#PatriciaChica; #Filmmaker; #StoriesWithMessage; #CreativeProcess; #MaleDominatedSets
During a retrospective of her films and Q & A at the University of Southern California (USC), hosted by the Central American Film Festival in 2016, filmmaker Patricia Chica shares personal moments of her life and career journey, and inspirational anecdotes about her creative process working with actors, writers, and producers with TV Host/Interviewer: Sandra Chavarria and the audience.
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts:
Patricia Chica's interview session with Sandra
Sandra: I heard you say in your introductory speech Koalas to Astoria meaning what is your story. what is your story, Patricia?
Patricia: My story is very similar to about 2 million people in El Salvador where I was born in the 1970s. When the war struck in my country my father left the country to go to Mexico and apply for a visa for Canada. After working very hard from cleaning bathrooms to painting walls, within 6 months, he was able to pay for me, my mother, and my three little brothers to go to Canada. But we could not get visas to Canada due to the war. So, we had to lie and from Mexico City boarded a plane for Madrid with a stopover in Montreal, where my mother left the airplane leaving all her personal belongings with the luggage. Once in Montreal, we sought political refugee status. My parents were paid to learn French and soon they became Canadian citizenships and professionals and I educated myself to become a filmmaker. At present, about 200,000 to 250,000 Salvadorians are in Canada. 50,000 are in Montreal where I am from and there are many in Toronto and Vancouver. So that is my story.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker as you probably did not know many filmmakers from El Salvador?
I did not know any filmmakers in the world. From my childhood, I used to draw pictures to tell stories. When given a camera to record the vision in my head, I knew could transform people with my stories. I realized cinema to be the right tool for as it encompasses everything that I love including to stage, direct people, create, guide people to empower themselves creatively. My aim is to utilize all art forms visually to write a story to sound and music with rhythm and energy and to create emotion to engage and reach out to an international audience.
Patricia Chica filming as a teenager
What is your process with your writers when you have a plan to do a film?
I love to collaborate with the writers to elevate ideas, dialogue with them to develop a visually powerful story with my strong ideas, and a smooth transition from scene to scene by getting rid of many lines in the script. Once the actors start talking lines the visual script becomes alive and elevates the story to the next level. Apart from the writing and storytelling process, I love editing my own films with detail, love, long hours, and passion to create a strong message.
How I enjoy it? I had upset many boyfriends by spending all my nights on my computer. I started editing and filming when I was 16 years old. For me editing is a process of visualizing, capturing the image, creating rhythm and dynamics and associating lines with visuals and scenes, and reshuffling the structure of scenes to elevate the story. It is always about the story and involves selecting actors tactfully. For example, Medusa in ‘Serpents Lullaby’ was shot while sitting on the chair and just looking. This behind the scenes material was shot by behind the scenes camera. I utilize every second to shoot the reactions of unaware actors to elevate performance by replacing words with magical moments.
I also see that you teach with very spiritual energy with a message in all your stories. How do you do that?
The basic principle of filmmaking I follow is to connect the subject matter at the human level even if it is horrific, violent, dark, and then to find the light of humanity in darkness. After learning that the actor Holy Scar, could not scream due to a huge emotional blockage from childhood, I helped him overcome this blockage.
Holy Scar. Image credit: Screenshot
The strong messages in my stories empower and transform people’s lives by awakening their realization that everything happens in the world for a reason. In ‘Ceramic Tango’ my message to the people was to stop judging HIV patients or feel threatened because they are all human beings. I showed them the other side of the illness or their lifestyle to find some connection. After the screening of ‘Ceramic Tango,’ one man came to me, took my hand, and said, ‘This movie really moved me because I have been living with HIV for 30 years and it is the first time that I felt good about it.’ (Audience clapping) I sold my house for this film, but it was worth it as I felt a little better because somebody understood.
What are your experiences as a Latina woman filmmaker in a male-dominated field? Do you get a lot better with men than with women during working?
Being a filmmaker all my life since the age of 16, I see a huge change in the film industry by allowing women more important roles. Having been mostly on male-dominated sets with all my collaborators being male, I love working with men. Being raised in a family where there were only brothers, I have always been like a female leader. I know there are challenges, but I am very geeky and love talking about cameras, lenses, and techniques and we have fun working together. Irrespective of male or female collaborators, my concentration is focused on if their collaboration can improve the performance of what I have in my mind.
Do you think that lack of opportunities for women in this industry not only in the US but everywhere is going to change?
I think it is up to me to change it. I do not count on anybody to give me jobs. I create my own jobs and I am always creating something so I always find a way and not hoping that somebody will come with a silver plate.
Any words of wisdom for the audience and other people as to how to keep going in this industry?
I would say what has worked for me is to always follow your purpose and your heart, to do what you love, be aligned and congruent with your purpose. By doing the things that make you happy, you will always succeed.