SAFILM Interview: Directors Daniel Ramos and Aaron Lee Lopez

 

Two locally produced films, The Margarita Man and Teenage Girl: Valerie’s Holiday, will be screening at next week’s San Antonio Film Festival with their casts and crews in attendance. In anticipation of the event, ArtScene SA spoke to the directors about their films working in the Alamo City.

The Margarita Man

Making its Texas debut on Wednesday, July 31, is The Margarita Man, directed by Daniel “Danny” Ramos. It screens at 9:00 p.m. Mr. Ramos took the time to answer a few questions.

Veteran actor Pepe Serna (l) with director Daniel “Danny” Ramos.

This is your feature directorial debut, right? What attracted you to this material?

Yes, this is my first time directing a feature film and I was so glad it was The Margarita Man. My brother Miguel used to deliver Margarita machines and I’ve had this idea about creating a film about a “Margarita Man” for years. Aaron Lopez and David Reyes were able to put together a great script and so The Margarita Man came to be.

How was the experience making the film here in San Antonio?

My intention was always to base this in San Antonio and when the time came so many things came together. I’m from San Antonio and the writers, Aaron and David, are producers along with Andrew Saldana, and they are all from San Antonio. We were able to bring together so many resources and support from local entities because of the longstanding relationships we have developed over the years. Nowhere else but San Antonio.

How did you attract veteran actors Danny Trejo, Pepe Serna, Jesse Borrego and Barry Corbin to the project?

The key to landing such great talent was the producing team. Aaron, Andrew and David already had working relationships with the actors so they were able to secure talent that otherwise would have been close to impossible to acquire.

Tell us a bit about the young cast. How were they found?

We had a casting call, but in reality most of the talent was brought in through the producers’ networks. Now a few roles were created with talent in mind, such as Sebastien De La Cruz and Paul Matthew Lopez, who was able to come in from Las Vegas, where he was a part of the hit show Absinthe.

What’s the story about?

It’s an all-American story about a young man coming of age and falling in love. Now this is a LatinX story, but David and Aaron avoided many of the stereotypical characters and story lines. We have a successful business owner whose son is attending college, yet we have obvious ethnic things going on throughout the story.

What will be surprising about the film for San Antonio audiences?

We have some obvious bigotry going on throughout the story and some of the dialogue may surprise the audience. The casting will be a surprise. Sebastien is no longer that little Mariachi kid and he’s pretty grown up in the film, and Danny Trejo is definitely not Machete, but an educated College Dean. Lastly, the beauty of our city. From the amazing campus that San Antonio College has become with a first-of-its-kind Student Housing at a community college at Tobin Lofts, to the amazing Sunken Gardens and historical Koehler House.

Teenage Girl: Valerie’s Holiday

Director Aaron Lee Lopez.

Another San Antonio-based film making its world premiere at SAFILM is Teenage Girl: Valerie’s Holiday, written and directed by Aaron Lee Lopez. Produced by Stephen Allen Gutierrez, Scott Leisk, Kirt Wipfli, Paul Matthew Lopez, Martin Valdespino and P.G. Marlar, it screens at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2.

This is a high school coming-of-age comedy about a nerdy teenage girl who pretends to be her beautiful, fake twin sister from California in order to become the most popular girl in high school. But when things don’t go exactly as planned, she learns that being yourself is more important. Mr. Lopez also spoke with ArtScene SA about his film.

What was your inspiration for this piece?

I got inspired to write this story because of all the low self esteem and bullying problems that are going on in school and on the internet. People hide behind their keyboards and say things that they will never say in the real world. This kind of behavior affects everyone and it can turn into domino effect and cause harm. Kids commit suicide everyday because of bullying. I hope to shed light thru this movie on the subject and maybe help deter people from being mean.

How was the experience making the film here in San Antonio?

Great. San Antonio is my home and I think it’s an honor and a privilege to represent the city with film on this subject matter.

What makes San Antonio a good location for filmmaking?

I think it’s one of the best places to shoot movies because of the beautiful locations this city has to offer.

Your brother, Paul Lopez, is in your film, right?

Yes, he’s also in Margarita Man, playing a cop alongside Barry Corbin. He’s also a high-wire performer in Vegas!

Who’s your target audience with the film?

It’s my hope that viewers of all ages will respond emotionally to the film.

It looks like a nod to John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink in some ways. Is that intentional?

Absolutely. I take that as a compliment. I’m trying to pay homage to all those great movies that came out of the ’80s that made us feel so great. And both Teenage Girl and Margarita Man were scored by Kurt Wipfli at Pulsar Records and have that ’80s feel.

SAFILM’s Martin Valdespino, who served as a producer  and assistant director on the film, also commented on making movies in the Alamo City and working with Mr. Lopez.

“The main thing I wanted to say about working on Valerie’s Holiday with Aaron Lee Lopez was that it was a great experience because there was a sense of welcoming and community created by Aaron and everyone else there.

“Aaron brought me on as a Producer and first A.D. and I felt right at home with Mutt Productions. We had never worked together, but it felt as though we had been working together for years. We are talking about doing lots of future projects here in San Antonio and helping to grow the film community and continue to develop talent in our city.”


The San Antonio Film Festival takes place July 30-Aug. 4, 2019. The full schedule of events can be found here. Tickets can be purchased here.
Feature photo: Nick Seidel, Sebastien De La Cruz and Desi Nicole Baldwin in The Margarita Man.

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