and vote for it 😛 

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Festival Update

Hello again!

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have submitted Forced into Silence to several film festivals and it is currently being considered in about 5 of the 11 I originally sent it to. The evening before yesterday I get an email from IndustryBOOST telling me that the documentary has been selected to be a part of the competition as well as a finalist for the grand prize!!!

Still, the way the competition works is that I need people to vote and comment on it and if you can do that for me, after watching the film (you have to create a profile on IndieWise – which is free btw) if you can vote, comment, and share with your personal networks I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you so much in advance, here are the pertinent links to do all the awesome supporting I’m sure you’ll do for this film:

IndustryBOOST Competition on IndieWise: https://getindiewise.com/5jwqmwARBQK

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.

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.

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

 

 

 

Making a film without any money

One of the things that surprises most people when they meet me, I’ve made two documentaries – at that it seems that I have no money. I can see their faces and hear the wheels turning in their head wondering how did I make anything when it seems as if I can’t even afford a new wardrobe?

For the most part they’re right, I can’t afford a new wardrobe…yet. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that making a film with good content doesn’t require that much of a budget if we’re talking about documentaries, or short films, or even films shot with your smart phone. I’m far from the only person who has worked with what I call a sugar-string budget (I’ll explain this term further into the post) here is a list on Flavorwire on the 10-most iconic films that were made with very little budget and managed to become cult favorites.

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However, before you navigate away from my page to check out the list, I’d like to share my experiences with filmmaking on a $0 – $1,000 budget.

  1. Plan your story
    • If you don’t have a script because it’s something you’ve just come up with, don’t worry, always plan what the scene is going to look like and grab your actors (mostly friends that are more than willing to do this for free and have fun with you) and tell them about it. They’ll enjoy the day out and get the takes as you planned them out in your head.
    • If it’s a documentary that you want to make, don’t fret. From my experience it’s hard to get backing from a production company for a documentary that’s either not made or currently in production. So, while you’re doing your research, see what equipment you have and how you can work with it. Example: I have a Canon T3 Rebel and basic recording equipment for audio (an Olympus recorder) the edition of the Rebel camera that I have cannot connect a microphone without an adapter so what I do is lay over the external audio to the camera audio (a tedious task I may add) but in the end, after the extreme attention to detail and voice echo – it comes out very well. If your documentary topic requires you to travel outside the country but you can’t because you have no money? There are many technological advances that can help you record online “conferences” and download them to your hard drive so you can later edit them into your film (i.e. Google+ Hangouts, Skype, Blab, etc.) check to see what works best for you and use it – of course you must give credit where credit is due and make sure to state that one of these applications was used in the making of your film.
  2. Free editing tutorials and low cost editing software
    • You haven’t gone to film school and don’t know squat about how to edit footage? Don’t worry! There are tons of tutorials online that can help you with that. The most affordable editing software are listed here – however, my favorite are the Sony Creative Software, because they’re user friendly and the movie studio can also be used to render both MP3 and MP4’s – so that’s pretty badass I think. The basic Movie Studio 13 runs for about $50 and it’s really good to use for introduction projects like short films, documentaries, digital poems and such.
  3. Still afraid of your lack of money?
    • There is a term for low budget in the industry “shoe string budget.” I however, have coined a new term that I like to call a “sugar string budget” the budget that is so fragile and so thin that if water falls on it – it’s gone. Still, I haven’t let that stop me before. My documentaries were made with basically no money. I spent money on travel, food, some additional equipment and even though I sought funding to be able to travel to certain countries to be able to make Forced into Silence I didn’t get it. Still, I worked out how I could make the movie happen because it was such an important message that needed to be told. My next project is also being worked as a solely independent film – that most likely will have no budget in its making either.
    • If you want to make a short film or a feature film and need some capital, reach out to your friends, loved ones and tell them about the project, show them what you’re planning on making and work with them an “Executive Producer” title (with no creative rights) on the project. It also works to give them perks like VIP status on special events (i.e. private screenings, film festival screenings, etc.) as well as copies of the movie and posters. After all, they did help you make your film and that’s a great way to thank them for helping you. It also works if you agree to pay them back if you release your film on a paid streaming platform such as Vimeo on demand, Amazon, some YouTube portals, etc. make sure to get all this on paper though – usually entertainment lawyers are understandable when it comes to one being a first time filmmaker and not knowing your 1st Director from your 2nd or your Production Assistants from your Production Associates.

To end the list, I have to say that keeping movie making local as an up and coming filmmaker is easier for me and my bank account. So check with your cities, bureaus or municipalities about permits; some places have filming fees, but most don’t unless it’s a big-budget production. While others just require a permit to ensure safety of those involved in the filming – basically a document that says they knew you were filming there and that you were aware of the risks, if any, of filming on a certain place. It’s also a way to respect the authorities and will help you later on down the line when acquiring permits for your big budget projects.

Also, Raindance has these great webinars that you can stream to learn more about making your film happen with lo-to-no-budget, which you can check out here.

Well, that’s all the advice I have for now – don’t forget to share the post and follow me on Twitter @LaShawnPagan