Monday, November 24, 2014

Tío Louie Reporta: PAOLA MENDOZA

HOLA is proud to present Tío Louie Reporta, where filmmaker and Executive Producer of Prime Latino Media, Louis Perego Moreno (also known as Tío Louie) interviews actors and multimedia-makers in the business.

In this edition, Tío Louie interviews filmmaker Paola Mendoza. The interview took place at the August edition of the Prime Latino Media Salón (presented by Tío Louie, HOLA and United Latino Professionals-New York) on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at Meridian 23 Bar and Lounge in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

​​Paola Mendoza has directed both short and feature length films– Entre nosHalf of HerAutumn's Eyes and La Toma– that have been embraced by film festivals around the world: Toronto International Film Festival, Berlinale, Tribeca Film Festival, Full Frame, South by Southwest. She has starred in many critically acclaimed films, Sangre de mi sangre (Jury Award, Sundance Film Festival), Entre nos (Honorable Mention, Tribeca Film Festival), and On The Outs (Toronto FIlm Festival). She has recently finished writing her first novel, entitled The Ones Who Don't Stay, which was published by Penguin Books in the summer of 2013.

Tío Louie Reporta

 On the heels of President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration reform we are drawn to highlight and celebrate the work of a lady who graced a PRIME LATINO MEDIA Salón focusing on Dreamers and feature her compelling short and very persuasive public service announcement, Broken Tail Lights, starring Cuban-American actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano on "The Sopranos") playing the role of a young undocumented immigrant mother. The plight of Dreamers begs the question: how can a child brought to the USA without papers who grows up loving this country, like any counterpart born here, risk being deported to a land they know not all because of a lack in legal immigration U.S. status? Meet Colombian-born Paola Mendoza who tackles myriad social issues and confronts them head on using the power of media to get her messages across for social enlightenment and change.

Broken Tail Light
Written & Directed by Paola Mendoza
Starring Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Heaven King and Andrés Munar

And while some people give their two cents (their opinions) on things, I asked for ten cents ("Dime tus $0.10"), adjusted for inflation, after all.


Paola Mendoza 

You have worn various hats in your career over the last decade: actor, director, screenwriter. What are you most and foremost?  I’m a director. My personality leans to being a director.

Paola Mendoza.
In your successful Spanish-language feature film, Entre nos (Between Us) you were the co-director, co-writer and lead actor. How was it wearing several hats and would you ever do that again? I would never do it again, because it’s hard work. It’s painful and stressful. You are being schizophrenic. Because of juggling the two, the acting side was not enjoyable. Directing is already stressful onto its own, than imagine adding acting to it. I would never do it again nor recommend anyone do it. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I’m glad I did it – but [it's] never to be done again.

Paola Mendoza in Entre nos
(Between Us).

Entre nos (Between Us) was an autobiographical tale. How difficult was taking that on or was it therapeutic? As an artist, I dealt with my past all the time. It first was a novel inspired by my family’s story. I don’t necessarily have difficulty doing autobiographical works. I rather like that it gives me a time and a place to grapple with my own personal issues and make them universal. I didn’t start it off consciously as a form of therapy, but over the years it has become that. There’s a piece of that because I’m constantly asking questions about my family, my history and my past – not just scratching the surface. My family’s history, my mom’s and mine are so full of amazing stories. Artists are constantly digging deeper for that truth. We only find that truth when we continue to ask questions. Since I was a little girl I have been attracted to this. Now as an artist I can use this and I am sure I will again.

Share with us how you’re making a difference in the filmmaking community, especially with women, in a special group that you are involved with entitled, Film Fatales? It’s a group started by Leah Meyerhoff. It’s about women directors who get together once a month for a dinner party when we get together and talk about making movies. It’s about what it means to be a director – a female director. The great thing that has happened with the group is that it has gone beyond just being a social group and doing practical things in helping one another. I organize master classes once a quarter and someone from the group teaches the class to the rest of the women. A class that we had was on directing actors and it was given by Deborah Kampmeier who directed Hounddog starring Dakota Fanning and the film Virgin, which has been nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards. She gave a three-hour class with 20 women. We’ve had other classes such as How to do a Kickstarter Campaign and another one on Social Media and Marketing Your Film. They’re incredible classes where we’re teaching each other something vital by passing on tangible skills from the knowledge the group has. We have also created a mixer for women to meet people from the company, Gamechanger Films – a film fund for women directors and that is being organized by Film Fatales. So this social group has become much more than that in actuality becoming something helping women make their movies and become better artists.

Paola Mendoza and Louis
Perego Moreno (Tío Louie)
I asked you about juggling life as a filmmaker/TV Producer and a 17-month-old son and you responded, No one normally asks that of men who juggle a business life and family.You’re right. But I’m curious what concerted decisions you made in doing both. Gerry Laybourne who launched Nickelodeon as an $8 billion empire once shared with women at a breakfast mentoring meeting that if working makes a woman happy, it makes her a better mom. How are you juggling? It’s a work-in-progress. He’s only 17 months old. I’m not at a hard level yet. I made a very conscious decision early after having the baby that I wasn’t going to feel guilty about working or being an artist. I agree, I am a better mother when I am able to be an artist. If I am not able to do the work that I love, I’m not going to be a good mom. When I go and I work, when I leave the country – which I have left the baby numerous times for film work, I know that A. he’s in great hands with his father, and B. I have to do this in order to be a good mom. At this point in my life, there’s no gray in that space. When I’m there, I’m present for my son. When I’m present with work, I’m present with work. We don’t ask fathers how they balance being a father and a being a businessman or having their career, it’s only asked of moms. I don’t necessarily have a magic answer. I don’t think that there’s one. I’m lucky to have a partner who’s 100% involved in his son’s life. I’m also lucky to have a career that allows my work to be flexible. Sometimes I travel and sometimes I’m home for three months, which is fantastic.

I hear you’re working on a major initiative in Colombia. Is it comprised of several different projects or under one umbrella? It’s one film called A Paso de Mangles (Steps from the Mangroves) and it has a large educational component to it once the film is done. So then we’ll do a whole educational outreach component for women that are survivors of sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict in Colombia. So I’ve been working on the film with Gloria LaMorte for the past two years. She and I have written it together and I am directing it.

Tell me about your new HBO project in development? I am producing an HBO pilot. It’s a documentary television series that is yet untitled. It’s really exciting. This is the first time I am producing someone else’s work. I normally produce my own work, not that I want to, but because I have to. This is the first time I am producing another director’s work. The reason being is because I’m really excited about the subject matter. It’s about three generations of one Latino family in Washington Heights. It’s a Dominican family. We have the "abuela", the parents are door-to-door salesmen, and the younger generation, who are 30-year-old men who have started their own business – they’re entrepreneurs, who have a technology company that they’re getting off the ground. The documentary series is a celebration of what it means to have this American dream. What it means to have three generations of one Latino family and how culture changes within that family – how language changes within those three generations. It’s a look at a Dominican family where one of the sons went to one of the best business schools in the country. The guy is one of the most intelligent, articulate, risk-takers you can even ever imagine. This is the antithesis to stereotypes – and this is why I am so excited if this show gets picked up that this will be the first show out there of a Latino family in this light – this would be a huge project. It would be on HBO, not HBO Latino. We’re doing Spanish, Spanglish, and we’re doing English. So it’s really this groundbreaking show.

Your $0.10 of advice for directors that they don’t ask that they should know? As directors, a lot of people are focused on the artistic side, rather than what it takes to be a leader. The quality of leadership is essential so that a crew believes in you – whether it is five or 500 people. The type of leader I strive to be is a progressive and compassionate leader, which does not entail running the process as a dictatorship. I firmly believe in forging collaborative relationships. And what I find is that it makes you better artistically by collaborating with others.

* * * *

Louis E. Perego Moreno (Tío Louie)

An interactive content producer and educator who for the past 33 years has owned Skyline Features, a bilingual (English- and Spanish-language) multimedia and educational production company developing documentaries, television programming and advertising commercials featuring Latinos, Blacks, Women, Urban Youth and LGBT. Produced 70 documentary shorts with 1,500 Latino and Black Youth. Producer/Director/Writer of documentary feature, Latina Confessions (2010) and airing on PBS nationally was co-producer on American Dreams Deferred (2012-2014). Executive Producer of PRIME LATINO MEDIA SALÓN, metro-New York's only monthly gathering of Latino multimedia-makers and actors in which over 60 narrative & documentary filmmakers, programmers, casting agents, digital media producers and actors have been interviewed.

For more information about Paola Mendoza, click here. To see photos of the Prime Latino Media Salón event featuring Ms. Mendoza, click here.

No comments: