Making it in Hollywood, as they say is tough enough. Making it as a Latina who acts, writes and directs is for many a 3 strikes and your out at best. Fanny Veliz has been forced to overcome those obstacles in her quest to be a voice and make a career out of doing something she loves and feels a great passion about, finding that space in our society where Latinos of any gender can find roles or careers without regard for race in this fantasy business we call Hollywood.
Born in the U.S. and raised in Venezuela until the age of 17 when her family moved back to Los Angeles so Fanny could attend college, the drive to entertain and perform has always been in her blood. But it hasn't always been easy. When college play auditions turned up dry Fanny was forced to look off campus to a Hispanic Theater Company for acting opportunities. Still Fanny realized the segregation of acting parts for Latinos was an issue she was determined to change. One of her college professors instilled the idea to create her own roles...write the parts she wanted to play. That single inspiration resulted in Fanny writing roles not just for herself but for other Latinos dealing with the same issues.
Which brings us to her film "Homebound". Coupled with a large scoop of blood, sweat & tears and after being turned down by a number of Hollywood studios Fanny took her film to the public in an effort to crowd source the budget. Included with the crowd sourcing was a huge influx of money from her parents retirement fund which enabled Fanny to make her film. It took her the better part of 3 years to put all the pieces together but she did it. The result is a wonderful film that never bothers to mention to the viewer that we are watching a "Latino" story but rather an American tale of a family in strife.
In advance of the upcoming April 13th screening in L.A. of Homebound... I recently spoke to Fanny Veliz about her journey thus far:
Q) Tell the readers very briefly how you got started as an actor and then evolved into a writer and now director?
FV) I've always done both, even as a child actor I used to direct. When I went to college I received my degree in Acting and Directing. The writing came about because I realize the roles available for me as a Latina were very limited and one of my professors in college encouraged me to write. The first part I wrote for myself got me a spot at the regional Kennedy Center Awards, then I decided this was my path. I would write parts not only for myself but for other Latino actors who found themselves in a similar situation, which turned out to be a lot. Now I'm proud to say I've created many roles for some very talented actors who would have not gotten a chance otherwise
Q) Where did Homebound come from or rather, what was the inspiration for the story behind the film?
FV) I'm originally from Venezuela. I remember the first time I went back home after living in the US for a year. Everything to me looked different. I started really appreciating moments I was spending with my family because I didn't know when i would see them again. I started enjoying the nature of the country and the food, etc. That's what Homebound is about, reconnecting and appreciating where you come from. It of course also came from my commitment of creating films that highlight the American Latino experience. Homebound tells the story of an American family that just happens to be a Latino family. Anyone, no matter what background can relate to the story and the characters.
Q) What were the challenges being the director of your first feature length film?
FV) I came into the project very prepared and I knew I had a great cast so Directing the piece wasn't too big a challenge. The challenges have mostly been financial challenges. We've run out of money so many times I can't even remember.
Q) Probably the most important question on the minds of young or first time directors would be, financing. How did you find the budget to shoot this film on location?
FV) I went the regular route and pitched to several production companies and studios. I found that process was getting me nowhere. I think it's because Latino films are so few that they didn't want to take a financial risk. So, I decided to do a crowd funding campaign. It wasn't easy but we got it done. We also decided to film in a town where the lead actor Jeremiah Ocanas, had strong ties to the community. I've done that in the past with other projects and people outside of Hollywood are more willing to help. We were able to get free meals, locations, cars, extras, etc. After the film was completed we've had multiple fundraisers and my parents, who support me all the way, also invested a lot of their retirement money on the film.
Q) Homebound is your first feature length film. Looking back on the whole experience what surprised you most about directing an independent feature film?
FV) The difficulties of distribution. How distributors just want the film you have shed sweat and tears for, for pennies. It seems so disrespectful to me. When I set out to make the film, I thought making the film would be the most difficult part, was I wrong! lol The great thing about this journey has been meeting so many great people along the way that have fallen in love with the film and that have helped along the way.
Q) Lastly, what would you like people to take away with them after experiencing your film?
FV) What a loaded question! There are many things, my main goal is that people walk away touched and that they relate to the characters. Especially if they're not Latino. Why? Because if you can see Latino characters on the screen and be related to them, see how they are just like you, then whatever separation society has created between us will disappear. For people in the industry to see that Latino actors can play many different roles, that we're not all new immigrants. Latinos have been in this country for many generations and are an important part of the American fabric. Lastly, as much as possible I want to inspire other artists, that if you put your mind to it you can accomplish big projects, like directing and producing a feature film.
I encourage you to see this film for two reason. Homebound is a wonderful film experience by a young filmmaker with a purposeful vision and a great story to tell. And second, support this talented actor, writer, director. As with anything in life, the pursuit is often filled with struggles and sacrifices but ultimately it is the most rewarding of all experiences. Fanny Veliz has only begun to to tell her tales. Imagine what the future holds.
For advance ticket to Homebound screening on April 13, 2014 visit http://www.tugg.com/events/8563