On Saturday, March 26th, 2011 the screening and awards were held for the San Antonio Neighborhood Film Project at the Guadalupe Theatre. I was fortunate to win in the “Southside” category and took home a check for $3000 with my short doc, “Southtown Pedicab” starring Michael Urbano. The short film project, managed by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and the Office of Cultural Affairs, is meant to “highlight the hidden and not-so-hidden treasures of San Antonio”. Click here for full competition details and rules.
There were 4 neighborhoods for filmmakers to choose from and after some deliberating I went with the Southside. Unfortunately, I did not know much about the area, and the extent of my visits to this part of town were visits to C4 Workspace on King William Street. To get some inspiration a few months before submissions were due, I headed south to drive around the neighborhood and hoped some kind of divine inspiration would hit me, as I had no idea what I was going to do. Did I want to do a documentary, maybe a narrative, or how about a music video with one of my musician friends? It was starting to get dark and found myself having an early dinner at Titos Mexican Restaurant on S. Alamo Street. All the ideas I was coming up with in my head, were not working out. Depressed at my lack of creativity, I started packing up my gear and about to head home, however, for some reason I looked up out the window to see a gentlemen riding by on a pedicab. First thought, cool, I didn’t know San Antonio had pedicab drivers, second thought, that’s a interesting way to see the city, third thought, get your ass up and stop this person! I hit the door of Titos in a half sprint, took a right, and was in chase. I’m sure I already looked like a crazy person running down the middle of the street, so I refrained from yelling for the driver to stop, however I was able to grab the name and number of the pedicab company from the back of the bike and watched as he continued down S. Alamo. I head back into Titos, finish packing up my gear, and hopped in my car with idea’s starting to overload in my head. I dial the number from the back of the bike, ring ring, “hello?”, it’s Michael Urbano, the owner of Rivercity Pedicabs, on the other side. I introduce myself, explained the contest, which thankfully he was already familiar with after reading about it in the San Antonio Current, a local publication. After about a 10 minute conversation, he said “yes, let’s do it”. We made plans to meet the next weekend and begin filming. I head home feeling good that this may work.
7 days to come up with a story. Ok, so I had an idea, pedicab tour. Ummmm…ok, need something else here mister to move it along. Interview. Interview Michael while visually highlighting the neighborhood. Ok, basic idea and structure done. Now technical details, shoot during daytime hours or nighttime? After watching the previous year’s entries, where most where shot in the day, I wanted to be different. I have fast glass, let’s shoot this sucker entirely at night, my favorite time to shoot. However, shooting at night has its own set of problems, one being having to use a low aperture because of the lack of light. Low aperture can be great for shallow depth of field; however, this gives you a very narrow focal plane. In other words, keeping an object in focus can be extremely difficult. How the hell was I going to be able to keep Mike in focus, while we are both moving!? Luckily, the build of my new shoulder rig with follow focus was recently completed, and I hoped this setup would assist in stabilizing while I was shooting from one pedicab to another.
Cold. It’s filming night and bitter cold in San Antonio, Texas. I hoped it wouldn’t keep the crowds away as I really wanted to showcase the nightlife at local businesses in the neighborhood. I meet Mike and fellow pedicab driver, John Reyes at the Blue Star Art Complex. Plan was to ride with John on his pedicab while shooting Mike. I created a shot list days earlier of key locations. Time was limited as Mike also runs the Pedicab Bar and I needed to get back to my family. So we start slow and deliberately, grabbing some beauty shots. This is really where Mike took over. He took us on a great tour of the neighborhood, all I had to do was sit back and shoot all the wonderful locations, the story wrote itself. If you are visiting San Antonio, or even lived here for years, I definitely recommend seeing the town by pedicab. Give Mike a call, him and his crew of very friendly drivers, will show you San Antonio in a very personal way. We wrapped about 5 hours later, with my memory cards full, I head home excited with the footage we got. A week later Mike and I meet again to grab some pickup shots, and the piece that I thought would bring it all together, the interview. After getting permission, we setup in front of The Friendly Spot. I attached an Audio-Technica Lavalier Microphone to Mike and with the help of the Magic Lantern Hack for the T2i, recorded the sound directly into the camera. Also, I used a single Yongnuo 139 LED light to fill in his face and we begin rolling, Mike in the back of his pedicab, and me with my list of questions. I knew Mike was very friendly and knowledgeable of the area; however, could this come across in an interview? He did GREAT, sharing his history, stories, and local spots. Thank you Mike!
That’s a wrap. Over the next few weeks, in short spurts, I start putting together the film. The submission requirement was longer than 3 minutes, and shorter the 8. I had enough footage to make an hour long documentary, but in the end, the final product was 4 minutes 16 seconds. I wanted it to move along, flow nicely and not seem to drag. In the end I think that was accomplished with the help of the electronica song, “Soul Heals” composed by Ben Riordan.
Thank you to the Office of Cultural Affairs, the Guadalupe Arts Center and Manuel Solis for putting on such a fantastic contest. At the screening I got to see locations I didn’t know existed. My family and I now have a list of places to see that will keep us busy for many weekends to come. Huge thanks to Michael Urbano and his family. I hope you liked the film, it’s yours to be used in anyway you see fit. Also, big thanks to John Reyes, the “other” pedicab” driver that was not seen, but could not have been done without him. Lastly, thanks to all the competitors, like my friend Erik Bosse, who created some stunning, original films. See yall next year! -Rod
Thanks to Laura Guerrero for capturing my acceptance speech on her iphone!
Pics from 3 events over the weekend…
1) Screening and awards for 2011 San Antonio Neighborhood Film Project
2) After-party/Birthday Celebration at Tiki Bar, Tropicano Hotel
3) Sunday screening of Southside and Westside films at Guadalupe Theater