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.

Screenshot 2016-01-18 13.27.19
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?

Bryant Mancebo - FiS
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

 

 

 

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Never Falter

Forced into Silence (Poster 1)

As most of you have read up on, I’ve been heavily working on my passion project Forced into Silence for the past month and am happy to announce that, after three years of film production, and a total of five years of planning, researching, pre and post production the documentary is finally completed and ready to make its festival rounds – which has already officially begun, since on Monday, April 4 – I sent the first submission kit out for consideration!

I have to admit, there were many days in the past that I wondered if this film was ever going to see the light of day. I wondered why I wasn’t being awarded either a filming grant or journalism grants to finance the film. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, or if I was even taking the right steps to get my film made. But one thing I never once second guessed was that the message of the film had to be heard.

I remember when I first began production on the film, when I began reaching out to therapists and former victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; I was invited to give a talk at a college in New York. During the talk I was asked by one of the students if I would ever give up on making this film. My short and quick answer was “no”. The student, a young female who seemed surprised by my rapid response followed up her inquiry with “no matter how long it takes?” again, I said “no matter how long it takes” and I explained that I’ve known of filmmakers having to wait seven years to complete films and release them. A most famous and perfect example would be that of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – granted it is not a documentary, but to dedicate oneself entirely to a film and it’s message that it took about 12 years to make – I could think of no better example of dedication to the making of a film. This was something I was ready to do with Silence.

During a prolonged moment of frustration at what seemed to be the end of my project, I decided I wasn’t going to let it die. There was no way that I was going to give up on something that I was so determined in making since 2012. Most importantly, I didn’t want to leave male victims without a voice – something, that while there have been more reports about men being victimized in current mainstream media – is still a challenge for many people to admit, believe and even face. Their voices need to be heard. The crippling social stigmas need to be challenged, so does the extreme factions of both a patriarchal way of thinking and feminism.

Bryant Mancebo - FiS

The way we’re living is changing. We need to change with it.

This documentary means a lot to me. Not because of the responsibility that I’ve placed on myself without anyone asking me to, but because I’ve seen many men who are close to me struggle with their victimization, and struggle even more when trying to speak out about them.  I couldn’t go on without doing something. I couldn’t continue living in a world where women were taken seriously about the violations towards their minds, bodies and emotions, but men were being laughed at, dismissed and shamed because they were violated in the same ways. That to me has never been acceptable.

For now, I’ll leave you with this update and continue to work on my other projects and developing stories for the future – I just want you to remember: Don’t ever falter in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t ever give up. If you do, you’ll never experience the incredible feeling of happiness and satisfaction that comes with making your dreams come true.

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:

Screenshot 2016-02-15 12.59.30
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

Silent no more

We’re starting 2016 out strong!

Happy New Year to all the readers – hope you had a great holiday season.

Getting straight to the point, I originally planned on starting production for Beneath the Waves but as life would have it that particular production will continue to be on hold – for now at least. Instead, I’ll give you the official preview for my other docu-film Forced into Silence – a documentary that pretty much has been three (3) years in the making. One that I am more than happy to bring a global audience – or at least to my collective 1000+ social media friends and followers.

If you’re not familiar with the story behind this project: I began working on this documentary in late 2012, and released a campaign video late 2013 to raised funds. Inspired and haunted by an article in The Guardian I found while doing research in 2011, I decided that I was going to explore the topic and do so at a larger scale. The research was overwhelming and sometimes deeply traumatizing. Brmain-qimg-6f0a11a2c4707f5a380099534396ab3cinging me to a dark place that I knew then most victims never leave. With every book, article and report I read determination grew and so did my relentlessness to tell these stories – in my mind people had to know about the men who are silently dealing with domestic abuse and sexual assault. Just as I had reported on the female victims of femicide in Guatemala, US and Puerto Rico, I found myself determined to help these victims who continue to battle their demons in secret.
According to a 2010 report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one in four men will become a victim of domestic violence. That is 1 in 4 adult men will suffer some form of mental, verbal, or physical abuse (maybe even all of these) by their spouse/partner. To reiterate, that is one man every 37.8 seconds each day, will be domestically abused. One of the challenges that these men face, is that authorities do not see women as abusers, which is a contributing factor to the increase of these numbers.

Setting the record straight

Let me be clear, I am not dismissing the serious problem that is gender-based violence, nor am I saying that female victims of rape, domestic violence, discrimination should be ignored. No, that is not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that anyone can be a victim and that one of the biggest problems faced in the recognition of male victims is the antiquated views of the male image paired with the lack of recognizing the likelihood of a woman being an aggressor and/or attacker. Especially if this man is in an authoritative position, say, in the military, or anything like that. Men often have to provide video evidence of the abuse they experience by their spouses, especially if this is a female. Why? Because men can fight back, and women are the weaker gender…right?

Our society is conditioned to recognize, and help women who have long suffered from traumatic events like these, while that is the correct thing to do, and we should continue doing so – we should also recognize that men have been, and continue to be victims of not only domestic violence, but sexual abuse, rape and harassment, and none of it is a joke.

Male rape in film

Male rape in film has been looked at in a comedic way. Movies such as Horrible Bosses where the “Man Eater” character played by Jennifer Aniston is in reality a sexual predator who eventually rapes Charlie Day’s character in the movies sequel after continuously and aggressively harassing him through the course of the first film – making this an excellent example of how assault of men is viewed in today’s society. Moreover, a film that I keep coming back to, is 40 days and 40 nights, when Josh Hartnett’s character, Matt Sullivan, is blatantly raped by his ex girlfriend (Vinessa Shaw’s Nicole) who ties him up to a bed and proceeds to rape him. Not shocking is the fact that later on in the film, Matt is accused of cheating on his new girlfriend (Shannyn Sossamon’s Erica), lying, and breaking his promise to remain celibate, despite the fact that he was obviously raped.

Then there is the groundbreaking Swedish film that brought things into perspective way before its time; Manrape, the 1978 film based on the book Män kan inte våldtas by Märta Tikkanen published in 1976. Although the book’s title translates to “man can’t be raped” the female protagonist Eva Randers, who has been sexually assaulted, plots a revenge on her rapist. She begins to follow him and study him and subsequently rapes him as pay back for what he’d done to her. In the film, Randers confesses her act of revenge, the response in 1978 is what many people still respond today.

Pettersson: What’s your crime?
Eva Randers: I have raped a man
Pettersson: You can’t rape a man

Today, we have cases like that of Shia LaBeouf’s of our times, who during a performing art installation was raped by a female fan. Despite the mixed reactions, LaBeouf bravely spoke about the rape – and the stigmas that many men faced were splattered across the media.  Stigmas that include the belief that in order to rape a man one must: 1. Be a man (or penetrate the male victim in some way or form), 2. Have a weapon of some sort 3. The event itself must be a violent one; and the question that many asked was 4. Why didn’t he fight her off?  Questions that wouldn’t have come to mind should LaBeouf have been a woman.

There is however, a growing population that knows that rape and domestic abuse is blind to gender and/or physical strength or abilities. Still, while some films continue to pollute the population with the stigma of men always want sex, and that having an erection means consent – there are shows like Law & Order: SVU whose latest episodes address the male rape epidemic head on. By presenting both female and male predators in their shows, they are educating their audience on the vulnerability and frailty of the human body and the susceptibility of anyone becoming a victim.  That is where Forced into Silence fits – the education of the public on the male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Forced into Silence will feature compelling interviews with men who have been abused as children by family members, as well as their experience with abuse as adults. In addition, the documentary will also feature interviews with Executive Director of Male Survivor, author, speaker and survivor of multiple sexual traumas Christopher Anderson; therapist, author, and speaker Andrew Smiler, Ph.D.; as well as relationship coach, human rights and gender equity advocate Jasmin Newman. The film is meant to continue to open the door on the abuse of men, and how we, as a society, can eradicate the cycle of violence.

The wait is over! (important announcement)

After several uneasy weeks of anticipation, it is my honor to announce that my first short documentary Forever Boogies has been picked up by the Rincón International Film Festival (RIFF)!

RIFF - photo: Facebook
RIFF – photo: Facebook

I received the news today, and I have to say that there is nothing more exciting or more humbling than to hear that your first project will be showcased at such a high platform. The excitement I’m experiencing is the mixture of nervousness, happiness, and positive shock. It felt like it was yesterday that I was only dreaming of becoming a filmmaker, not daring to pick up that pen and write a script. It was only yesterday that I dared to say “I will follow my dreams” and here I am, with my first short documentary, being screened at a festival like the RIFF.

Although many (jaded) people would say ‘well it’s just being screened, it’s no big deal.” Let me just say that being selected to be screened with hundreds of other filmmakers as part of a festival that celebrates the artistry, hand work, and sacrifice that is filmmaking is a big deal. It doesn’t have to be a huge nomination for it to count, just being selected to be a part of this event is exciting and humbling – it’s a further acknowledgement on the potential of director’s creative work, as well as being an indication that I am on the right track in my career selection.

As a new filmmaker I know that there is a lot that I need to learn, but to know that I have this potential and that others see it is extremely encouraging and motivating to continue working on project like these.

For those who are in the island and would like to attend the festival, I’ve included links to their website and Facebook pages in this post for you to keep track of their schedules and dates each film category will be screened.  It would be great to see some of my readers there.

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

Filmmaking is tough, but make that shit work

When I used to ‘dream’ about being a filmmaker I knew that it had to be a huge difficult process to make a film with so many actors, crew members pre and post production phases. But I really had no idea how challenging it would be until actually becoming one.

After getting over the fear that was crippling me from going into ‘the industry’, I’ve quickly learned that producing, directing and writing for film is an incredibly difficult. It’s also very rewarding, incredibly so. Through the difficulties one faces as a filmmaker, the fact that you get to have a film completed and are able to showcase it on a platform (e.g. film festivals, internet, etc.) or that you can share it privately with a group of selected investors is indescribably satisfying. So much so, that one almost forgets the troubles faced during the production process.

The operative word being: Almost. As a new filmmaker I have a lot to learn, but also, I think I know a little about storytelling, you know, by being a journalist and all. I’ve always known what exactly I wanted to communicate – mostly being a visual thinker, the journey into documentary filmmaking was only a natural step towards furthering my journalism experience.

Still, with all the experience I had as a print journo, that didn’t guarantee me to have great connections or a set platform as a documentarian. As the world of news is going an extensive and arduous process of remolding. Some even thinking that print and digital news will be dead in a few years. Paired with the agencies like the Chicago Sun, who fired their entire photography team and pushed for iPhones to be used as cameras for their stories, while others advertise for unpaid internships available, because they cannot afford to pay anyone due to dwindling hard copy sales and little subscriptions to paid e-memberships – journalism has taken a hard blow to the gut and face the past decade or so. My challenges as a journalist didn’t prepare me for challenges as a director.

As a one-woman-production-team I am in charge of everything. EVERYTHING. From pre-production, to casting, to writing, planning, legal preparations, site scouting, recording, editing, music rights acquisition, to funding….everything. I do it, alone. While it’s very educational, it’s also very exhausting and sometimes frustrating. But in the end, when everything is done and I click that “render” button on the SONY Vegas Software® I feel all of that wash away. I look back and laugh at some things, while others I look to see how I can make things better.

For the first short film I wrote, directed and produced, I cast three people. I should have known then, that I should have held off making the film when I was having problems casting one of the roles. While that role wasn’t a lead, making me ready to step in front of the camera, I finally got someone to fill it. A few minimal script adjustments and we were ready to go. But, I was missing one of the most important aspects of filmmaking: RELEASES.

This is what can happen if you don’t have your releases signed, an actor who changes his mind from being in your film and states so, and without his consent you cannot present it without running serious legal risks

Facebook Communicae
translation: “I regret working on the short film, my girlfriend didn’t like it much and my relationship ended, partially because of me”
Facebook Communicae
Translation: “I would feel more comfortable if the short didn’t get screened”

To have an actor, or a person you’re going to interview sign a release means that you can showcase the film even if they change their mind of being in it. You have the right to show your work, without worrying about them not liking it, because, they signed a ‘waver’ of sorts for you to use their performance, their words, their images in front of the camera. This is very important. However, as an amateur and one person team, and with all the troubles I had encountered during the pre-production process, I wanted to get things done so badly I forgot to have these three actors sign releases. Post-production was a nightmare.

I managed, however to move on to other projects and re-think this one, probably make it longer, rework the script to add more characters, make it a different setting. Film it in NYC perhaps…or leave it in the original Puerto Rico setting (because I like it more). Who knows, the point is you live and you learn.

While this piece was a fiasco, filmmaking was still my calling. So, I moved on to Forever Boogies, and for a virtually non-existent social media presence my film has been viewed some 450 times on YouTube, inspiring me to push forward with my next project Save the Coral Reefs, another short documentary about conservation.

My long time and close friend, and mentor in the indie film industry Kevin Tudor, award winning and critically acclaimed short film writer/director of Truths and Fairytales advised me today to keep going. His exact words were “at the moment when you feel it’s not going to happen, that’s when you push. Whether it takes a moment to stop and rethink or just push harder, make that shit work.”

And that’s what I’ll do…I’ll make that shit work.