When I was 16 and my sister was 13, our step-father would sometimes bring home a VHS camcorder from work and we would get more excited than two wasps stuck in a jar. We only had the huge thing for one weekend, but we spent that entire weekend making horror movies about zombies with our parakeets and our pet cat George, using chopped tomatoes as guts. In between that madness, we’d make commercials dressed as nuns singing covers of rock ballads by Aerosmith or Jefferson Starship. Who knows what would have happened or where we’d be now had we had that damn camcorder ALL of the time, or been born in a generation where whole movies could be shot on a cell phone.
But, that was not our destiny.
While always a story teller, I decided I wanted to make films somewhat later in life, having started film school at the age of 30, and just learned by doing doing doing. I’m still learning that way and don’t imagine this situation to ever change, although I do hope the sad situation of women in film will change. We are losing strong stories in a world that desperately needs diverse films to be as popular as comic book franchise films.
That being said, after years of saving my own money to shoot indie micro-budget films, my film partner and I figured out better ways to get a film made. We have been shopping several projects at filmmarkets all over the world, and some are moving along, albeit at a slow hair-pulling pace.
Now about those self-funded shorts and features…
In the Shadow (2011) is my first feature that I directed, co-wrote, and executive produced. It is shot in Culebra, Puerto Rico, and Austin, TX. It’s a psychological thriller about a healer dealing with the dark side of his gift. Danny Trejo plays a supporting role which was great fun for me, and a little nerve-wracking as I’d never directed a celebrity before. It was distributed by Devolver Digital until 2018.
The film I did after this is a long-format short called What’s the Use? (2015), which I directed and co-produced only. It was written by the late Jason Tremblay, a playwright from the Austin, Texas community. This a black comedy about a teenage girl who goes on a manhunt to save her junkie father from a dangerous loan shark. The film uses mixed media, animation, motion graphics, and unusual editing techniques, and as a result, is a film that really takes the medium of narrative film to an entirely different place. In some ways, it reminds me of Daisies by Vera Chytilova (1966).
I’ll be honest. These films are not great. Not great at all. But what they did do was allow me the invaluable process of making big mistakes. There just isn’t a better way to learn and improve than to just jump in and get your hands dirty, and fuck up a lot. A LOT. There was a great TED Talk with a speaker whose name has left me, but he said something I will never forget: It rarely is our actions we regret, but our inactions that we do.