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?

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

 

 

 

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.

Coral Swimming
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

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 🙂

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.