Why film? Is there something particular about the art form or the community that makes you so passionate about your work?
Film's my passion, my life pursuit, my lover and even my religion. Ever since I was a wee kid growing up in Puerto Rico, my most important formative experiences came from watching films. Every time I see a superbly made film, that flame that I've inside for the cinema becomes a bonfire.
The art form just has an unparalleled ability to lay bare the human condition unlike any other: The images, the narratives, the characters, the sounds. Recent movies like Let The Right One In or There Will Be Blood or Antichrist are examples of just how deep, potent, thought-provoking and even spiritual the cinema is. I'm just totally in love with film.
Credit: Armando Valle, The Waterboard
What was your first job/experience in film?
Although I made student films during my first years at UMBC, my first significant experience with film came when I wrote, produced and directed my first indie short, Rental, 5 years ago. It was a trial by fire. The process demanded so much of me and it transformed me. It was the first time I said, 'So this is how hard it's like.. and this is how you come thru the other side and get a film made.' It was big milestone.
Do you have a favorite filmmaking experience? Why was it your favorite?
It has to be the filming of my latest piece, The Waterboard, a very difficult film with very harrowing, realistic subject matter. It's my favorite experience because I have finally grown as a filmmaker to tackle every obstacle that rises during filming. We had a crisis while filming--an on-set accident--that could have derailed the whole film, and I remembered just calming down and proceeding to resolve it in a smart, professional matter. I then knew I have what it takes to do this for the rest of my life, and to do it extremely well.
What's the best advice you ever got?
It came recently from Roger Ebert. I asked him online if there was a really good reason to make a difficult, dangerous film. And his clear answer was that's exactly the reason why you make the film. It was so zen. It's given me a huge shot of confidence to proceed with my first feature film.
What was the worst advice you ever got?
No bad advice. I mainly learn by reading and watching the mistakes of others. I learn from every bad film I watch. Someone once advised me to just 'move to LA, live in a cramped apartment with 5 other people' and just make the Hollywood filmmaking thing happened. I've never been interested in making it happen that way. I didn't take her advice.
Is there something special about film in Maryland?
I think, just very recently, it's gotten very interesting because we're at the cusp of another great indie film renaissance. Not just in Maryland, but in many American cities. Filmmakers like me, and friends of mine like Mark Colegrove (Isle Of The Damned) and Chris Lamartina (President's Day), are beginning to rise to the challenge of making indie movies with very particular, individual visions. We're beginning to find our strides. More importantly, we're beginning to find the funds.
What are your future plans?
My short, The Waterboard, was screened at the Sacramento Horror Film Festival back in October. I plan to continue to tell that story in my first feature film. I would like to make a significant indie film in the MD/DC area and make the statement that this town will not just be known for the work of John Waters and Barry Levinson. We've many talents here; talent that's not being syphoned to the mainstream filmmaking culture of Los Angeles. I plan on producing several well-crafted indie films thru my company Xterminating Angel Films. We're hoping to put this town back on the map as a filmmaking city now that big productions like The Wire have gone away.
Yes, those are very ambitious plans, but there's no point in dreaming if you're not dreaming big.