Writer/Director Bryan Anthony Ramirez of San Antonio has always been intrigued by the decisions people make that set their lives in a certain direction.
“You have people who come from low-income areas, and some end up selling drugs while others go to Harvard. What makes this happen?” said Ramirez about the theme of his first feature film, “Mission Park,” which will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 to kick off the 35th Annual San Antonio CineFestival. The festival, held at the historic Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, is the longest-running Latino film festival in the country.
“Mission Park” – a gritty, urban crime drama about four boyhood friends who end up on the opposite sides of the law as adults – has been picked up by Lionsgate Pictures. The world premiere, sponsored by the San Antonio Film Commission, kicks off the eight-day film festival with more than 30 film screenings scheduled through March 2.
So far, the reaction to Ramirez’s film has been very positive.
“People are really liking that we made this story,” said Ramirez, 32, who graduated from Marshall High School and Full Sail Film School in Orlando, Fla. “People can relate to the characters. All my actors had a close relation to what was being told. You can actually pick out what character you are.”
A fan of crime dramas, in part because of his father’s occupation as a Bexar County cold case detective, Ramirez only had to look as far as his father’s childhood friends, growing up in South San Antonio. “He has guys, friends, who went the wrong way. But I always looked up to them,” he said.
As for the process of creating an independent film in the Alamo City, Ramirez said the film community here has everything it needs to make great films using much less money. Recently, Ramirez and two other local writer/directors Bryan Ortiz and Kerry Valderrama, completed in San Antonio a horror trilogy feature called, “Sanitarium,” starring Malcolm McDowell, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Glover and Robert Englund.
“The only thing we don’t have is a Los Angeles office. If we had a direct link to LA, we wouldn’t have to go anywhere,” Ramirez said.
In fact, the filmmaker had to live in Los Angeles off and on for a year to procure actors – including Vivica Fox - and to market “Mission Park.” But he missed his young family, and the generosity of the San Antonio film community. “LA is not my style of living. A lot of people are just out for themselves,” he said. “In San Antonio, we support each other and help each other out.”