Tag Archives: Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz

Pssst… We’re Fomenting Revolt In The USA

We’re all squirrelling away here in Toronto in the longest, coldest winter ever, thinking about warm Houston. We’re prepping for our world premiere at Worldfest, contacting press in Houston as well as some indie film blogs that have a general readership (check out our first film review here). Who knows when we’ll next get into a film festival and so we want to make sure that we get the most bang for the buck out of this one. In fact, before we accepted the invitation to Houston we had a long discussion amongst the team about what to do: should we wait to hear from the Toronto International Film Festival or another “first tier” festival or accept from Houston. Worldfest is the original indie film fest and have a long list of first feature film alumnae who are very impressive indeed – Ang Lee, Stephen Spielberg, Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, to name a few. But they’re considered a “second tier” festival and, of course, everyone wants to go to Cannes or Sundance or Toronto or SXSW – the big ones. However, we decided that we would be foolish to turn down an invite in order to wait for one that won’t notify accepted films for six months and is unlikely to happen. We’re a small film with no stars and no studio backing, made with credit cards, crowdfunding and lines of credit. Toronto is the launchpad for Oscar season films with major stars. The likelihood of getting into a top tier festival is extremely slim – but they all want the world premiere (or at least continental premiere) so we would have to sit on the film for six months and be unable to show it to anyone. That thought alone was unbearable to us. Nor is getting into a top tier festival the be-all and end-all for a film, particularly small indies. It probably wouldn’t get us distribution (again, films with stars get the majority of distribution deals even at “indie” film fests), though it would probably make it easier to get into other, second tier festivals. It’s a difficult judgment call.

In the end, the “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” argument prevailed and we’re happy that it did. Our film has a Latino lead and Houston has a large Latino population who are “under-served” in terms of content. How do we know – besides taking a look at TV and film that is being made by the studios, where Latinos generally play gang members or cops who used to be gang members or dishwashers (nothing wrong with dishwashers it’s just that in films they don’t usually get names and have only one line), etc.: the interest that we got right away came from Latino news outlets. Manuel, our star, has already had one interview and there are a couple more major outlets who are interested in the film specifically because it has a Latino lead. Not to put too fine a point on it: that’s one of the reasons we want to make these kinds of movies – because we think movies, a major way that our culture talks to itself about who we are and our values, ought to reflect the way that we actually look and talk and dream. There’s enough movies being made every day with white, male leads who get the skinny, white girl out there. We don’t need to contribute to that, Hollywood (and most indies) have got that base covered.

Back to our preparations for Worldfest we’ve been trying to update our website, to make it more functional and add some pull quotes (nice things people have said about us). We’re getting together some promo postcards and some business cards for when we shmooze and hang out at the festival. And booking our rooms at the Crown Plaza hotel that is the film festival HQ. And now that we have something to talk about (in contrast to the months of picture editing in which there wasn’t much to say) we’re trying to “up” our social media game with the help of Mannal Butt, our enthusiastic intern. Everything seemed to be going according to plan and then we got an email yesterday from the festival that our BluRay DVD hadn’t arrived in Houston. We sent it FedEx and it was supposed to arrive by March 20th! After some panic we finally tracked it down: it was being held at the US border facility because we had failed to fill out a piece of paperwork that we weren’t given and which the Canada Post outlet hadn’t even heard of. We have in fact sent DVDs before without filling out a special form and had no problem. What we’d missed was a declaration that the video we were sending to the USA didn’t contain porn and wasn’t intended to foment an uprising against the government of the United States of America. Seriously. I’m not sure if they’ve heard of the internet or youtube. I mean, does anyone buy porn DVDs anymore?

On the other hand, maybe we are trying to start a revolution. Just a little bit.


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Manu Meme: So Sensitive & Yet So Creepy

Beat that, “Mr. Sensitive Guy”, Ryan Gosling.

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Clinton Cleme: What Did We Do Before Xbox?

What was that dirty underwear/angle grinder game called again?

Though, maybe some of us wore clean underwear… Eat your heart out, Ryan Gosling.

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Manu Meme #3: that awkward moment…

nice undies though, Manu…

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Manu Meme #2: the facial meme

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November 8, 2012 · 11:37 AM

Hey Chica…. Meet the Manu Meme

Hey Chica...

To heck with Ryan Gosling and his faux feminist meme – all sensitive and ready to take action in defence of women. We know the darkness that lurks in the heart of Ryan. We saw Drive. As our own humble contribution to the cause of filmmaking, women’s rights, humour and other noble stuff that we can’t think of right now but that we know it’s important to support, we are disrupting the Ryan Gosling meme with our own series of Brand New You memes. We have the Manu Meme, the Freya Freme, the Clinton Cleme and the Vanessa Veme. We may even throw in some other _emes if we need to. It’s the shock and awe version of memifying goodness. We’re gonna bring the whole Hollywood star machine to its knees!


Feel free to change the caption for our memes, by the way. And, of course, pass it on!

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Canadian Film & TV Needs Affirmative Action


It’s funny: Just last night I was engaging in that favourite past time of Canadian filmmakers – complaining about the Canadian film industry. Complaining about the lack of government financing and the difficulty of breaking into a distribution market that is locked down by the studios and mini-majors and, here in Canada, where there is now “1.5 distributors” to choose from (as my co-conversationalist described it).

We didn’t even get on to the lack of women and minorities in the Canadian film and TV industry. But it’s true also. For an industry that is widely reputed to be liberal and progressive it is one of the most segregated and exclusionary industries in the country. Just check out this report in Playback Online.

“…out of the 130 Telefilm-funded films made in 2011, only 17% were directed by women, with only two directors being minority women.

Women were only slightly better represented among screenwriters, with 21% of 175 being female, but still only 3 minority women.”

If we were to extend our research into the area of the kind of work that actors get, we would find a similar pattern. I recently attended an online seminar about pre-sales in the film industry and the speaker was upfront: if you want to pre-sell your movie the most important cast to attach are white males of a certain age. (Pre-selling to distributors – ie. before the film is made – is a key way to finance a film and reduce the risk to your investors). As for the rest (you know, the majority of the world population), they get the leftover roles, usually stereotypes whose job is to provide support or target practice to the white, male protagonist. Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz, our lead actor in A Brand New You, is regularly cast as a drug dealer, dishwasher, occasionally a taxi driver. It’s a bit of a joke amongst us – literally every time he gets an audition for a TV series it is as a criminal. Apparently that’s the price of being brown and having an accent. It’s the reason that our mandate at Dangerous Dust is to make films with the kind of cast that don’t get seen in lead roles, even in indie films, by and large.

But, of course, we are a puny company with one film in post-production and just beginning development on our next project. The problem is systemic and massive. But just as one little indie company can’t solve the problem of “under-representation” (the polite way to say racism and sexism when we don’t want to offend sensitive ears), nor can the timid solution of the important study that I quoted above.

“[Women in View executive director, Rina Fraticelli] says it’s vital that we begin rethinking the way we mentor women in the industry, and find ways to sponsor them as well.

“In addition to being well trained, disciplined and having the talent to do something, to really get to the highest levels of work, what you really need is somebody championing you,” she explains.”

To be fair Fraticelli does point towards a tax credit system to promote the advancement of women. But the idea that mentoring is a way to solve under-representation is a non-starter. For one it guarantees that those with the connections to industry players are the ones who will advance. At best that means upper class (usually white) women, at worst it means relying on the people who have benefited from nepotism in the past breaking with the patterns that have helped them advance. Unlikely.

No, it will continue to be difficult for people who aren’t white men until there is an affirmative action program with clear, quantifiable measures. Telefilm financing, instead of being obsessed with market measures that are mostly phoney baloney and reinforce the kind of same-old, same-old that leads to the Hollywood organ-grinder of remakes, retreads and sequels (in both casting and content), ought to be tied to innovation, including in personnel. Films with female and “non-white” directors, producers and/or writers ought to get incentives to foster those projects. It’s only with quantifiable goals that the natural tendency towards nepotism can be broken and the industry opened up to new voices that accurately reflect the character of our changing country and world.

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