FiS’ First Film Festival!

forced-into-silence-official-posterI am extremely excited to announce that my passion project, Forced into Silence, is part of the Official 2016 Selection of the IndieWise Virtual Film Festival!

This is a unique sort of festival, it’s virtual, so that enables anyone can see the films from wherever they are in the world! With that said, I need your help to bring my film up to a popular status, and therefore further build an audience for it.

 

Please go to: https://getindiewise.com/xjJK36Y5ra and vote for my film – it’s easy to sign up, it’s also free and not only will you get to see the sneak peek of my film (I only included the first 1:30minute because it’s still being considered for other film festivals, and I didn’t want to get rejected for streaming on a digital platform) but, you’ll be able to see other amazing films from all these great emerging filmmakers!

Please help my film and its story make it! I thank you all for your support

Film Festivals and more!

After 5 years of production to finally be able to hit “render film” brought tears of joy and an incredible sense of accomplishment, completion and pride for my determination to complete Forced into Silence and have sent it off to festivals!

As of today, Forced into Silence has been submitted to 10 international film festivals!!!!  (festival locations are: UK, EU, US and Mexico as well as virtual/online screening) – Although it was “disqualified” for one of the fests, I’m still really excited about this and hope that it gets picked up for at least 2 festivals!!! Furthermore, I’ve written a 32 page screenplay that I’ve sent out to 2 screenplay/film fests! So that’s even more excitement! Even if the film gets picked up by just 1 of these festivals, I’m confident that it will help many people – men and women alike when it comes to victimization and learning how to deal with the aftermath. 

20160816_145727

With that said, I’m starting this another and even more ambitious project to further explore the topic, while setting up a platform for those who feel ready they can speak about their experiences with boys and young men. The project (a 13 episode docu-series) will feature interviews with men who have been victimized and have turned these traumatic events into a tool that can help others. Example of which, is the amazing James Landrith – rape survivor turned speaker, writer and overnight manager for RAINN.  Landrith was raped by a woman when he was a young 19 year old Marine – this event was traumatic and, as any traumatic event should, left a lasting impression on him (you can learn more about it in this Huffington Post video).  After 18 years of the event, he decided it was time to speak about his rape and let others know that this does and can happen to men – more importantly, that women are capable of rape as much as men are.

While this is a sensitive aspect of rape that many people still struggle with, and I fully understand why since women have been perceived for centuries as the “weaker sex”. Often portrayed as the victim, the defenseless person attacked by the mean man who wanted to violate her, take possession of her body and quite possibly kill her. Never, unless it’s in a Lifetime movie, is a woman seen in any other light. So speaking about men being abused, assaulted and/or raped by a woman has caused an incredible amount of backlash to me and my work. One thing I want to make clear is, I AM NOT BASHING MY OWN GENDER, I am being the feminist that is looking for equality – namely in the areas of the law that punishes perpetrators for their crimes and helps and protects victims.

With that said, my next project, Silent No More, has already begun filming!

The idea of this series is to further explore the issues presented in Forced into Silence and also serve as an outlet for victims, former victims, and their loved ones to seek help, solace and understand what’s happening.

Screenshot 2016-08-17 16.07.22Along with a great interview with James Landrith, the pilot episode will also feature a second interview with NYC tour-guide turned actor Bryant Mancebo, who appears in Forced into Silence. I wanted to bring him on the series to speak about his career, how being a survivor of partner abuse influences the choices he makes in roles and what he hopes he can do with his career as an actor to those men who are or have been abused by their partners and more. I believe this is a great choice for a pilot – once it’s completed it will be submitted to festivals for consideration and shopped around for producers, networks, financiers, etc.

For those of you who are wondering about it – I haven’t forgotten about my environmental projects! I’m working with a special group of people that are informing me on the best possible ways to film Beneath the Waves, location wise as well as another short documentary with some amazing people that are doing some incredible work. So, with all this, I have my work cut out for me.

I’ll keep you posted with the news about the festivals, and further project developments!

Recap of The Dr. Vibe Blab (podcast)

So, as you know I was on The Dr. Vibe Show on Thursday, and I have to say it was amazing…it was on fire!

Screenshot_20160804-202613For those who missed it, I went on the show to talk about my latest documentary Forced into Silence and the five-year-process it was to make it. Many people tuned in, interacted and asked important questions – questions that are crucial to the understanding, the acknowledgement of male victimization in domestic abuse, sexual assault and child sexual abuse cases, and THAT was the purpose of the film.

I’m really happy to see that even before it is released, Forced into Silence is making a difference in how people are seeing victims; genderless, unbiased, and without fault of what was done to them.

If you didn’t get a chance to log in to Twitter or Blab, you can go ahead and watch the show now through this link.

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!

20160712_190727.png
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.

Screenshot_20160713-125018
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

Screenshot_20160705-123029
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!

IMG_20160628_102352.jpg
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

_MG_0211

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

 

 

 

I no longer work for free

I’m sure that I’m not alone in this when I say “I no longer work for free.” Many of the problems in today’s job market is that people aren’t willing to pay for the services that they are in need of. For the past four years I’ve seen job listings like the one below (which is a complete satirical mock up of what one sees, but not so different from the actual truth).

Job Posting

We’re searching for creatives in the fields of graphic arts, redaction, PR, marketing, and social media, production, etc. for our [event, project, etc]

Requirements

Associates, Bachelors degree or equivalent experience in the aforementioned fields;
in order to be considered for the position please provide:
Demo;
Published clips;
proof of work;
Two 2x4photos;
birth certificate;
skin graph;
and other DNA sample

Benefits

You’ll get to have a once in a lifetime experience by being a part of our event (film, indie art project, etc). You’ll have the opportunity to meet people in your same field, possibly ‘get hired’ by producers who will attend the event – we’re joking those people will most likely ignore you because you’ll be too busy with the workload we’ll give you so they won’t even see you really. You’ll also be blessed by bringing the bosses tons of coffee, donuts, sandwiches, dry cleaning, etc. If you perform well, we’ll provide you with a recommendation letter which will be subject to how effective you were at bringing us our food, hot beverages or our verbal abuse. You’ll also have the benefit of working a ridiculous amount of hours for our project (event, etc) without any sort of monetary compensation or the security that you’ll be chosen as part of our team in a future event because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity event! so apply now, because this won’t ever happen again – until next year.

**THIS IS A NON-PAID POSITION**

 That’s right – you will not be paid, and will not have a guarantee of being selected as part of the next event/project that has secured a countless amount of private donors and sponsors.

I know that being in the film industry is tricky. I know that I chose to be a part of a field that you either paddle for your life or you sink like a rock. But, I’ve realized that one can only paddle so far without help. And while I have no troubles with providing free or low cost work to those fellow struggling filmmakers, who have incredibly special projects that they’re trying to get off the ground with no financial backing whatsoever – I do have a problem when others try to sell mediocre or horrible opportunities as “once in a lifetime” opportunities.

broken paddle
this does not help anyone, nor is it a once in a lifetime opportunity

To me it’s very much like handing a person a broken oar that will make them go in circles in the water and telling them “hey – you’ll get places with what I gave you – that’s a great opportunity you’ve just been handed there sweetie. No. IT’S NOT.

Knowing the quality of your work is something incredibly valuable – knowing your value as a professional is priceless. Not giving it away for free to just anyone is very important.

Why am I making a fuss about this? Why am I not jumping at every opportunity that’s presented to me? Because if I continue working for free, for everyone that wants me to be a part of their team I will never be valued for my abilities. Also, I’m not sure as to why this is, but many people are surprised to know that I’ve accomplished quite a few things in my career. After seven years as a journalist/photojournalist for some awesome media outlets, and now as a filmmaker, I’ve begun making progress and starting conversations with my work. I’m determined to keep on making strides, keep on starting conversations, and determined to no longer work for free for those people who just want to take advantage of those, like me, who are starting out.

Unless I think the project or event is really special and the organizers are doing everything they can to make an impact with the little they have. Those people, I will help with everything I can. I will support the people that are struggling to make ends meet while chasing their dreams, for them I will work for free without a problem. I won’t however, provide those who have tons of sponsors or private donors with my services for a non-paid internship, or volunteer position because they think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s completely unacceptable.

Leading by example

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a struggling up and coming filmmaker. I never, not once expect anyone to work without compensation of some kind. Everyone I approach I say “I cannot provide you with monetary payment for this, but I will provide you with [gas money/transportation, free lunch, etc]” as a way to keep them part of my team for future projects that I hope are financed by either myself or producers or both.

Right now I’m working on saving up money for a private screening event in February 2017. It’s difficult because as a person who has not yet found a (paid) job in Puerto Rico, and hasn’t found financeers for her projects – there is only a limited source of income that doesn’t provide me with much. However, not only am I expecting to pay for the venue, but I’m hoping that with the money I save I can give some sort of monetary compensation to the two people I’m asking for help with the organizing of the event – because that, to me, is the best way to cultivate professional relationships.

Furthermore, since I’m extremely organized and have most of the event planned out they are to do very minimal on that day – still, I do not expect them to do it for free. Nor would I ask them to, out of respect for their time, efforts and dedication to me, the event, and my film.

So, I say again “I will no longer work for free” because if I don’t put value in my work, my abilities, my accomplishments – who will?