I’m very excited to introduce this new series on ARCblog called ARCommunity #FF: where we will interview a Featured Filmmaker or Fotographer every Friday. The series is part of our “Get Featured” campaign where you, our readers, submit YOUR story and share your creativity with the world.
Our first #FF Featured Filmmaker is a very talented actress and friend, Taina Elena Hernandez, writer /director of the upcoming short film Chanced Are. She is accompanied by her DP, Sean Sawyer and producer, Ron Rivera.
Taina is an accomplished New York City actress having worked on a wide array of shorts and feature-length films like Pocket Full of Nickels (Sawyer/2013), The Morning After (Denner/2013) and MJ’s Secret (Bailey/2013). Currently residing in Brooklyn she has taken on the challenge of working a 9 to 5 job while establishing herself (quite successfully) as an actress. It was my pleasure to meet with these three very talented individuals and ask them a few questions.
ARC: Tell us a little bit about your project and what it’s about.
Taina: Chances Are came about when I was actually going to set. I was working with Sean on Pocket Full of Nickels – I was his lead in that film. The story came about when I was sitting on the train and I saw this guy get on the train with a bookbag and he was saying how he was one of 6 homeless people that live in an abandoned building in Queens. And it was his turn for the night to get money for dinner. And it kind of sparked a story in my head and I just went with it. I wrote it within 3 days and went through a couple of revisions. Then I showed it to Sean and also Chris (Ruiz, DP) and Ron who is the producer and they wanted to film it so we just went ahead with it. It took us 4 days – two weekends – and we just finished [shooting] August 4th. It’s a story about how our decisions whether they’re right or wrong can lead us to second chances. It’s a heartfelt story, there’s some drama and a bit of action in it.
ARC: Sean, you were the DP, what camera did you use.
Sean: We shot with the 60D, which is [made by] Canon.
ARC: And how did you like shooting with that camera?
Sean: It was great. I’ve had experience with it before, shooting the majority of my feature. It was shot on the 60D so it was good, it was a good time.
ARC: Being the DP, you were in charge of lighting. What type of equipment did you use for this film? What was your set up?
Sean: We used a [small] two set of Lowel Light Kits. Basics that we needed for the shoot. Just minimal [equipment] because it was a small crew. We basically did everything ourselves.
ARC: Did you go for a more realistic look, using available and natural light?
Sean: Oh yeah, definitely. We used a lot of natural light. There weren’t that many locations so for the majority of places we used natural light. I think the last day was when we used our light kit.
ARC: Ron, you were in charge of casting for Chances Are. What was that process like for you? Did you hire actors you previously worked with, on other projects, or is this an all new cast for you?
Ron: The casting process was very tedious yet a lot of fun. When I casted a web-series pilot last year, I found the whole process of finding the right actors to be very intriguing. I’ve worked with many talented actors from New York City and could have called on some, but I really wanted to give other actors a chance and I wanted to find the right people to fill these roles. I posted the notice on actorsaccess.com and nycastings.com where I knew we’d find great talent. The submissions were overwhelming, with over 300 people submitting for four roles. Taina and I looked at every single one. We made our selections and saw over 50 actors at the auditions. There were many talented actors that made it very difficult to decide – but in the end, we made the best choices and came out with a solid cast.
ARC: So what are the characters like in this film?
Taina: Well there are four leads. The first two leads, Charlie and Rob, they are homeless and they’ve been living on the streets. One of them, Rob, is an artist. They were making a living off of selling his artwork at first but he started going down the wrong road, using drugs. He wanted the fast life, you know. He wanted fast money and not have to paint anymore. The other kid, Charlie, is trying to keep him on the right track. In the interim they do something that leads to a reconciliation for Rob with someone that he hasn’t seen in a long time.
ARC: What was your experience working with each other.
Sean: Well, I’m a writer/director and Taina was the lead in my film called Pocket Full of Nickels. So actually that was the first project we worked on together. But like she said, she [approached us with] her story and we wanted to help her out. We wanted to shoot it. It was a good experience. It was her first time directing and she did really great for her first time. Of course, we always learn and you get better as a director and as a writer. How you grow is behind the scenes.
ARC: Ron, you were the producer on Pocket Full of Nickels as well as Chances Are, what would you say is the biggest challenge as a producer when working on a short film versus a feature length film, or vice versa?
Ron: The biggest challenge working on a short film versus a feature length, I would say, is getting it right the first time. Casting, funding, finding the best locations, props, wardrobe, paperwork etc. Doing all of that on a tight schedule. Short films are usually shot in a few days where as a feature may take a month or longer and you have more time to work with. You can plan for re-writing, re-scheduling and even re-shooting scenes. With a short film like Chances Are, getting everything you need and getting it right the first time was challenging. We were on a tight schedule and because the lead characters needed to keep a certain look, we knew re-scheduling for any reason wasn’t an option. We had a few last minute scares with a location and some props, but thankfully it all came together and the shoot went on without a hitch. I’m glad I had two great talented and creative minds to work with in Taina and Sean. I am extremely proud of this beautiful, heartwarming short film and I look forward to working the 2014 festival circuit very soon. We are also screening Pocket Full of Nickels for the 2nd time this Saturday August 10th. You can visit https://pocket-full-of-nickels.eventbrite.com/ for more info and to purchase tickets.
ARC: Any idea when Chances Are will be ready for submission to festivals?
Taina: I’m hoping end of September, early October but we’ll see.
Sean: It depends on the editor, too. We want to have a different eye. It’s good to have a director sitting in the editing room to get the feel of it when you edit. But it’s good to have a fresh eye. Realistically, there’s no rush. If you want your project to do well. For a short film, two to three months is [a good timeframe].
Taina: It’s very stressful. I mean, I can only imagine a feature. When we filmed Pocket Full of Nickels it was like… 6 months?
Sean: Yeah, 6 months.
Taina: Yeah, it’s a process. But even just trying to do a short film and trying to keep everything in order – call sheets and wardrobe, who can make it, who can’t make it – it was just really stressful but we got it done.
ARC: Taina, Do you see yourself transitioning from Leading Actress to Writer/Director on a more permanent level, or was this just something you wanted to try out?
Taina: Currently, I’m pursuing a more prominent acting career [rather] than directing. I was inspired to write a short film and the opportunity to bring it to life presented itself. I now have a better understanding of what it’s like to sit behind the casting table, handle call sheets, scout locations, etc. What a process! The writing portion will continue. I have a sci-fi feature that I’d like to see made on a grander scale, but time will tell. I couldn’t have done this without Sean Sawyer, Ron Rivera, my lovely parents, my cast and people who have supported me thus far.
ARC: What advice would you give aspiring Filmmakers?
Ron: What’s that Nike slogan?
Taina: Just do it.
Ron: Just do it. If you really need to express yourself and can’t imagine living your entire life without it, then don’t procrastinate. Get yourself a good team of people who share your love and passion for it and get started. Connect with people who have achieved their own projects and succecces and learn as much as possible [from them]. The best way to learn anything is hands on. So grab that script and camera and go. Keeping a positive mind and positive people in your circle is key. Get started today and never give up.
Taina: Push the fear of failure to the side and do it. You will learn things about yourself in the process, you can only get better from there. Prepare and plan accordingly but be flexible with the challenges you will face on set. Stay creative and take risks.
Be sure to look out for Taina Elena’s directorial debute film on her Facebook Page. Thank you all so much and have a great weekend.