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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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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What have you been doing for the past 5 years?

We’re often so focused on the goal that we forget to take a look and enjoy what we’ve already accomplished. It isn’t until we are asked, in earnest, what we’ve been up to – when we realize what we have already done in the process of trying to reach that end goal.

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try to tell me that Kris Holden-Reid doesn’t look like Chris Martin

I was recently having a conversation with a friend. Telling her that I had a new celebrity crush and how confused I was because the actor looked so much like Chris Martin from Coldplay – and since I’m not sure if Martin is a handsome man or not, he is in fact a funny guy and that could work for me. As the conversation progressed to me saying something like “I’ve been single for like five years, I’m ready to settle down with the right person” she asked me what I’ve been doing for those years; my answer:

 

  1. I’ve been taking care of my Dad;
  2. I’ve been taking care of myself;
  3. I’ve edited 5 manuscripts, 2 of which have been nominated for several Latino Literature Awards;
  4. Been featured in an investigative journalism collaborative book;
  5. Given talks at La Guardia Community College;
  6. Completed 3 films – one (unreleased) scripted short and two documentaries – while starting to work on a fourth film;
  7. I’ve written my own novel that’s yet to be published (because I haven’t pitched it out really);
  8. I’ve written two feature length screenplays, and most recently a short film screenplay;
  9. Gained an incredible amount of weight due to depression;
  10. Beat my depression and became active with Pilates, dance, and swimming;
  11. Became a part of the #EveryBodyInAds movement for the Irish Jewelry company Trinkets Jewellry

While listing all these accomplishments makes me feel mostly awkward – as if I were overtly bragging on the things I’ve done, it can serve as a reminder that I haven’t been wasting my time during the past five years. In fact, I’ve been setting up a strong foundation to my career as a filmmaker and positive role model/figure to encourage people to keep on working on their dreams despite their current challenges. As a full time caregiver of a parent, I have to say – it’s hard. Very hard to do anything else other than worry for them, stay on top of their medical appointments and other things that they need. Still, I manage to do so and ensure that I take time to myself while I’m making sure he’s well. Because if I’m not good, there is no way I can do anything for anyone else.

Still, while I’m mostly uncomfortable with bragging on myself – I do feel a bit of annoyance when people who haven’t met me personally, have gotten to know me as the “one who organizes stuff” or “keeps things super clean” or “the one who can go shopping for an entire outfit in 10 minutes flat” from what they’ve heard from people that do, in fact, know me.

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some of my acquired skills is interviewing, directing and editing footage

Although we’re not our jobs, I have worked hard in many different areas and have done other things than be super clean and organized, and fast at clothes shopping. Being fully aware that I’m far from being financially successful/independent – I have to stay that I’ve put a lot of effort at building the foundation to acquire such success/independence at a not-so-far-off date. Maybe that’s what most people classify as successful, and until that isn’t achieved – one can only be known as the one who is super organized, clean and fast at clothes shopping.

At a recent get together with an old friend – she introduced me to some of her new friends – one of which shook my hand and said “I know everything about you!” and then proceeded to tell me “you go shopping for clothes and don’t try them on, and they still look perfect on you”. I wasn’t shocked to hear that from her, since the person who introduced her is always commenting on those particular things about me. But, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much else to talk about.

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you don’t think I can’t carry a conversation? EW! 

Nothing is worse than having a person not interested in starting a conversation with you because they don’t think you’re have anything worth talking about. Their knowledge of you does not dwell into anything further than the simple skills – and they care not to make conversation based on those facts that they’ve heard repeatedly about you. They don’t know about your hard work, your goals, and don’t know about the other set of skills you’ve honed for almost all your life and are putting into practice professionally.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know what you’ve done and what you’re planning to do at a later date. For brief moments, it’s okay to just be that person who is super fast at picking out clothes and excellent at organizing – because there will come a time when you’re going to be that person who will be known for what you’ve been working towards.

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snorkeling over some awesome coral in Vega Baja in 2014

So, while many people I’ll most likely not interact with again continue to know me for my OCD’ness – I will go snorkeling and start working on my next film.

Hopefully I’ll find the right guy to settle down with as I’m making my life happen

4 Miles

It takes a lot of energy to want to walk four miles every day to run your errands.

Since I don’t have my car yet (although the mechanic has promised me for the past three weeks that I’d be getting it..each Friday of those weeks) I have to walk pretty much everywhere. The nearest shopping center is two miles away from my house. And I consider myself lucky. I can go ahead put my cotton shopping bags in my New York Style shopping cart and walk while jammin’ to Lady Gaga and Florence and the Machine all the way down to the center.

Today, in a rare event during this long drought it began to rain, and I along with my cart and Renoir umbrella kept walking merrily towards my destination. While efficiently sheltering myself and my portable electronics (i.e. cellphone, mp3

pretty cows listen to my rendition of Calvin Harriss' "Blame it on the Night"
pretty cows listen to my rendition of Calvin Harriss’ “Blame it on the Night”

player – that’s right I still use one) and my notebook/wallet , I serenaded the beautiful cows of the nearby farm. I’ve been down that road so often that the cows already know me, sometimes they follow me all the way around until I reach the entrance of the shopping center and patiently wait until I make it back.

While walking I thought about how dangerous it is to actually walk down the highway and thought maybe I should look for a way that I can propose to the mayor of my town to make a walking path with protective concrete posts for pedestrians. Probably even a shuttle bus from that center to the next for those like me who don’t have a car and/or a ride to be able to go there. I think it would be a fabulous and sustainable idea. I’d also like to have an affordable grocery store at the center, I mean Walgreens is great, but you know, their food selection is quite limited.

Four miles….four miles several times every other week, for the past three months – that’s the distance I go, singing, wishing for a bike or the return of my car, still I enjoy the cows as they follow me during Budapest. Four miles…to buy soy milk for me, chicken noodle soup for my sick Dad and other minute things I need for the house – like sponges. Four miles, two coming, two going – they take me to a life of surviving, not thriving. However, this hurdle will be crossed, it will be jumped with soaring action.

Four miles…to sustainability, to my dreams, to the drugstore and the discount store for perfume-y smelling floor cleaner and bleach. Four miles that brings me a little bit of hope ,and helps me slim down my waist line when I decide to not do Pliates for the day. Four miles under the sun, the rain, hugged by the scent of sea breeze of this coastal town, four miles hearing the sway of trees as their branches creak in the wind. Four miles that swell my tired feet, but I keep moving forward. Four miles away from lethargy, from doom…four miles that keep me sane.

I like walking those four miles. Sometimes. Most times. Other times I struggle to deal with the incompetence of mechanics who delay fixing my car, delay production process of my films because of my lack of car. Still, now that one of my friends has her car back, we’re going to the beach, and I’ll be snorkeling, and filming, and I’ll be renewed for another four miles. And hopefully my will be returned to me this month.

New Film Dates!

Coral Reef Task Force Volunteer Ricardo Laureano points at a newly attached coral in Puerto Rico
Coral Reef Task Force Volunteer Ricardo Laureano points at a newly attached coral in Puerto Rico

Hey people! I’ve been busy with scheduling, budgeting and proposing my next film to several people in the business, and I think I’ve recruited a fantastic fellow director/producer who will help me find funding all the way from New York! I won’t say too much about it, but I’m really excited about what’s coming next.

On a quick note, I want to mention this before I get too into writing about the next phases of the documentary about coral reefs. I was recently, I was contacted by a reader with wanting a few tips on his film idea and to see if I could put him in touch with people in the business here in Puerto Rico. I thought that was a pretty awesome thing. Like my first official “fan mail” from a fellow writer. So, if any of you feel compelled to write, or comment on here, please feel free on doing so. I want to hear what you have to say…well, read what you have to write 🙂

Okay, back to film! Later this month I’ll start filming the next documentary focusing on coral reefs around Puerto Rico. I’m really excited about this project because it will feature a lot of underwater shots and I love those. Although the funds for the film weren’t raised. I will go ahead and make due with what I have. Until my fantastic new producer can get me some funding. I believe in this project and I’ll do whatever it takes to bring it to fruition. So, filming will begin late May and will continue up until November.

During these dates, you, my awesome readers and followers, will be able to enjoy a lot of behind the scenes photos; short videos on my Facebook page; quick notes on this site about what I experienced during the day shoot; and updates on other aspects of the film.

I leave you with this, until I can post the first update on the site. I look forward to seeing comments from you guys!