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.

_MG_0380
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.

Dudes, I’ve been nominated for an award!

liebster2I’ve been blogging here and there for quite some time – and I’ve never heard of this particular award. While my most recent recognition was being part of the 2015 Selection of the Rincón International Film Festival, I’ve never nominated for an award. So you’d be right to think that I’m more than excited when my nominator Steifannie on left me a comment November 7, 2015 announcing her decision to bestow me such an honor. Naturally at first I thought ‘wait, is there such an award?’ and I proceeded to investigate by way of Google and found it to be a real thing – and if you, like me, don’t know much about the award, here are the details: The Liebster Award is an award given by bloggers to other up-and-coming (and particularly awesome) blogs. It’s a way of connecting and encouraging others to keep going with their online presence, promoting the arts in any way possible. The rules changed from nominating bloggers with or fewer than 3000 followers to currently only being able to nominate bloggers with or fewer than 200.

The rules are quite simple:

  1. THANK THE PERSON WHO NOMINATED YOU AND LINK TO THEIR BLOG ON YOUR LIEBSTER AWARD nomination POST. 
  2. COPY AND PASTE THE LIEBSTER AWARD nomination BADGE INTO YOUR POST. 
  3. ANSWER THE 10 QUESTIONS YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU WERE NOMINATED.
  4. COME UP WITH 10 QUESTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK OF YOUR  NOMINEES (please look below).
  5. NOMINATE 10 BLOGGERS WHO HAVE 200 or less FOLLOWERS and let them know by COMMENTING ON ONE OF THEIR POSTS, and linking YOUR LIEBSTER AWARD nomination POST, along with A SHORT MESSAGE.

I’ve already completed both Steps 1 & 2, so here is Step 3: The responses to my nominator’s questions:

  1. WHY DID YOU START BLOGGING?

To reach a broader audience with my short films, written stories, etc., as well as to grow my online presence as a filmmaker.

  1. DO YOU KEEP A DIARY, IF SO WHY? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

I wouldn’t call it a diary, I would call it a “story idea notebook” and I write in it quite often with ideas for films, some poems, and some (TV/Web) series ideas.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE GROWTH OF YOUTUBE AND YOUTUBERS? 

I think it’s interesting…I like how it gives a platform for people who have dreams of becoming a performer at any capacity. However, with the good there is often a bad, and the dark side of YouTube is quite dark….and unnecessary really.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM EVER AND WHY?

I cannot pick just one, but you can certainly read my list of 25 Films that have inspired me (1st edition) to get an idea….

  1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM TRAILER AND/OR POSTER AND WHY? IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE, PICK A TRAILER AND/OR POSTER YOU’VE SEEN RECENTLY THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT!

Here are my favorite movie posters – why? Purely for narcissistic reasons (hint: they are my own movie posters…lol)

Forced into Silence riff pasado poster 2

  1. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR? 

To just be happy

  1. WHAT IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?

A cabbage patch doll…when I was like 5??

  1. IF YOU COULD DO OR BE ANYTHING, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? (EVEN IF YOU’VE ALREADY ‘GROWN UP’!)

I’m already doing and being it J

  1. WHO WOULD YOU BE IF YOU COULD BE ANY CHARACTER FROM A FILM?

This is a hard question….since I like so many films. I’d be Merida (Brave) Skeeter (The Help) Maleficent, Pocahontas, Samantha Jones (Sex and the City), Lieutenant John J. Dunbar a/k/a Dances with Wolves (Dances with Wolves), Mrs. Boss or Lady Sarah Ashley (Australia), Ms. Gruel (Freedom Writers)….you get the point – the strong, curious, authority-defying, game-changing character in each film.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR TIP FOR SAVING THE WORLD?

I don’t know, try to be good to others, do no harm, plant/save trees…spread the goodness within…

BONUS ANSWER:

Although she didn’t ask this question, I liked it so I’ll answer it:

  1. WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

There’s really no way to just choose one thing. I have to say that this year has been full of surprises and accomplishments I only dreamt of having a short time ago. I was very proud of myself when I wrote, directed, and (limited) released my first short film – that was something I thought would never happen. Another moment of accomplishment was when I was invited to be a speaker at the La Guardia Community College in New York for my work on (ongoing production) Forced into Silence , being interviewed by the Award-Winning podcaster Dr. Vibe for his aptly named The Dr. Vibe Show. When my first short documentary, Forever Boogies, made the 2015 Official RIFF selection….I could go on forever, so I guess I can say the years 2014, and 2015 I’m most proud of so far

Step 4: Here are my 10 questions for my nominees:

  1. Why made you want to blog?
  2. What do you blog about and why?
  3. Is there any accomplishment that you’re most proud of? What sets it apart from any other accomplishment?
  4. (I think this is a great question) What do you wish you knew more about and why?
  5. What is your favorite film/book/television show and why? (if you have one of each, list all of them)
  6. Is there anything or anyone who inspires you the most, why?
  7. What are your ambitions for the future? Where do you see yourself going? (Be it by blogging, or any aspect of your artistic expression – e.g. writing, film, drawing, etc )
  8. Other than sharing your thoughts with the world, what do you care about the most?
  9. If you could meet any person in the world (past or present – alive or dead) who would it be and what would you ask them?
  10. What do you wish your legacy to be – that thing that people remember when they hear your name?

Although some of these questions might seem challenging, I’ve come to realize that if you ask people challenging questions, it pushes them to think of what they want out of life and how to start making it happen. This is my unique way of helping others realize their potential and their true passion in life.

Step 5 – Part of being nominated for the Liebster Award is to nominate other bloggers, here are my (careful) selection:

  1. SHE SHAPES THE CITY

This relatively new blog shares photos and stories of women who are changing the face of Nairobi – dazzling photos of powerful women that are changing lives in their unique ways can be seen along with a short post about this particular and spectacular woman.

  1. MARK, MD, MPH

Want to know how mental health relates to today’s society? Mark keeps his posts easy to read and relatable to the ongoing challenges of the ever-evolving present day, tackling topics like that of trans-person health care from a parents POV, analyzing pop-culture shows and their relevancy on mental health like Kimmy Schmidt. It’s a great blog that every person should follow to learn more about mental health, an issue that is not often spoken wisely about today.

  1. PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY

A compelling blog that shares the rarely seen drawings of prisoners around the nation, how their mental health is affected by incarceration and the goings on of life behind bars. It features also a healthy dose of essays, and reference papers. It’s moving, it’s daunting, and eye opening. FOLLOW IT!

  1. BIBLIOKLEPT

You obviously like reading if you’re here – so, if you like vintage books, but don’t know where to start, Biblioklept is the perfect place to do so. Concise reviews that accompany vintage book covers give any reader a list to start off their reading at any time of year – not just for the summer.

  1. THE BOOKSHELF OF EMILY J

Another blog for book reviews, but this one also features life lessons, opinion, and literary reviews. It’s easy to navigate, read and will keep you entertained both on and offline (when you read one of the reviewed books of course).

  1. POST SECRET

Want a fun, daring and interactive blog to follow? Post Secret is a way for its audience to share stories without revealing their identities. It’s a great site that will make you shake your head, laugh, and think if you have any secrets worth posting (without the risks of course!) It will also let you in the lives of people – and surely will make you feel less alone with your deep dark stories…

  1. THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING

Don’t be fooled by the (seemingly offensive) name, this blog is full of poetry penned by people from around the globe on various topics ranging from trans-life, birthing, leaving a job you hate, etc. – great content.

  1. OTHER SASHAS

Sasha Martinez journals online about her reading, more than reviews, she gives an insight to how reading pretty much anything makes her feel and it’s great. She’s fun to read and has a great collection of photos for each post. Go follow, enjoy and try to keep up with such a voracious reader!

  1. THE MONSTERS UN

Want a fun blog where monsters meet at the United Nations? Search no more

  1. SERIAL WORD ABUSER

Reviews of anime, comics, films, campy movies and more can be found on this fun blog. Go follow it and be a witness to the series of abused words.

There’s so much good content out there! It was incredibly hard to make a selection – but this is my final list. I hope they accept the nomination and help promote other amazing blogs that aren’t in or haven’t reached the spotlight.

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!

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.

Behind the Scenes of Forever Boogies

Someone asked me recently: “Why focus on surfing, it seems so different from your previous work?”

Well, although surfing would seem like the opposite of environmental and human rights reporting, it really isn’t. It’s all connected in more than one way.

to put it simply: Human Rights require a healthy way of living, a healthy way of living require a healthy planet, to have a healthy planet we need to conserve the environment and who better to tell about such conservation than the men and women who are in the water all the time. As the pollution in the oceans increase, not only is marine life affected, but also those who surf. Skin infections, and diseases have riddled more than enough surfers, SUP’ers and other water sports enthusiasts because of the lack of care of the land. We need to remember that even if we’re think that contamination inland, say the rocky mountains or the alps – it eventually finds its way to the ocean. Why? because we are all connected, everything in this planet is connected. With that, I leave you with a gallery of photos from the making of Forever Boogies

Film Festivals and Acquisitions

Forever Boogies is the first in a trilogy about conservation, sport, and environmental awareness short films
Forever Boogies is the first in a trilogy about conservation, sport, and environmental awareness short films

 

I’ve been really busy the past couple of weeks. After shooting and editing an intense workout video for a friend (see the video here), I’ve been busy at work promoting my first short documentary Forever Boogies.

Galdo Gomez practicing the Laird Hamilton Technique for better performance in DK
Galdo Gomez practicing the Laird Hamilton Technique for better performance in DK

Since the releasing the workout video, I’ve: designed and printed some nifty new business cards for myself, updated the fundraising page for my next project, designed some awesome graphics for t-shirts and tote bags for sale – a way to further fund raise for further projects (I’ve already had a few people asking me when they’re going to be ready because they want to support my work). I’ve sent sponsorship request and/or proposal letters to two companies (GoPro, Proteus Clothing Company), and I’ve sent my film to both the People’s Film Festival in NYC and the Rincón International Film Festival here in Puerto Rico. All exciting, I’m a little bit more nervous than what I anticipated, but it’s good right? If you have a little bit of fear when you’re doing something, that means you’re doing the right thing…right?  

I’ve also acquired a Public Relations person! She’s a good friend of mine who’s transitioning from being strictly in the PR world to producing and managing in the entertainment world. So far, she’s gotten a few people interested in my work and I couldn’t be happier to bring her on board. She’s brilliant, she’s an incredibly hard working person, and she understands my drive to make things happen at a much faster and fanatical pace than many other people would. Last night I had a long conversation with her as to where I would like to take these environmental and surfing, SUP, body boarding and dk riding projects and she told me “I need you to speak with this guy because he’ll see the vision, the passion and drive that you have for your work that he’ll sure to give you backing after one conversation.” I grinned like a maniac and said “I’m available to Skype if need be.”

The rest of the conversation was about my van and how every one of the guys falls in love with it when they see it. It’s a 1993 GMC Astro Van – Special Edition. I run it pretty much everywhere it allows me to run it, and it’s also made me a mechanic of sorts, since it’s so old I have to really be on the alert of what’s happening to it and what rattling noises are coming from where. There have been plenty of times where I’ve had to pop the hood (the best time was while I was wearing a summer dress) and deal with the engine and/or battery because my fat buddy wouldn’t start. She was probably upset that I was running her through all those horrible back roads this island has and decided to take a break before allowing me to drive her back home. Yes, my car is a woman, she’s my fat buddy, and she’s awesome. She also has an insane sound system that I blast with all these song mixes and people tend to look into my car and smile because I’m so short, the car is so big and they usually expect a man to be driving it.

OMG I'm on IMDb!
OMG I’m on IMDb!

While I was talking to my new PR agent, I was remembering a conversation I had earlier that day with of my other friends, and told her about some designs I have for future apparel and she told me “You’re so creative, you’re like I’m going to make movies, write books, do fashion AND save the world!” I smiled and said “well, it’s what you do – if you were me” we both broke out in manic laughter. All the people that I surround myself by have the same insane work ethic I do. Work hard, complete several projects (lately it’s been about four or five) at once and move on to the next group of projects…because that’s what we do.

It isn’t because I want to get rich quick, no, it’s because I’d like to help people a lot soon than later. I’d like to be able to buy my father a house and not have him worry about paying rent, or needing to look for a place to live because the landlords are being assholes. I’d like to be able to help with my grandparents medical expenses because they’re piling up and social security and Medicare don’t cover all their medical needs. I’d like to get myself a nice place to live, close to my father’s house so I can keep an eye on him while having my own space. He keeps on getting ill and I don’t want to leave him alone, not for too long anyway.

In the meantime I’ll keep working hard to promote the work I’ve already completed, and keep trying to get funding one way or another for future projects – because the work I’m doing is important for the world to see. It has a lot to do with them; environmental and human rights reporting, has everything to do with society as a whole – I’m not peddling fantasy, I’m showing the reality of what’s happening in the world. Maybe that’s why people are so hesitant to pay attention.