What always strikes me about showcasing your work is the amount of passion you have for your craft. It’s uncompromising and entirely inspiring. Film writer Ismael Jr. Santos is no different and I recently interviewed him about his short student film “Memories From The Past”, his life and his work.
After the interview check out the short film “Memories From The Past” .
Born and raised in Miami … and have always been something of an odd child: growing up around here, in a place called Little Havana, where art and McDonald’s and Cubans go hand in hand. I’ve always been really attracted to literature and films that deal with odd balls and the outsiders: needless to say, I really got into film and literature because of the whole “Beat Generation” and guys like Kerouac and directors like Cronenberg, and ever since then, writing and making movies is the only way I want to live in this world.
There is something undoubtedly eccentric about Ismael, and it’s no secret that art attracts, no thrives on eccentricity.
When I was just getting into film, Fight Club by David Fincher and A Clockwork Orange/Dr. Strangelove by Kubrick just completely mesmerized me. Delving deeper into films, especially the past, I really like Griffith and Eisenstein’s editing methods, but the ones who hold the biggest sway over me are Akira Kurosawa and Orson Welles: the way they can say so much with cutting and juxtaposition of visuals is amazing to take in.
As always with these interview, I like to delve into the reasons of the how and why. Why is someone attracted to filmmaking and the arts. Possibly in the hope I’ll one day find the answer for myself.
I’m creative in the sense that I don’t have much of a filter on what’s traditionally done versus what’s expected: for most projects, I just throw caution to the wind and write and film what I want, and if people hate it or like it, that’s entirely up to them. It’s the creativity of the crazy, and I think it’s helped me get out of a comfort zone of not exploring new concepts and ideas.I always tend to explore death, dysfunction, and how convoluted/absurd the ways we react to such themes, and to each other, as a whole.
So what does Ismael do to unwind and ease the stress.
I sometimes like to watch old Netflix episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Parks and Recreation: funny enough for a laugh, but nothing really troubling for the soul to ponder over. At the same time, I just love watching movies: for the Miami International Film Festival that passed a while back (ended March 17th), I saw over seventeen films in ten days, and all for my movie review website, with my friend Danny Molina. The Wolves of Little Havana
Today, OneOfUs hosts his latest student film, which he co wrote and featured in ‘Memories from the Past’ which Ismael is very keen to obtain feedback on.
Like all the Showcases, I like to conclude the interview with reflecting with the artist on their project and allowing them to demonstrate their process.
Like a lot of things, it came down to a high school project: my creative writing teacher at the time, Mrs. Hortensia Cardona, gave the class a project to create an interpretation of Sartre’s No Exit. For the most part, people decided to make a play and perform it in front of the class.In short, I’m the most nervous and anxious man you’ll ever meet, at least this young, and I just knew I would screw up the lines if I had to do it in a play-format. Plus, I felt you could do a whole lot more in a short film concerning this situation/interpretation, and I wanted to try my hand at it. Thankfully, everyone in the group concurred and so we went off and completed the film a few days before it was due.
For the initial script process, I and the other costar (Mario Madriz) started writing it in class, and the third star (Glennda Campbell playing Luci) was involved in the process via text messages and emails(she was in another class, so scheduling it was tough from the start.) After the last writing session, which took place afters chool and was pretty fruitful(although I personally still feel I underwrote Luci at the time, and the character didn’t do much in the film. The person who played her, Glennda, gave her a Shakespearean villain quality that was all her own) and we started to try and schedule a way to gather together and shoot the thing. I had worked with the director previously, as we were both in TV/Film Production a year previously and had shot a quick film about bullying, and I felt he would be up for making a short film(Jacob Lopez). Shooting was done in about two days, with the bulk of the film being shot at Bayside and at Mario’s house, the last scene taking over six hours to complete, with different angles needed and only one camera to use. Jacob was the main man for editing, as well: he really edited all of that footage down to the best angles must have been a real pain, and with all of his classes to sift through(he was a year behind the rest of us, around that time a sophomore in Miami High, but he was/is a great director.I learned a lot from him.)
It’s interesting talking to someone so early in their creative career; I remember when I was still in high school, oblivious, and lacking any kind of creative vision or technique especially to get up and do, rather than to do nothing and dream.
I learned that the process of writing and rehearsing will never really come into a perfect mold: nothing is perfect, and in art that is the number one rule. When it comes to film making, there are a million things that can get in the way of your initial vision: time constraints, funding issues, creative differences.I’m really proud of how most of it really gelled into a serviceable film, and the last scene, the one I thought wouldn’t work too well, mainly because of rewriting it and trying to fit the twist in near the end, really worked as a compelling, taunting scene for all three characters.Recording on-location with no funds and no boom mics – the microphone for the Bayside scene/sitting on the bench at the mall was in my shirt pocket, if I remember right, was a huge pain: having to hurry and hurry, with constant interruptions and fumbling of things. The film, as a storyline, feels that it could work without the twist at the end, in hindsight.The whole plot-twist angle really didn’t translate that well from the page to the screen, and the problems of trying to cram so much back story into a scene or two really took away, at least initially, from the dynamic of the three characters.
Ismael is very keen to learn and grow from this experience. So do take the time to watch the short below and give feedback down in the comments.
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