Edgar Garcia made a tough transition moving from Mexico to the United States when he was a young teenager. Facing the challenge of communication barriers and identity, Garcia was able to rise above and find himself thanks to his strong will and with a little help from his community nonprofit groups. From being involved with various groups that helped him build confidence and pursue his interest in video-making with a cause, Garcia is now working in the nonprofit scene by creating videos and assisting young people similar to himself. A recent graduate from Ai San Francisco, his debut short film, "Dad, God and Time", touching upon the topic of his sexual orientation, premiered at the Ai Film Festival this past Winter 2014.
Tell us how you got interested in pursuing video making and specifically videos that focus on non-profit organizations?
I was born in Mexico and I had recently arrived to America along with my family. My English was extremely limited. All I knew what to say at that time was “no speak English” and I would say it with a thick accent and really fast, because I was embarrassed. Because it was difficult for me to communicate, I had to find an outlet and I did so in an after school program called Jamestown Community Center. At the time, they offered a story writing class called Story City. My English writing skills were worse than my speech, so initially all my stories were written in Spanish. Once i was brave enough to write one in Spanish, the Enrichment teacher approached me and read it. Instead of passing on to the next student, she sat next to me, and together, we made my story cohesive. So I believe my caring for non profits began at an early stage in my life and it only fostered from there.
What traits or skills do you have that help you create such emotionally captivating videos for businesses and organizations that if not done properly could result in stale content?
In High School, I was involved with another organization — Summer Search and each week, we had to do check-in, at the same day, at the same time. And if I missed a day, and went on without checking-in, I’d better have a good explanation. What this taught me was, what it actually meant to be accountable for my own actions. If I said I was going to call at 12PM on a Wednesday, my mentor was expecting that call. So one of the skills that I posses that is vital when working with a client is communication. The more communication there is between the client and yourself, the better the relationship is, and the better the video will turn out.
You seem to be involved with a lot of great organizations that help young people and do good things for the community. Tell us about that.
All the programs that I’ve been a part of I’ve heard about through people that wanted to see me succeed. People that wanted to see my family, not just me, prevail. I believe I’ve been fortunate to have access to some amazing organizations here in San Francisco because of the amazing and down to earth people that I’ve met along my journey. I am extremely thankful to have them in my life.
My advice is to always challenge yourself. These challenges have to be realistic and manageable. When I wanted to improve my public speaking skills, I volunteered to lead a work related team building activity. Initially, I was a nervous-wreck and wanted to run out of that room as fast as I could. But I managed to pull through and not only did I feel accomplished, but I am learning to become a better public speaker by doing the things I dread the most. So In finding resources, I say go up to that DP you admire and see what projects they’re up to, spark a conversation with that audio engineer you secretly wish would work on your project. Challenge yourself by learning and understanding what is going on around you.
Your film "Dad, God and Time" is a very personal piece that is with out a doubt autobiographical and took courage to create and show to the world. Did you always know you would create an autobiographical short film and what were your hopes, fears and surprises from it?
No, actually. My intention was to make a short documentary on after school programs. The idea was to focus on three different organizations — BAYCAT, Jamestown, and was still deciding on the last one. I went into production with Jamestown first. I had done so much research and had the students I wanted to focus on. Unfortunately, documentaries are so difficult to produce and its during post production where your story shapes up. And mine was not shaping up. So I decided to create something that was easier for me to manage with everything else that was happening (meeting deadlines, work; it’s a balancing act). My intention was never to make my short film this personal and I was definitely scared.
The first time I saw the completed piece was after my last session with Ian Sharp — Audio Engineer. It was close to midnight the Friday before the big debut over at The Art Institute. He had just mastered the final audio and sound design. The security guard walked in to give us our final warning to save and shut down and Ian asked him if he wanted to watch a short video. He said yeah without knowing anything about the film. Six minutes later, he looks at me with a reassuring smile and said that my father loves me no matter what. And that I almost made him cry. Secretly, I almost cried too because there was my film playing with audio, my visuals, my life, and I had never felt so vulnerable until that moment and it was well received. It was a good feeling and that reassured me that I made the right choice by going this route.
Tell us about the experience shooting scenes of the film at your parents' home. Did you explain beforehand the content of what you were doing and in particular how did your Dad react - to the process of production?
No one other than my instructors knew what I was up to. For all they knew, I was still working on a short film about my relationship with my younger sister — Nataly. When I finally realized that what I was saying in my film was deeper and not the root of what I wanted to say, I was able to latch on to something concrete and run with it. It was like a rant at first, and within that rant, I had to pull those strong statements and leave all the BS out. Get straight to the point. I didn’t have time to tell every person that I had been telling about my project that I changed my mind about my film. Some still thought I was working on a documentary. It was actually a nice surprise when I finally debuted my film because many people underestimated me. They were right, but that’s because in my process of figuring out exactly what I was trying to tell in film, I was working out some inner demons of my own. This is why I just kept everyone in the dark.
The scenes are very personal, and are raw. I was rushing to get everything out on time, so I did not worry about color grading, overexposure, and all that good stuff. But I honestly feel that this is what made my film authentic. Let’s be honest, I’m not going to win an Oscar over it, but I do feel like I achieved what a film is supposed to do, and that is to connect with their audience. I realized when the security guard first watched the film.
When I showed the finished film to my father, we had one of the longest discussions I can remember having with him. I cried. He cried. But we didn’t come a resolution. I think was a breakthrough in our father and son relationship; a step closer towards closure. Had he known what the concept of this video was about, he would probably not cooperate. So I kept him in the dark too and just told him I was making a film about him. That’s all he knew.
Can you tell us briefly about the whole process of putting together this short documentary film? How did you go about pre-production, assembling your crew and how important was it that the crew connected with the subject matter? Did you want to keep the crew members small as the material was personal? How did you feel editing your own voice and image?
It was a blur, the postproduction phase. I remember having to record my ‘lines’ more than once, up into the last weekend before the entire film was to be screened. My story kept taking a different shape and form each week. My shitty first cut is basically me ranting and letting my frustration out. It was badly paced and was not cohesive. It’s like I was reading a page off my journal, and all this ranting was too much to cramped into a 6 minute film.
After many gut-wrenching panel reviews of my film, I worked some of the critiques into the film (like taking out this scene and extending or adding another scene). Other things I could not do (for example. someone from the panel suggested I add more feeling into my lines. I understood this concept, but I couldn’t do it. So I moved on).
My crew was essentially just me. I shot all the scenes (obviously I asked a friend to handle the camera when I’m in front of the camera). I wrote everything that is being said. I edited the entire piece. The only crew members I had were Ian Sharp, Forest Jett, and Andrew Clark — All for audio. I mean, just take a look at my end credits, it’s a very short list and it’s mainly just me thanking instructors and important people that supported me.
What advice and insight can you give independent filmmakers who would like to create their own small-scale shorts?
My advice to independent filmmakers who want to film their own small-scale shorts is to first find a story you want to tell and if you get goosebumps and start freaking out a little, then you’re doing everything right! Next, connect with people you feel comfortable working with and that support your vision. It does not have have to be a huge crew. Make friends with an audio engineer (preferably, one that can manage sound design as well). Become buddies with a really awesome DP you admire and you know (they will make your project come alive and you’ll feel that much invested because it;s turning out so great). If you’re not the editing type, connect with an editor that understands pacing (you gotta let your audience breath for a little when you just revealed that your son is gay, for example). And always feed your cast and crew (no pizza or fast food; use this time to bond over a BBQ or Carne Asada). And always network (you never know who you’ll be bumping into). Lately, tell people what you’re working on, het the word out. But only do this if you have done the above (don’t promise something that you will not show; I know).
What's next for you? What're you currently working on and do you have any other shorts or creative projects planned in the horizon?
I just finished recording all the voice over in Spanish for Dad, God, and Time which will be great to reach the Latino community. The film Papa, Dios, y Tiempo will be up on my website soon. I recently became a member of Summer Search’s Bay Area Alumni Board, which happens to also be Summer Search 25th Anniversary and I have every intention to help out with promo videos. I also just finished helping out the Hayward Unified School District with one of their after school programs — YEP. I took a few pictures for them that will be used for their brochure. And I have other video projects with other organizations planned out for this year. As far as short films, I have so much left over material from when I was filming Remember, which I already have a very rough assembly, but it’s not ready for a debut yet. I’m experimenting with a few techniques (lessons from YouTube) and I have bigger plans for this film.
Besides working on these projects, I am blessed to be working with BAYCAT as Program Coordinator where I get to interact with youth and young adults. I love it here!
Check out some of Edgar Garcia's work here: http://edgargarciasite.com