Hollywood, not known for having a strong Latino presence, is now yielding to the fact that Latino movies are proving to be big-ticket draws pulling in millions at the box office. With actors like Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro and Jennifer Lopez, more and more studios are gearing up to produce and distribute Latino films like Frieda, Zapata and Papi Chulo.
“Latinos are setting the film industry on fire,” says newcomer Antonio Franceschi. Currently the Chicago based writer, producer and director has wrapped up production on the first of many Latino films he hopes to shoot utilizing the latest in digital and high definition technology.
As a Latino, Franceschi was keen on filming a movie although not just any movie. He wanted to tell his own story, one that would reflect the world he lives in. “I felt the need to tell stories about the people and world I live in.” His movie “Urban Poet” is an urban story with strong ties to Chicago’s Latino community. The story is the tale of one young Latina’s dilemma to transcend boundaries and maintain sacred relationships. It’s an intricate story that introduces you to several characters whose lives intertwine to create one fluid narrative.
Set against Chicago’s urban poetry scene, the story centers on Rita, a young Puerto Rican poet who struggles to find her voice. “Some of us dream about becoming a singer others dream about changing the world even if it means breaking new grounds and that’s what Rita’s character represents. In essence that is what we have tried to do with the film,” says Franceschi. He refers to the fact that “Urban Poet” was filmed using the latest digital technology, an all Latino cast and crew and with no budget.
According to Franceschi, founder of New Film Production, the movie was completed with the help of an exceptional three-man crew headed by Felix Mendez, Director of Photography and the persistent dedication of the voluntary cast.
Although the project was completed with no budget, Franceschi states that it would not have been possible without the help of the individuals, organizations and businesses of the Humboldt Park community who combined their resources to help offset the need for outside funding.
“We shot the film in Humboldt Park utilizing the studio facility of Boca Music, so we minimized the need for transporting the cast, crew and equipment,” says Franceschi. New Film Production owned most of the equipment used to complete the project but X-Ray and Product Production studios borrowed additional equipment. Franceschi also counted on the help of various facilities who donated their space for auditions and filming. Even the local Hispanic media, led by Luis Rossi and Marilyn Santiago, donated air and print ad space to promote the local project.
Urban Poet was greatly received by audiences at the 19th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival. Franceschi plans to hit the film festival and tour the college circuit with the intent to maximize exposure and raise the eyebrows of interested distributors. This young ambitious producer hopes to set the presence of Latino filmmakers interested in producing their own stories. He emphasizes the need for Latinos “to jump on the technological and informative highway and start telling their stories be it about a small town in Mexico, a pueblo in Puerto Rico or an American barrio.” The most important point is for Latinos to “write, write, write.”
His advice to other filmmakers is to keep the faith even through the tough times saying, “it will be challenging and there will be setbacks and at times it may be totally discouraging but the successful filmmaker keeps pushing forward.”