Updated: Nov 15, 2018
Victoriam Media has always been about creating top quality content that is not only visually stunning, but also inspires our audience as well. As experienced and as well versed as we are, creating such commodities can sometimes prove to be daunting when left to our own devices. That is why we relish in the opportunity to work with other like minded professionals within our own industry. Recently we had the favorable occasion to work with the ladies at La Chingona, helping them produce and film their first short A Mi Manera. As quick synopsis A Mi Manera is a dark comedy focused around the life of Aria, a young girl who is trying to cope with her own inevitable death by cancer while still attempting to maintain control of the time she still has left. In the next few blogs we will be highlighting the women of La Chingona in a QA regarding this recent project starting with its founder herself; Candice Torres.
•A Mi Manera deals with its subject matter in way that adds a new perspective to a very real situation. Where did the inspiration for this come from? How did the seriousness of the subject impact its production?
The original concept of A Mi Manera was all Kristin Cercado. She came up with ideas about a dark comedy almost a day after I asked her to write a script for the project. As she was writing and developing character backstories, immigration bans and deportation by the Trump administration were all over the news. That did influence the story in a very sobering way.
The film touches a bit on the fact that Aria’s mom is not present. It’s never explicitly stated, but she was deported when Aria was younger, forcing Aria—an American citizen—into foster care. The character Lena, is Aria’s legal guardian and the girls share sister bond. Throughout the film, Aria avoids telling her mother of her diagnosis, which creates the tension between the sisters and drives a lot of Aria’s actions.
This key piece of the story, in my mind, made the film suddenly that much more important. It was no longer just a dark comedy about a girl with cancer—this film represents the life and death situations surrounding deportation and racists legislation that our country is currently in the midst of facing. It’s a direct commentary on ongoing events that have affected and impacted me and my community—literally people I know. It gets pretty overwhelming to think about, honestly.
I hope others can watch this film and feel a sliver of frustration each character in this film feels because only when people are frustrated and upset is change made.
•One of the biggest draws of Mi Manera is its Latin theme. How important was this sort of representation during the creation of this production?
This all started when I asked Kristin if she had any scripts, if she would allow me to produce one, and she got back to me with the concept for A Mi Manera. I think it became “Latina themed” because that’s what we both know—we both identify as Latina and the transition from concept to final draft just organically became that.
I don’t think either of us intended for it to become so heavily influenced by Latinx culture, rather that was more of an indirect result. A welcomed indirect result of her writing, our conversations regarding character relationships and backstories, and the casting.
This film began as a project designed for female filmmakers to learn and grow in their craft. As the producer, I was originally more concerned with gathering a crew and production team. My original goal was for an all-female production. However, I quickly found that UCR was not providing its film students enough opportunities to learn from someone and get hands on experience around a film set. I wanted to provide that space for women to not be afraid to ask questions and learn collectively from each other rather than just “winging it” like so many in the film production classes were. I sought out the help of a production team whom I’ve worked with before, seen their skillset first hand, and whom were willing/exited to potentially be a mentor.
That being said, in no way was the cast or crew 100% Latina. The representation projected through this film, in my opinion, is one of all type of marginalized peoples rather than confined to one specific culture. Our cast and crew were filled with diverse ethnicities, races, ages, genders, etc. This type of representation is crucial in the filmmaking industry and quickly became the backbone of this entire project.
A Mi Manera’s main character, Aria, is told she is going to die and instead of falling in line she creates a ripple by taking what is expected of her and changing the narrative. By making this film and casting women of color and a crew of marginalized peoples whom Hollywood has sidelined for decades, we are creating out own ripples. A small part of that includes taking a word like chingona, reconfiguring the connotation to change the narrative in our favor.
•Focusing on a producer's standpoint, one of the main goals for the production seemed to be to provide on set experience to those looking to learn. What was the reasoning behind this?
At UCR I was very involved in the stage management for the theatre program and part of that role involved networking with a lot of people and being a hub of information regarding any open positions, rehearsal dates, upcoming productions etc. That position translated over well to script supervising for the film department and because I knew a lot of people in both fields, I would get asked a lot about questions about open positions for crewing. I soon kind of realized that there were far less opportunities in the film side of campus and decided to utilize my connections and make our own opportunity rather than wait for a department film to call for cast and crew. I knew there were incredibly talented people in our department because I’ve worked with a lot of them and I knew they would be willing to teach others while also expand their own portfolios.
It was a very obvious solution for a growing problem - especially as we were nearing graduation and some students had very little experience on set. I got together with a group of people and we learned on the job. Personally, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, how to better prepare for certain issues that might arise, etc, all things I will be implementing on future projects.
•What spurred the creation of La Chingona? What does La Chingona represent to you?
La Chingona is a movement of empowering those who have been silenced by society. We offer those people a medium to tell their stories. I prefer working very closely with the writers and having them present throughout the process of casting and rehearsals and in meetings with the DP and director so they can voice their opinions and visions.
It’s so crucial to have films like these made by people of color because visual representation in our society today equates to a sort of validation of your existence. By not casting people of color in films we are erasing those people from mainstream history being currently documented by Hollywood. It’s as though the stories those groups of people have to tell are not important enough for film, therefore don’t get documented now and remembered for the future.
•As La Chingona's first production what precedent do you hope this sets for the future? Anything coming up soon worth noting?
La Chingona Films is going to continue producing films that vocalize and represent the marginalized perspective. There will be no limitations or restrictions of who can and can’t be a part of the process. We are open to working with all types of perspectives. I do, however, would like to continue emphasizing the female “chingona” filmmaker experience whether that be in terms of cast, crew, or script.
As of right now we are working the film festival circuit and trying to reach out to as many festivals as possible. There are no tangible scripts in the works currently, but there are a few concepts being thrown around and are in the stages of pre-PRE-production. But look out for those cast and crew calls in the near future!
It was an amazing experience working with Candice, one we all here at Victoriam Media cannot wait do to again. Next weeks post will feature the writer of the film herself Kristin Cercado so be sure to check back with us then!