Friday, April 24, 2009

Article About a Friend

One of my articles is in the Spec today! Here's the page.

I titled this entry "article about a friend" a bit incorrectly. It's more or less "friend I made because I interviewed him for an article... about him." In any case he's an interesting guy. And from (around) Chicago! Woo. Had to put Naperville in the article somewhere. Even though it is Naperville (cough).

[3ish weeks until I'm back in the arms of Chicagoland.]

Here's the full text:

Student filmmaker shoots movie under the Spanish sun

Victor Suarez, CC ’11, is so down-to-earth, it is almost hard to believe that he directed a $15,000 film production in Spain last summer.

Before beginning his sophomore year, Suarez managed—with relative ease—to secure funding for his short film, titled Nel Reinu. Set in a small Spanish village west of Barcelona, Nel Reinu explores the concept of families—how they change and are affected by time and separation.

Although Suarez discovered filmmaking late in his high school career after trying his hand at theater and acting, it is surprising that he is not a film student. For the moment, he is an English and Economics-Philosophy double major, and tries to keep away from film courses as much as possible. “I don’t want to do anything film-related until I graduate,” he said, although he plans to go to a graduate film program.

Regardless of his experience, Nel Reinu has the look of a true professional film—perhaps due to both great talent and a generous budget. Suarez attempted to explain the plot: “Following the death of his father, a man returns to his home in the north of Spain. It’s the first time he has visited his family in 30 years. He brings his American daughter along. It’s about family, and the whole thing is pretty... subtle. It asks a lot of questions and doesn’t give any answers. Basically it’s about how families work.”

The story is a personal one. The small village in Spain is also the home of his grandmother, and as the son of a Spanish father, he has wanted to make a film in Spain for some time. Suarez began contacting a small Spanish production company, which was enthusiastic about the film, but also needed for it to be a co-production with a U.S. company.

After two months of script-writing, Suarez pitched the idea to Project Bluelight, Columbia’s first undergraduate movie production company, as well as the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, a funding opportunity though the Columbia Arts Initiative. Both Project Bluelight and Gatsby agreed to contribute to the project. Their support combined with help from the Spanish production company made for an approximately $15,000 production—quite a large sum for a 13-minute film.

After securing funding, Suarez traveled across the Atlantic with five other current and former Columbia students to get down to business. One of the actresses was American—Nessa Norich, BC ’08—while the rest were Spanish actors hired by the production company. Suarez unfortunately lost some creative control through the filming process, and in the end, decided that writing screenplays was an easier way to shape the creative vision of a project than physically directing a movie.

After a great deal of post-production and sound editing, Suarez finished the final product a month ago. He and the Spanish producer are currently in the process of sending Nel Reinu to film festivals around the country, and so far it has won Best in Festival at Open Aperture Film Festival at Appalachian State University, as well as the Silver Palm at the Mexico International Film Festival. Victor explains, “It’s nice to sit back and see what happens. It’s just like waiting for the results after you send out college apps.”

When asked about advice he would give to fellow Columbia undergraduate filmmakers, Suarez was adamant about sticking to short films to get practice and experience on a smaller scale. In addition, outside sources, like the Spanish production company, can be a great help: “We have higher chances of getting money if we already have somebody interested, so I’d recommend that everybody do the same and find different sources.”

Nel Reinu was the most involved, ambitious, and personal of Suarez’s projects to date. As Suarez explained, “I wrote myself a lot into the story. Except I made myself into a girl, which is sort of weird. I don’t know what that is about...”

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