Deep inside Florida’s extended geography, there is a need to burst into the film industry. For decades, South Florida has been trying to establish itself as the “Hollywood” of the southeast coast with numerous studios and its great locations and wonderful climate all-year round. But more important, it has become a cradle of new and emerging filmmakers, some born there, others who have come from different parts of the world to merge their culture and struggle with their indie projects to become global and eager to let their particular voice known, especially in these days where the distribution methods are changing at a daily pace.
One of them is Ecuadorian filmmaker Jhonny Obando.
We sat with him while he stopped in Miami to promote his latest project: “Time To Be” (Esperando, in its original Spanish language), an 18-minute production that centers on the relationship of four life-long friends that discover their true sexual identity as they face their own social fears.
Agatino Zurría: Where did the story come from?
Jhonny Obando: It was born from the need to tell a story with a subject matter that I haven’t covered directly in my previous work, even if I always make sure it has some presence. We want to be the pioneers of this kind of stories in the independent film arena in Miami, and we also want to help people who are passing through similar circumstances and send a message to those who don’t understand this lifestyle.
AZ: So you are pioneers in the gay cinema in Miami?
JO: If we see the kind of films that are being made in this city, these stories are not tackled very often. We always attend screenings from friends and other filmmakers and we’ve never seen them exposing this thematic. I imagine there might be, but not many. In Miami, not many filmmakers like to work with socially conscious stories, which is what I like.
AZ: But, if you say there are a few, you’re saying you’re not a pioneer of this kind of films.
JO: Yes, there are. I’ve never seen them though.
AZ: Is this story based on any real account? Did it happen to you or anyone you know?
JO: No. It is completely fiction. Actually, I’ve never heard this has happened to anyone, but I imagine it does, more often than we think.
AZ: Do you make any kind of research before working on a production, or do you simply work with stories that are in synch with your sensibility?
JO: That depends. In this case, I just went along with the story I got. It is a simple story in terms of research. Only the scenes of the 7-month old baby required some. The rest I took it from things I find in real life. Some other details required some information, but mostly we didn’t need much.
AZ: How did you cast the production?
JO: I had already worked with most of my cast and crew, and I tend to write with a specific actor in mind. So Pilar Bru and Dennis Mencia were already cast when I was writing the story. In the case of the other two characters, it wasn’t my intention to join the cast or to have Evelyn Jimenez do Catalina. We wanted to focus on our Production-Direction efforts. But the original cast wasn’t what we were looking for and we ended up jumping in.
AZ: And how did you get your crew?
JO: Well, we are fortunate to have Dominican filmmaker Jose Perdomo III as the director of photography and Editor. We also worked with Diana Naranjo, Orlando Core and Shanik Hughes for the sound and original music, Lizandra Parra who helped me supervise the script I wrote. Evelyn Jimenez was my assistant director and Julio Coutinho helped produce it.
AZ: Is the film ready for distribution?
JO: We just completed post-production last month. We don’t want to send it to many festivals. We want people to see it right away in the social media. Festivals are excellent to display films and be in touch with other filmmakers, but we want to find ways for the audience to have a more immediate access through the social media, which is an excellent way to distribute our work, and it’s right there within reach of anyone’s hands. For example, we already started a campaign and it has reached ten thousand clicks, which gives us a pretty good idea of how much people need this kind of media.
AZ: So what’s your next project?
JO: We are already editing another short film to be uploaded online in 2014 about destiny, something very romantic. It’s called “Moriría por vos”, and we are working on a feature called “Justicia Ciega” about sexual abuse on children, which will be sent to film festivals. But we are very excited about “Time To Be”. It is a work of love and we would like a lot of people to be able to see it in our social media and any future presentations. After all, what else we make films if not to help people face real social issues?