For the second year in a row, I competed in the San Antonio Neighborhood Film Project sponsored by the Office of Cultural Affairs and the San Antonio Film Commission. The short film project is meant to “highlight the hidden and not-so-hidden treasures of San Antonio” and had it’s most entries to date, totaling 68 shorts from filmmakers across the city. My entry last year, “Southtown Pedicab” won in the Southside, and this year we moved to the Northside with our romantic, under-dog, dancing tale, “Believe” starring HollyAnn Ovard and Richard Simkaitis. For the second year in a row we were fortunate to take 1st place in our category!
Probably the most asked question I get about this film is how the idea came about. Most of the time a reply jokingly, “watching dancing with the stars of course!”, and although I am laughing when I say it, it fact, it is mostly true. My family and I have watched the show off and on for some time and I have always been impressed how the producers of the show would mix different styles of music with seemingly opposite styles of dancing. So I had the idea of using dancers to showcase a neighborhood, but crap, I didn’t know anyone. So I hoped on Google and started searching for San Antonio dance studios, found a few, but not quite what I was looking for. With a few more clicks of the mouse I came across Ballroom Dance Academy. After clicking through their website for a while I found exactly what I was looking for, a competitive dance duo made up of HollyAnn Ovard and Ricardas Simkaitis. Next up was to use my stalking skills to find them and hopefully talk them into my crazy idea of dancing in several locations, in costume and in the middle of winter. I found them on Facebook, but unfortunately my messages to them went unanswered. Time was running out and I knew the best thing to do would be to present the idea in person. Holly and Richard are also instructors at BDA, and luckily for me, they post their dance instruction schedule on their website. I found a date and time they would be at the studio and I decided I would drop by with fingers crossed. I arrive at the studio before there next class was planned to start, and I nervously walk in. I was immediately welcomed by Richard and I go into my speal and a couple minutes later, Holly joined the conversation. Now, I am always nervous when approaching someone outside the film community about working on a project. These people don’t know me, and could just think I am just some crazy person and kick me to the curb. Thankfully, in this instance, that was not the case. Richard stopped me about a half way through and said, “we are in”. I was estatic, the pieces of the pre-production puzzle were starting to fall into place.
Cast was set and now it was time to crew up. For my entry last year, Southtown Pedicab, I was on my own. It was me, the pedicab driver and a camera going around town with fairly easy setups including interviews. But this time around I knew I was going to need some help, and luckily I knew the right people to call. First up San Antonio based producer, Ralph Lopez. Ralph and I had recently became friends, although I had been following his career for the last year. He was just coming off a very successful year screening “Katrina’s Son” all over the country and just wrapped on his latest project, “Wolf” with filmmaking partner, director Ya’ke Smith. I was hoping he was starting to get the filmmaking itch and once again crossed my fingers when I pitched the project to him. A few beers later and he was on board, relief! Next up camera assistant, and who else but my go to guy Ismael Rodriquez. He knows the Canon T2i as well as I do and someone I can always trust on. Now, I knew I would want high crane shots and someone that could make it happen, without a doubt that would be my friend Richard Jemal. Richard, Ismael and I have worked on quite a few projects together, I knew it was going to be a good time with these guys.
While getting the cast and crew together I started to think about music selection for the dance. I knew I wanted Holly and Richard to do a traditional ballroom dance, but like Dancing with the Stars, I wanted to take a different spin on it, and not use a traditional ballroom dance song. I found the song I wanted, a dub remix of “Castle Walls” by Christina Aguilera, and Ralph quickly took on the challenge of securing rights to the song with the record label, while I concentrated on other aspects of pre-production.
Time to get shooting. We had planned for 2 nights of shooting, one for the interiors and the another evening of exteriors at several different Northside locations. We showed up at Ballroom Dance Academy after their last teaching class, and after a quick wardrobe change, Richard was dressed as our humble janitor, and Holly as our out-of-reach, professional dancer. We took a total of about 4 hours to shoot, mainly because I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to shoot in a room full of mirrors! Richard and Iz were constantly moving the lighting around ensuring we were not being captured on camera. It was a challenge, but we were able to get the all the shots on the list. We all met up again a week later at the Pearl to shoot the exterior scenes, and boy was it cold! Holly’s wardrobe called for a sleeky, red number and I was not sure how long we could withstand the elements. But, ever the professional, Holly would not let a little could weather stop her! We’d shoot a scene, get her coat back on and into a waiting warm car while we setup the next location. Now here is an interesting fact, when we shot the exteriors, we did not know we would not get permission to the Christina Aguilera song in time. So they are actually dancing to a completely different song the final edit!
Who’s the new guy? Shooting was complete and now it was time to start the editing process with the deadline about 2 weeks away. We still had not been given final approval for the song and we finally had to make the call to find something else. I knew immediately, no other song out there was going to work, and there was not enough time to re-shoot, we were going to need a professional sound designer to come in and save the day. In walks, Erik Seime. Erik and I had recently met, I knew he was extremely talented and was hungry to work on film projects. Again, I crossed my fingers hoping he would be willing to come on board, even with his busy schedule. Lucky for us he agreed and we got straight to work, putting together an awesome score that matched up with the final edit in a matter of days. Thank you Erik!
At the screening, I was surprised and impressed with all the new names! There were some of the “usual suspects” in the finalist list, however, I would have to say, the majority were people I had never heard of before. I think this is a good thing and can’t help but believe this has been influenced by advances in technology. The cost of cameras and software has reached a point where almost anyone with an idea can make it, and see it on a big screen. Next month marks the 2 year anniversary of picking up my first camera, and I am very grateful for the opportunities and experiences I have been given because of this.
Written, shot, directed and edited by: Rod Guajardo
Produced by: Ralph Lopez
Camera Assistant: Ismael Rodriguez
Crane Operator: Richard Jemal
Sound Design: Erik Seime
Shot on: Canon T2i
Lens: Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 24-70mm 2.8 L, Tokina 11-16mm
Support: Express35.com Event Shoulder Rig
Software: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
Coloring: MBL Colorista
Tools: Zacuto EVF, Ladder Dolly, Flycam Nano, 12′ Crane
Behind the Scenes Photos
Screening/Afterparty Photos by Chris Saucedo