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Interview with: Bernadine Santistevan

Bernadine Santistevan 

- What is the inspiration for "The Cry" and where do you go from here?
I grew up in a small village in New Mexico and was told tales of La Llorona--a Medea-like ghost in the Latino community--as a child.  Like all the other kids, I believed she was real, and she absolutely terrified me. When I finished high school I was given the opportunity to leave my village to go to school abroad.  I left New Mexico, but La Llorona never left me. 

After grad school and while working in venture capital in New York City, I decided to make The Cry.  Logically, my decision made no sense. It was like throwing a wrench in my finance career.  But making this film was my dream, so I took the leap.

My new focus is on writing and directing films that not only entertain, but also inspire positive social change. 
- What are some of the challenges of making a movie and the process of doing so?
There are so many challenges.  I’ll spare you the War and Peace and give you my Cliff’s Notes version.  

Challenge #1:  Write an awesome story. I had a bear of a time writing the original script for The Cry.  It wasn’t until I met a Booker Prize-winning author that I realized why.  He asked me my reasons for writing this script, and my answer was “to save a legend that is disappearing from my culture.” He then turned to me and said, “You’ll only be able to write a good script once you figure out why you are doing this FOR YOU.  Because that’s the only way you’ll be able to write from your heart.” His words totally freed me.

Challenge #2: Show me the money.  Getting money for a film is tough.  Really tough.  Especially if you: a) have never made a film before; b) don’t have any “A-list” actors attached; and c) don’t have a distribution deal in place. In the end, I managed to pull in the financing, but only after changing the script from a more traditional tale of La Llorona to a contemporary, urban story.

The biggest lesson I learned when it comes to reeling in investors is to find folks who are passionate about your project.  Don’t just try to sell them on the money they might make.

- How do you go about casting for a project? Do you see the character in your head, then find the face? Or vice-versa?
For the original script of The Cry, I had actors in mind when I was writing.  Once I realized that perhaps the only way to get my film made was to modify the script significantly, I proceeded with no actors in mind and later found the actors that fit the roles.

With my current film, Wolf Dog, I only have one actor, with non-actors rounding out the rest of the cast.  There’s something quite special about working with non-actors--an honesty and authenticity that is quite inspiring. 

- With the score for "The Cry" being released from "Howlin' Wolf Records," how did you seek out Dean Parker and were you involved with the production of its release?
As Dean mentioned, I was originally introduced to him by my dear friend and talented filmmaker, Lisa France.

Although I’m a big fan of horror films, I’ve never been that thrilled with most of the horror film music out there.  Working with Dean presented a wonderful opportunity to create something that was different.  Something that was “elegantly haunting.” 

Also, it was important to me to integrate some of the musical flavor of New Mexico.   Because Dean had explored and was adept at composing a wide range of musical genres, this was something that he was easily able to do.  I absolutely love his guitar rendition of the traditional La Llorona song.

Last but not least, since the final script was an urban story, I felt that adding in a more contemporary version of the La Llorona song would be great.  This led to me directing the performance by Del Castillo and Patricia Vonne of “The Ballad of La Llorona Fe”--the final song on our soundtrack and a tune that totally rocks. 

Once Wall from “Howlin’ Wolf Records” got the ball rolling, together, Dean and I produced the release of The Cry soundtrack.   It’s been great working with both Dean and Wall on this release.

- Tell us a little history about you that led you to making films.
Storytelling is a tradition in my culture.  Venture capital is not.  I’ve merely come back to my roots.  

- What is one of your favorite props from "The Cry" that you have kept and why [can we see a photo]?
At the time of the shoot, I was in need of a new mattress and happened to remember this while we were filming Detective Scott’s (Christian Camargo) bedroom scene.  So when we were done with the scene, I had my crew schlep the mattress over to my apartment, and I’ve been sleeping on it ever since.   Now that I think about it, the same mattress does a cameo in my current film, Wolf Dog.

- What things can we see from you coming soon?
Wolf Dog…a film about our connection with animals.   I am happy to be working again with Dean on the score. 

- Who is the biggest asset in your life?
 Paco Sosa…speaking of our connection with animals.

- Looking out your window, what do you see and how would you film it?
I see my garden.  I’m throwing a flower planting party in two weeks where my New York friends will have a chance to get their hands dirty.  If I had six months and half a million dollars, I’d get my animator for Wolf Dog to create some 2-D stop motion of the event. (After you see Wolf Dog, you’ll understand what I mean.)   

- Words of wisdom handed down to you that you would pass along…be it about life, film-making or crossing the street? 
Everyone says filming kids and animals is a “no-no.”  In The Cry much of cast was under the age of 6, and in Wolf Dog my lead actor is a dog--with a body double, and his co-stars are a pack of wild Arctic wolves.  My advice is never take “no-no” for an answer. 

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