We ask the Artists who are volunteering to be part of our Resource Directory to introduce themselves in a personal way by responding to (6) Profile Questions.
The top (2) Challenge Teams chosen in April 2020 will be able to consult with an array of Artists of their choosing from the Artists Resource Directory as they self-produce their short films.
Rather than taking the usual approach to defining the value the Artist has to offer (“What’s Your Biggest Achievements?!”) - We take a humansofnewyork.com approach. What (and who) helped shape your journey? What does your craft means to you?
Just Hearing Their Stories
Is An Important Part Of Your Education.
Meet the Humans of People's Hollywood
Read the Artists Profile Questions
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WRITER / SHOWRUNNER
"With them it was ok to make mistakes as a way to learning."
As a kid I was very quiet, very shy, yet also very adult and responsible. From ages 14 to 16, I lived alone with (and was parent to) my two younger sisters (ages 7 mths and 8 yrs to start) in a house in Richmond, California.* During this time my mentor was a used car salesman.
Late at night, after putting the kids down, I’d turn on Jay Brown’s All Night Movies on Channel 11. Jay Brown loved movies! He introduced me to Warner Brothers’ library of gangster and film noir, as well as 50s apocalyptic sci-fi and Fred and Ginger.
The rawness, passion, and ease of the characters, as well as the moodiness or colorfulness of the scenery, were my lifeline. ‘Course I didn’t think about there being no black characters, or imagine I could one day make the magic.
(*The originating story that made me a teen-parent is a LA divorce and a postal worker who didn’t get the expected quick transfer back to her dream home in Richmond -- my mother, depressed, angry and not thinking straight.)
Taking care of my sisters motivated me to become a good storyteller. I read parenting books, trying to learn how to tell stories to calm down the angry 8 yr old, and give meaning to a shouldn’t-have-been situation.
When my mother rejoined us, she pushed me off to college. I studied psychology and sociology (what I already -- and only -- knew ). Out of college I worked in crisis counseling – rape crisis, battered women, and
family violence prevention for men on probation. I listened to people’s stories, and told them stories.
I got out of social work and wanted to help people by learning how to do storytelling in a non-crisis setting (and maybe have some fun?). I came to NYC in the 90s and studied acting, but it was a time of narrow casting and stories I didn’t care about. I took several scriptwriting classes. Thought the teachers I had then, didn’t know a lot about people.
I started studying filmmaking itself at community centers like Film Video Arts, IFP, Women Make Movies, and BCAT. Fell in love with low/no budget filmmaking as a learning environment.
Working with film people I learned how to play as an adult. Even though there was no money, there was fire in the soul, and loving life and the unknown in a way that was contagious. With them it was ok to make mistakes as a way to learning.
Working with creative people – the kind I want to work with, not assholes -- I am struck by their generosity of being. They bring space and openness. As happy to receive help as to give it. I love the thinking together and coming up with solutions out of the resources we can scavenge.
There can be a lot of “me” in the collaborating – my own 'me' as well as the other’s 'me'. At times it can be a challenge to communicate your ideas. At times you need to accept, you are not suited to work together.
People’s Hollywood is a project I’ve grown out of years of experiences, teaching, and many questions and confusions. It's me trying to answer --
As a working adult, how do you continue to grow creatively while still struggling to survive economically?
WHAT I LIKE
I’m currently studying an array of Series that have distinctive aspects that inspire me as I develop my first Series, THE CREW. The evolution of Peggy in MAD MEN is an inspiration for the development of my CREW character April. MASTER OF NONE, is very cinematic -- especially Season #2 -- often letting the visuals tell the story without words; characters with quirky charms and shortcomings; and story structures take unexpected turns or leaps to pull out and get a view on humanity. THE CARMICHAEL SHOW, for how the generations in one black family stumble through the discussion of current societal issues. PARTY DOWN is about a crew of cater waiters and struggling through part-time work while trying not to forget your dreams and integrity .
I also want to infuse into THE CREW the magic realism I was first rocked by in my 20s when I saw a revival screening of THE GRADUATE. I was fascinated with how the film was shot. The alternative sense of reality expressed beautifully in framed shots that veered into weirdness. Somehow the posed, clinical comical-ness of the shots take you deeper into the feeling of what alienation really is. It was also the first film I saw where I wasn’t jealous of white people with their wealth and leisure activities and extended (if not always warm) family support. Instead I laughed at their pettiness in the midst of their wealth.
In THE CREW I want to learn how to achieve that mix - hard hitting yet absurd -- with bits of animation and magic realism.
“Be intellectual about the process. Be emotional about what you hear.”
Piotr (Peter) Nowonik
My earliest musical memory is associated with my grandfather – Jozef Samelczak. I remember him playing his own organ compositions and variations on Bach’s preludes at a Roman-Catholic church in Kalisz (one of the oldest cities in Europe!) where he performed every Sunday. (Ironically grandfather would die on his way to church to teach young organists….)
My family lived in Warsaw where I had basic music lessons in primary school. Though grandfather lived three hours away, he was my ‘inspirational figure’ and the driving force behind my parents getting our household an upright piano. Because he taught me to love classical music, my early preference was for instrumental genres.
My father was a pilot and my mother a stewardess. We got to travel cheaply around the world. And even if I wasn't noticing, I was being exposed to so many types of music new to me.
When I was eight I became obsessed with my Atari system. Not only playing the games, but also exploring what I could do with the Atari as a computer. I started composing on it, and I learned how to use a synthesizer. By the time I was a teen I was an IT geek. In the 70s there were no computer classes teaching. I was self taught and able to go out and get paid IT work. That became my living and career focus.
But on the side my greatest pleasure was always music, and there were many landmarks in my self-directed journey. When I was twelve I heard Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 2 and my music world expanded enormously. I started learning guitar to blues-rock and Latin-jazz (Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Carlos Santana). The milestone was a discovery of the music of Andreas Vollenweider (Swiss harpist) whose mix of contemporary and world music was a true epiphany to me – it changed the way I thought about sounds, multi-cultural influences and how to use music to imagine places, stories and feelings through sound.
On my own I developed a fondness for film music – which allowed me as a teen to see classical music as cool and out there in the world of my peers (even if they weren't knowingly paying attention to the music in the films they loved!).
To understand how music can shape the impact and understanding of film visuals, I studied the music of film composers such as Ennio Morricone , Vladimir Cosma – and for electronic music Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Marek Biliński.
I met my wife in the late 90s. I mention my wife first because you will see she had the most important impact on me in terms of professional development.
My wife joined the airlines after we married and we loved traveling. We decided we wanted to move to another country. We had loved New Zealand when we visited. But in Poland it had no embassy. We had never been to Australia, but it was close to New Zealand and it had an embassy in Poland. We moved from Poland to Melbourne, Australia in 2002 as permanent residents.
My first job was working in a factory line assembling kitchen cabinets. Then I started getting IT work. My wife suddenly decided that instead of focusing on getting the best survival job, she wanted to professionally pursue what had always been her side passion - dance. She had been a flamenco dancer in Poland and she decided she wanted to study choreography professionally.
While my wife looked for a college for herself, unbeknownst to me she was also looking for a music college for me.
It was my wife who suggested I should enroll at the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne University). She told me VCR is top in world ranking when it comes to arts and innovation. I said I didn't want to (due to my fear of failure), but my wife insisted I not forfeit music to focus on survival in our new country -- somehow we would make it. I finished my Bachelor (Hons.) of Music Composition, and later topped it with the Masters of Fine Arts in Music Composition.
Simultaneously, my interest in ethnomusicology and world music traditions kept expanding. I trained myself in playing Chinese bawu, hurdy-gurdy, flute, duduk, and Swedish bagpipes (people usually think of bagpipes as Scottish or Irish -- but there are different variations of the bagpipe on different continents) .
Currently, I’m thinking about trying clarinet but my time limitations stop me.
Regardless of the instrument, the most important lesson of all is listening. Listening and trying to understand new patterns, concepts, ideas hidden behind the music and the thoughts of artists who create music I’ve never heard before.
Recently with a group of artists from Europe (Agata, Paweł Steczkowscy), we recorded an album of contemporary takes on traditional Polish Christmas songs and carols. (with this link scroll past Polish text for links to the music!). I’m currently working with Francoise Jasmin (France) and Kiyoshi Kawara (Japan) on a soundtrack for their Butoh dance show. Last year I worked with Swedish singer, Violina Juliusdotter, We were very inspired by our location, Visby, Gotland, where we recorded traditional Swedish folksongs.
What I love about working with others is it gets things done! It also gives you a broader learning and discovery process. Not only of new ideas, but also of oneself – our limitations, creative biases, fears, strengths and weaknesses.
Coming across kinds of people I never knew before and opening myself to them and the intimate process of creating art has helped me overcome my own self-imposed limitations. It has made me not only better at being creative but also at being human.
I met Trayce, founder of People's Hollywood Project, three years ago when I was living in Bushwick for a couple of months, working with local theatre and dance artists. I was very inspired by the diverse creative pathways you can encountered in NYC, and on my own explored by going to various events organized under meetup.com .
I attended a workshop that Trayce led, which I greatly enjoyed, and I thought her concept for a People's Hollywood was fantastic! I started helping as a consultant and extra hand at events. After I returned to Melbourne I continued to be an enthusiastic consultant as Trayce shaped the presentation of the project through the development of this website.
I told Trayce I wanted to share my experience and help others find their own musical language, while learning to collaborate and navigate outside the comfort zone of their original chosen type of music or art discipline.
Out of our dialogues, and Trayce's experience working with local musicians on short films she produced, grew our concept for the Music & Film Project.
Another major and unexpected benefit from working on the project is that I am becoming a better writer -- in everyday English! This is important because I will be contributing postings on Music & Film to our Q&A Blog. I am accustomed to a more formal type of English writing for the college classes I teach or professional presentations. Trayce is a wonderful editor and I am learning how to express myself in a more personal, storytelling manner. (Very much a challenge !)
WHAT I LIKE
I’m a fan of Sci-Fi – from classic works such as Kubrick’s ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ to contemporary TV series such as Expanse and Battlestar Galactica. As a long-standing fan of all iterations of O'Bannon’s and Shusett’s ‘Alien’ (including the most recent prequels by Ridley Scott). I am forever infatuated with Jerry Goldsmith's innovative Alien soundtrack which even by today’s standards is a great conceptual achievement in music.
While not a hardcore fan, I always loved Star Wars – the socio-cultural aspect that brought people and generations together. My VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back is still more revered than any of the recent continuations. Of course the legendary film with legendary music -- Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ with Bernard Herman’s music, or venerable 80’s pieces of TV, such as Jan Hammer's ‘Miami Vice’ music.
I am also a fan of the American version of The Office series (the UK original too dark, and depressing) and the classic Everybody Loves Raymond.
Other likes: Animals, my pet rats, nature, caves, mountains, veggies (the greener the better), snow, ginger beer.
Piotr (Peter) Nowotnik
"I'm more concerned about the process
of making art than the product."
Even before I can remember, I used to carry around a ukulele. I must have been two, maybe three. I was obsessed with percussion. After I saw STOMP on DVD I used to make percussion orchestras out of household objects and put on shows.
But the first time music really rocked the depths of my soul was when I heard Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” in 4th grade. It was all over from there.
I wound up playing the guitar because my dad had started learning and had one around.
The one person I knew who was really devoted to music was my best friend who was heavily involved in the Balkan folk music community. So in addition to my love of classic pop/rock, I also fell in love with Bulgarian and Serbian music. I took guitar lessons, but I feel that my most impactful mentors were these folk musicians, especially my older peers.
My training was really split between formal music education and a more hands-on learning in the folk community. I started studying jazz in high school and got deep into music theory, mostly from books. I continued this study in college, attending the University of Miami’s School of Music which is a really technical, skills-oriented program. But at the same
time, I was learning equally important lessons around campfires.
I developed a lot of tension in my body playing the guitar early on, around trying really hard. I’m still working to release it in deeper ways, but it certainly surprised me the first times I had to learn -- letting go is how to play well ! You don’t play fast by trying hard. You play fast by thinking slow.
These days, I’m working with a lot of dancers and multidisciplinary artists in addition to musicians. The people I work with are really curious. That’s what I love about them. I try to surround myself with people who are always challenging their own assumptions, trying to see things in different ways -- such as the Echoensemble , a collective of musicians and dancers I am part of, creating immersive landscapes of movement and sound. More concerned with the process of making art than the product.
I value honesty in collaboration, probably more than anything. I like to develop relationships where I feel like we can all give each other our honest opinions and feedback, and work together with all of these ideas to make something better and maybe unexpected. I believe that the art we create is bigger than any of us, and so it’s our job to bring our perspectives together openly.
Like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, where they disagree about what the elephant is like because they’re each touching a different part of it. In reality their disagreements speak to a thing that is larger than any of them, and only together might they even come close to knowing.
I am proud to be part of the organizing of a world-wide day of musical collaboration! Make A Music Day is June 21st, the summer solstice, every year. It was launched in 1982 in France and is now held in more than 1,000 cities in 120 countries with tens of thousands participants. Make Music Day is a open to anyone who wants to take part. Professional musicians play to new audiences and amateur musicians play in public often for their first time --- and they play every public -- porches, garages, storefronts, gardens, parks, or on the sidewalks outside where they live.
It's easy for someone who loves Make Music Day to love the People's Hollywood! I think the People’s Hollywood Challenge is a really great idea. We have this toxic idea in our culture that creativity and making art are reserved for a class of people called “artists.”
I believe creativity is a deep part of what it means to be human, and we should all have outlets to explore it. Focusing on writing is really neat because everyone has a story to tell. People's Hollywood isn’t asking people to take on some big new skill, but rather to start with finding creativity in their own lives with the resources they already have.
I was just tapped to take over a high school music class in downtown Brooklyn at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice. It’s quite an undertaking, and one that is really bringing me in touch with how arts education can enhance everyone’s lives, much in the way PH is striving to do.
WHAT I LIKE
I like films and series that connect me to people and how people live. That’s the magic to me about the screen, how closely it can mirror real life. I’m not much into film as a diversion, but as a window -- something that lets us look at ourselves in a way we can’t otherwise. The magic of it is not that it’s the same as daily life, but that it can show life to us with striking realism, turned around in ways that reveal what we’d otherwise never grasp.
I like humor, thrill, any of it when it feels like it takes me on a journey that tells me about life.
The film Crash really hits home with a story that tells a much bigger story about society. I also love fantasy- oriented stories like The Dark Knight that are over-the-top while presenting poignant and real characters. Then there's what makes me smile, like the lighthearted Moonrise Kingdom.
"It feels I’ve met my match -- iron sharpens iron - I’m being challenge
and am expected to challenge back."
At the age of three I began my first creative training -- weekly dance classes (which I continued until I was twelve). I was blessed to go to a public elementary school in Maryland where teachers were pro-active in shaping creative opportunities for young students. I acted in 'kiddie' plays and sang solos at school assemblies. But it was at 7 years old when I played Mary (Jesus’ mother!) in a church play I experienced a spiritual calling to become an actor (really).
In high school I benefited from having a drama teacher who had trained and pursued an acting career in New York City -- before giving up on it and returning home to Maryland and becoming a teacher. He rigorously taught us the fundamentals of theater history and basics of acting technique, opening the door to acting as a profession. Then learning from a teacher trained in drama therapy, I began to apply knowledge I gained in psychology and sociology classes to roles I approached as an actor. Because at the end of the day acting is about the person(s) – the person/actor playing the character and understanding the character as a person.
While I was a student in the American Musical and Dramatic Academy here in New York City, I was surprised by the physical demands of acting – both for theater and film.
For theater I had to learn how to support my body and voice to be bigger to communicate to a whole theater. My dance background turned out to be a big advantage –- I had an awareness of my body that some students who I was training with didn’t have. They thought of acting as only 'I stand here and say lines'.
Film acting can feel restrictive to a person like me who enjoys moving around and expressing impulses, because you have to hit your mark as you say your lines. You also have to play a lot more to your own imagination – creating your own bubble of reality -- because you are not acting to an audience – the crew and director being more technically engaged than emotionally.
Determined. Passionate. Intelligent. I grew up around people with these three qualities, but surrounded by creative people these qualities exist on a heightened. It’s like driving at 25 miles vs 80 miles an hour. With actors I have enjoyed working with it feels I’ve met my match -- iron sharpens iron - I’m being challenge and am expected to challenge back.
I enjoy the creating and collaborating involved with taking words on the page and transforming it into a performed piece. I value the collaborators who want to discuss in-depth how we are feeling about the choices we are making and how is this -- the creative product -- going to touch people. Rather than fixating on a prop or the number of lines they have.
When I was producing and performing in a sketch comedy group – writing, rehearsing, blocking, everything – I loved that process. But it was often frustrating because some of the actors I was in the trenches with wanted to focus on creating the product rather than being fully in the creative moment. A technical and robotic approach to a transformative process limits the outcome.
WHY YOU ARE PARTICIPATING
I first got involved with the project when I answered a Back Stage Ad in 2017 to be part of an unpaid workshop to develop characters for a Series about struggling filmmakers and artists. That has been an incredible experience, helping to grow an ensemble of characters who are meant to go through numerous seasons of conflict, discovery, and evolving. On THE CREW SERIES pages you can see some of what came out of our workshops.
Today everyone – directors, writers, actors -- is trying to develop a series because there are so many new viewing platforms needing new content. But if you are not in school for it, there is a struggle to know how to development storylines and characters that continue to evolve. I think the information shared at our workshops can be of great value to emerging artists.
I also have been an active sounding board on the development of this website and the concept for a People’s Hollywood Project. I was blessed at an early age with many learning opportunities that fired me up to achieve creatively. I know most children don’t get that. They become adults still not knowing about that part of themselves. Most working adults spend their free time being entertained not being creators (many adults in my family fall into this category).
The People’s Hollywood is about taking online learning to them for free and showing them how to do creative projects with their families and neighbors. It’s so hard to get started as an adult beginner on your own in isolation. The project emphasizing building a team is very important.
WHAT YOU LIKE
It’s not so much that I have a favorite film. I have so many performances that I love – often hidden in movies that aren't critically acclaimed or widely marketed. One that comes to mind is an old made-for-TV film starring Alfre Woodard and Ving Rhames, Holiday Heart (2000) . It’s a story about the mother of a little girl who is a drug addict, and they get helped by a drag queen. Watching this woman unravel, and the scene where she totally unhinges – wow! You can tell the film didn’t have a big budget and there’s nothing interesting in how it’s filmed. The movie is moving and touching because of the energy Alfre Woodard and Ving Rhames put into their roles.
I have friends whose series go-to is Friends. Whose go-to is Seinfeld. Mine is Jane the Virgin! It’s because even the characters who are secondary have their own storylines and journey across five seasons. That’s also what I like about how we are developing THE CREW, which has a huge cast of seventeen primary characters!
It’s like showing life. You have a room of people, and even though the spotlight is on just a couple of people – all the people in the room have lives that are moving and changing and being impacted by the moment.
CREW Actor/Character Page
"The best people to work with are the ones who challenge my skills and abilities."
As a child living in the suburbs of Westbury, Long Island, I watched a lot of television. I was fascinated by movies and especially cartoons, and their ability to excite emotion in me. My most memorable moments involved watching Pokemon and The Land Before Time, programs that covered creature development, relationship building, and world building. I didn't know it yet, but it would set the basis for my endeavors years later.
At age thirteen I became fascinated with music videos and horror and sci-fi films. The common denominator, I believe, was the element of bizarreness and unorthodoxy that I encountered in both mediums. For music videos, Lady Gaga’s theatrical performances in her earlier work definitely had me glued to the television screen every weekend morning. And as for horror/sci-fi films, I was really in love with films like the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and Starship Troopers.
The films and the music videos delivered surreal and complex stories with exquisite and unforgettable imagery. A mixture of these sources inspired me to devote time to conceptualizing music videos for my favorite songs, and creating characters and environments to write (what I called) scripts for my own film ideas.
I was hard on myself, judging my work harshly, but it’s all I wanted to do. I worked religiously, pumping out all sorts of ideas. Then in high school there were art classes and I decided to devote myself more to
my drawing and painting abilities. Unfortunately I didn't have any mentors for story building. It wasn’t until I got to college that I could pick up this passion again with the help of a few professors who know how to use illustrations and storyboards to communicate a story.
I studied illustration and art history at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was surprised to learn that the structure of storytelling can be fixed (a struggling hero, a climax and resolution), and often it is the small nuances in film (camera movement, color choices, set design, wardrobe, composition, acting, and dialogue or lack thereof) that really make a remarkable story.
Alongside my studies, I also invested a lot of time into video essays published on YouTube that covered the relevance of proper storytelling techniques in film and media, such as ‘Composition In Storytelling’ from the Cinema Cartography Series. These videos opened my eyes to the artistic possibilities of storytelling that cinema provided.
I was in my second year of college, still debating on what avenue I wanted to take my artistic abilities, when I fell in love with the film, Children of Men, which at the time was already a few years old. I learned that the movie references in its scenes real historical works of art like Michelangelo’s La Pieta, and I in turn felt as if my eyes had been opened to new forms of storytelling. I became increasingly eager to search for these techniques in other films, and thus grew my passion and admiration for film and storytelling.
At F.I.T. I was introduced to the process of doing visual storytelling as an animatic. For my first project I had to compose a video for a pre-selected audio track from a film (In this case, 1958's ‘El Ataúd del Vampiro’). An animatic is essentially a sequence of storyboards (simple drawings that delineate picture composition and camera movement) stitched together to form a rough version of what the moving images of a film scene will eventually look like. (*See Editor’s Note below on Animatics and Storyboards)
It was fun creating quick, gestural drawings and handling light in a minimal way for the storyboards. The goal was to clarify the position of the camera and the desired shots and compositions to give the maximum impact of clarity and emotion for each scene. For our second school project we were asked to develop concepts for our own original stories. I composed key frames and create one set design for the eventual video, all with the intention of creating a believable world (in this case, a luxurious catering hall). Here’s the final video ‘Majestic Hall Catering Co.’ I look forward to helping a beginner do storyboards for their original short film.
*Editor’s Note: Before Animatics, films simply used Storyboards, sometimes adding arrows and directional lines to help imagine how the camera would move. These are sample Storyboards from (10) iconic films. As you will see with Scorsese’s own Storyboards from ‘Taxi Driver’, Camera Storyboards can be drawn very crudely because their main purpose is to help frame the shot.
Here’s a great article on the differences between Storyboards and Animatics, and the special benefit to creating Animatics for a hard to shoot scene. Animatics can also be used to create a graphic video version of a proposed film to help raise support. Very elaborately detailed and visually refined storyboards are also used to help envision production design. Here’s (43 !) examples of storyboards from well-known Movies, Animation, and Games. - Trayce
The best people to work with are the ones who challenge my skills and abilities in ways that encourage me to pursue the best possible ways of expressing my story and my truth. I have been fortunate enough to work with brilliant professors and supportive, analytical colleagues. Family and close friends help with the surface level aspects of storytelling, but when it comes to technique and execution, the best assistance is that from fellow students and professors.
I value the different perspectives other artists can offer -- new color palettes, themes, and forms of expression that I may not have come up with on my own.
Despite these advantages to work- ing with others, it can sometimes be counterproductive to work with others when distractions get in the way. It's important to construct systems, organize plans, and establish boundaries with those you work with in order to execute projects efficiently.
WHY YOU ARE PARTICIPATING
I think the Writing Team Challenge is a resourceful and valuable opportunity for anyone seeking to learn how to execute storytelling through screenwriting and film. People's Hollywood offers the necessary materials to introduce someone to the rigorous process of creating a film and explains how it takes an entire team to pull it off. I look forward to offering a Team my skills in storyboarding and conceptualizing a story for their short film.
WHAT YOU LIKE
My favorite genre is drama, for sure, especially when it's combined with an element of horror, thriller or comedy. A favorite film of mine is Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón.
A favorite series of mine is the animated BoJack Horseman! It's an incredible show for its ability to explore dark themes and current events. Although it masks itself as a comedy, the entire show delves into interpersonal relationships, how our traumas in childhood affects us, and how the actions we commit to in the present have lasting effects for us and for others. It is an exploration of themes pertaining to our very existence.
I was born in Long Island, but my family was originally from El Salvador. My dream project is to create an animated (or live-action) series that explores the effects of colonialism on El Salvador (and all of Latin America in general) by following the journeys of members of a dysfunctional family.
The book I am currently working on traces the beginnings of Spanish colonization in Mesoamerica* and its effects on a family. It’s title is 'Before the Celebration', a reference to the historical elements of the story. The book will be delivered as a graphic novel series, tracing three different generations across time (mirroring the relationship my family has had with El Salvador), and subsequently, their relationship to the United States.
I felt compelled to write the book when I learned of my family’s struggles with violence and trauma—and its effects on me. - Alex
*Per Wikipedia: Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, and within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
"Listening to their ideas and opinions whether they are considered or not, will only open up my world of possibilities."
Watching live action shows made for children excited me and I knew I wanted to be a part of an industry that entertained people. I thought my fulfillment would be in the form of acting. Joining the middle school drama club ran by my English teacher I wanted to play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. I was told the play was too long for our end of the year show, but if I was to shorten it then it could be done.
At 12 years old I went to the library and grabbed the play and spent the whole day reading and pulling out only the important scenes. My English teacher then helped me edit the adapted play. That was my first introduction any form of script writing.
My high school, Benjamin Banneker in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, had a small media program. My teacher Ms. Jameson was surprised to finally have a student who was so excited about filmmaking. She would let me borrow the school's camera to go out and shoot.
Ms. Jameson would also recommend many films and filmmakers to study that I otherwise probably wouldn't have discovered until I was an adult.
I also met Trayce Gardner towards the end of high school when she was seeking students to work on her film. It was the first time I was on any kind of film set. It was a stage with furniture and flats for walls. It was an experience I won't forget. She had an undeniable passion for storytelling and teaching. I also attended and helped with various Brooklyn Young Filmmaker workshops and panels that Trayce produced in the local community. Her teachings were very valuable and something I appreciate to this day.
Technical camera training started in high school. Ms. Jameson's media program had two digital cameras and an early version of Final Cut Pro.
A student was shot and killed at a house party my freshman year, and we all wanted to create a PSA about it. With no experience I volunteered to direct and edit it.
I was forced to self teach myself not only to shoot and edit, but also to communicate directions to actors /talent. I was amazed that I had so much control in manipulating what goes in the frame.
I went on to study film as an undergrad at the School Of Visual Arts, where I had more hands on training with better equipment and more importantly, an environment where everyone was excited, supporting, and eager to learn filmmaking.
Professors with years working in the industry guiding and preparing you for the journey you will take as an aspiring filmmaker. Watching classic films and dissecting them also taught me to watch films differently.
While in film school I also landed an internship with a high profile music video/commercial director Julien "Director X" Lutz. I interned for three years and he mentored me in so many different ways. He mentored me in the business side of production. Creatively he helped me pay close attention to details such as framing and editing. He was a perfectionist who's mentality helped shape how I handle myself on set.
In my internship I was immediately thrown as a Production Assistant on big budget sets like for Burger King commercials and videos for artists like Shaggy. This exposed me to how things work in the industry. Fast paced, high pressure environment shaped around bringing the director's vision to life, I also grew an appreciation for the crew members on the set, and learned that filmmaking is a collaboration.
When for my film school senior thesis project I worked on my first short film, BACK STREETS, I reached back out to Trayce and Brooklyn Young Filmmakers. Trayce helped me rework the script and came on board the production, bringing a valuable assortment of volunteers to help with the shoot.
Helping me with my school film project inspired Trayce to add an actual short film production class to the scriptwriting classes she offered. After college I was a co-director on several of the Make A Film class shoots, directing the camera and technical aspects. It was great to have opportunities to hone my abilities while not having to be responsible for organizing the shoot, as I later would be when shooting my other short films..
To this day I consider myself still training and learning my craft. In the forms of books, workshops, shooting, and the old fashion way of just watching / studying films. I am forever a student of filmmaking.
People I aim to work with are just as excited as I am about storytelling. These are people who believe in creating as a way of life. My family and some of my friends may love TV and going to the movies, but filmmaking and telling stories isn't a reality to them. Unless they personally know one, acting and filmmaking as a professional isn't a thing.
Still, the people I work with are regular people, but with a burning passion to create and find fulfillment in doing great work.
Collaboration is such an integral part of filmmaking. Working with crew members and actors of different backgrounds and experiences, you are bound to learn from them, if you aren't stuck in your own ways.
As a director on set, my decision is the last word but what contributes to these final decisions come from the work that was put in days and months before. Rehearsing with actors, discussing their roles; having
meetings with the director of photography about the visual direction; the costume designer; hair and make-up; and the screenwriter (if its something I haven't written myself).
They all have their roles to play and are creatives. Listening to their ideas and opinions whether they are considered or not, will only open up my world of possibilities.
On the flip side, some creatives are just focused on doing things their way. They have a vision and don't want to be challenged on it. I find these headstrong personalities are difficult to deal with. They may be great at what they do, but if I am involved at a creative level and am not being heard, I don't think I'll want to work with this person again. The sense of "collaboration" isn't there and not something I like to experience.
Which is why vetting through candidates and having trusted recommendations are so valuable when hiring key crew members.
I do consider it a value, the different perspectives other artists can offer -new color palettes, themes, and forms of expression that I may not have come up with on my own.
WHY YOU ARE PARTICIPATING
I think a platform that allows people who don't know where to start but are eager to get into filmmaking is very important. There are many underserved communities who are interested, but don't see filmmaking as something that can be part of their reality.
I believe regret is one of the worst things someone can experience as they go through life. People's Hollywood is for working class people so they can get a chance to create, working with resources they already have.
I loved being able to film in the neighborhood I grew up in, telling a story about gentrification and community policing for my last short Civic Mind. I want my work to celebrate culture, including my Dominican-American heritage, and address social issues simultaneously. I was able to do this using locations familiar to my upbringing (local bodegas, block parties in Bed-Stuy, etc). This gave me a deeper connection to what I wanted to say in the film. They usually say to write what you know. I feel this is because you always want to connect with something in the story, be it the main character or their surrounding environment. Civic Mind being semi-autobiographical definitely made this easier. I am always looking forward to how I can connect with other stories that my personal experience may not have any ties to, but that I still care about.
As a filmmaker I have been on small independent and big budget sets. I have produced all four of my short films, and been exposed to the marketing world of indie films through attending many film festivals. I look forward to offering advice based on all of these experiences to a team of adult beginners as they produce their own short film..
WHAT YOU LIKE
i don't know if I have a "favorite" film genre. I used to say it was drama because growing up I considered it to be the most "serious" and "true form" of cinema. But as I got older and more exposed to how many talented filmmakers from all over the world are able to tell great stories across all genres of film, I realized I was wrong. I'm all for anything that moves me and entertains at the same time.
In Akira Kurosawa's "Ikiru" , I love how this master of his craft portrays an affirmation for life through the exploration of death.
Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" - showcases a filmmaker with dark ambitions who took chances. Took a chance on a forgotten actor like Mickey Rourke, made me care deeply about the character. Love the way this film unfolds.
Boon Jung Ho's "Parasite" - I was praising this film before way before all the awards. It's beautifully filled with both joy and depression.
Favorite film: GOODFELLAS
Artists Profiles Arranged
By Job Categories
Storyboard Artist (1)
Cinematographer (Camera Dept)
Hair & Makeup
Location Scout / Manager
Script Supervisor / Continuity
Visual Artist (Set Artwork, Titles, Marketing)
Crafts Services / Catering
ARTISTS PROFILE QUESTIONS
The multiple questions under each heading are meant only to inspire thought. Answers can be one line or tell a story.
1) WHAT FIRST INSPIRED YOU
How were you first introduced to your craft?
Did you have any mentors early on?
Where did you get your training?
What surprised you as you learned your craft?
What are people like who you work with?
How are they different than your family and
the people you grew up around?
What do you value about collaborating with another Artist?
What sometimes bothers you about working with others?
5) WHY YOU ARE PARTICIPATING
What do you think about our Challenge?
Our concept for a People's Hollywood?
What do you have to offer as a resource?
6) WHAT YOU LIKE / WHAT YOU ARE DOING
Do you have a favorite film genre?
(drama, comedy, action, romance, sci-fi, historical, thriller, horror, etc.)
a. Name a favorite Film or Series and why
b. Name a Film or Series that you love for a special aspect and without the magic of that aspect the Film / Series would probably just be ok. (i.e. the music, costumes, sets, camera shots, acting, dialogue, etc)