Latinos In The Industry

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS: From Journalist to Documentarian - Five Tips for a Better Documentary

Michael Grosse received his BA in Journalism from the University of New Hampshire. His work has been published in several local and regional newspapers in New England and online. Click on Talk Back to discuss this article with other NALIPsters!

By Michael Grosse for The Independent

Think you've got an idea for a documentary? Before you shoot, hear how professional journalists turn good ideas into engaging nonfiction stories.

Two-time Emmy Award winner June Cross has written, produced, or edited about a dozen documentaries in a career that spans more than three decades. She is also an associate professor of Journalism at Columbia University, where she teaches graduate-level courses in reporting and documentary film. "There's this idea that you roll on anything that moves," Cross says. "That somehow you're going to get back into the editing room and figure out how to make a really doesn't work that way."

So how does it work?

Tip 1: Know the difference between a story and an issue

Good journalists don't just write about "issues." Issues are often too impersonal to engage audiences, especially if the issue is new to -- or far removed from -- the audience. Instead, journalists often focus on engaging audiences by telling the stories of people who are affected by these larger issues.

Cross explains using the example of discrimination of transgendered people: "Discrimination is an issue. Filming conferences and meetings about this discrimination might raise superficial awareness of the issue, but finding a person whose life hangs in the balance because of this discrimination could reveal a truly moving story, such as that in Southern Comfort," Cross says. "This 2001 documentary covers the final year in the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transgendered person who is dying of ovarian cancer because doctors refuse to treat him out of fear that doing so will damage their reputations. Eads's story is one that immediately engages the audience regardless of how they might feel about the issue of transgender discrimination."


Filmmaker Summit at Slamdance Streaming Live Online, Jan. 23

On Saturday, January 23rd from 11am to 2pm (Mountain Time) filmmakers are invited to tune into to engage in a global discussion on the future of filmmaking. The Filmmaker Summit will gather some of the most innovative thinkers in the industry for a day of discussion and debate. The Filmmaker Summit's mission is to collectively craft a new charter for filmmaking, storytelling and content distribution, with and by the global filmmaking community. Free to attend (and free to view online) and born out of a reaction to the current state of turmoil the independent film industry faces, the Summit aims to provide filmmakers with a better understanding of opportunities afforded to them by the democratization of new tools and technology.

Summit speakers include: Peter Baxter (filmmaker, founder Slamdance); Khavn De La Cruz (filmmaker); Christy Dena (crossmedia specialist) Jamie King (filmmaker and founder of; Brian Newman (film theorist and writer); Jon Reiss (filmmaker and writer); Steven Soderbergh (filmmaker); Timo Vuorensola (filmmaker and founder of and Lance Weiler (filmmaker and founder of WorkBook Project).

More information about the summit can be found at

Throughout the day, discussions will center on what the filmmaking community would like to see the industry become - a chance to focus on the future and not worry about the trappings of the past. Today's reality is that filmmakers must now expand their role and take charge of reaching and engaging worldwide audiences across all viewing platforms. In this direct approach, the viewer becomes collaborative, less passive and more connected then ever before. New business models will emerge as a direct result of experimentation and transparency around process. The Filmmaker Summit is an attempt to chart a course towards sustainability - one that is by filmmakers and for filmmakers, while being inclusive of the audiences that support them.

To join the discussion now, visit

Avatar the Big Winner at 67th Golden Globes
(indieWIRE) - “Avatar” won Best Picture - Drama while James Cameron took Best Director for the 3-D feature tonight at the 67th Golden Globes in Los Angeles. FULL STORY

Indie Film Crowd Upbeat for Sundance
(The Hollywood Reporter) - Can potential breakout titles like "Blue Valentine," "Hesher" and "The Extra Man" put the spirit back into the disheartened indie film biz? The Sundance Film Festival, which opens Thursday, might be just the place to find out. FULL STORY

Jobs & Opportunities

Visit the NALIP Job Opportunities page for all the latest listings.

Director of Photography, Audio Tech
Los Angeles based production company is accepting reels and resumes for a freelance ENG Field Audio Tech and Director of Photography (non-union). FULL JOB DESCRIPTION

HBO Executive Assistant (NYC)
Hiring for an opening at HBO, assisting the SVP of International Distribution, in a department that manages HBO Latin America. FULL JOB DESCRIPTION

Latino Screenwriter for Adaptation
Lucy Mukerjee at AfterDarkFilms is looking for a talented up-and-coming Latino screenwriter willing to write a script on spec for an adaption of an Award-winning coming-of-age novel about a feisty Latina teen with a talent for art who gets drawn into the world of graffiti. FULL JOB DESCRIPTION

Television Internship Program
Red Varden Studios, a Los Angeles-based television and film production company that features programming across a variety of genres, is seeking interns for one of the most respected, structured, challenging internship programs in Hollywood. FULL JOB DESCRIPTION

From the Editor
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Nicolas Entel
NALIPster's doc premiering Friday at Sundance

NALIP member Nicolas Entel (LWL 2005) directed and produced the documentary Sins of My Father, which will have its North American Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this Friday in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. The following article about the film appeared on the Los Angeles Times' blog The Big Picture:

By Patrick Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times

Few things are more prickly and complicated than the relationship between sons and fathers. Just ask Michael Douglas, who spent many troubled years trying to carve out any kind of satisfying kinship with� Kirk Douglas, his emotionally distant father. Many political observers believe that part of the impetus for George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq came from a deep-seated desire to set himself apart from the kind of failures that marked his father's, George H.W. Bush's, one-term presidency.

But when it comes to difficult fathers, few men have endured the kind of emotional burden carried by Sebastian Marroquin, the son of the notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose illicit empire was so vast that he was once estimated to be worth around $25 billion, his cartel controlling the majority of the global cocaine trade. Now living in Argentina where he has established a new identity (he fled Colombia after his father was gunned down by authorities in 1993), Marroquin is the subject of "Sins of My Father," a fascinating documentary that premieres Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival in Park�City. (The film will air this year on�HBO.)

A host of Hollywood filmmakers has long�been fascinated by the Escobar saga, with several projects,�in particular�"Killing Pablo," having been close to a greenlight for years. (A fictional movie project about Escobar was the focus of a prominent subplot in the third season of "Entourage.")� But what Argentinian filmmaker�Nicolas Entel does with the Escobar legend is very different. Though we see the murder and mayhem of Escobar through archival footage, Entel focuses on the life of his son Marroquin and his attempts to come to grips with all of the hideous karmic wreckage inflicted by his malevolent father. It is really�a story about a more universal subject -- the difficulty of reconciliation in a world�where the desire for revenge, especially in countries racked by ethnic and religious strife,�is almost an everyday occurrence.

It was already�something of an amazing feat for Entel, who�divides�his time between Buenos Aires and Brooklyn, where he�has a company that produces commercials and music videos, to get�Marroquin to agree to speak on camera. Even 15 years�after his father's death,�Marroquin, now an architect in Buenos Aires,�has shied away from the media spotlight. In fact, he still uses the kind of security precautions worthy of a minor mob figure, never, for example,�allowing taxis to pick him up at�his house�to ensure that as few people as possible know where�he lives.�

He had never been back to Colombia, which remains outraged over his father's legacy of violence and bloodshed. As we see in the film, when a few brave 1980s-era politicians spoke out against Escobar -- notably a crusading minister of justice named Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and a fiery presidential�candidate named Luis Carlos Galan -- they were brutally murdered by Escobar's cronies to protect him from prosecution.

So Entel decided to broaden his story. He went to Colombia, where�he�not only interviewed the sons of the murdered politicians but somehow persuaded them to meet with�Marroquin for the first time since his father's death. "It was a crazy idea," he admits. "It would almost be like having the idea to get Hitler's son together with the sons of some of his father's concentration camp victims." The results of the meetings are�startlingly poignant, But what fascinated me the most was how a largely unknown filmmaker managed to pull off such�a dramatic, emotionally loaded rapprochement, especially considering that the three sons of Galan are now well-known political figures in Colombia themselves.

As Entel acknowledges, the process wasn't easy. How did he do it? Keep reading:

It turns out, the easiest part was finding Marroquin, whose�cover had been blown�in 2001 when his accountant attempted to blackmail him and his mother, Escobar's widow. The extortion attempt briefly made news, but Marroquin had�remained silent,�turning down dozens upon dozens of�media offers�to tell his story. However, Entel had a quirky connection -- Marroquin's wife had been a student of the filmmaker's mother, a sociology professor in Buenos Aires.

"When we first met, I did something very Argentine -- I sat down and had lots of long conversations with Sebastian over coffee," Entel told me the other day. "He'd turned everyone else down, but maybe because of all the research I had done, maybe because we're about the same age, he felt that I was someone who wanted to tell his story, not just exploit him�as a way to tell�his father's story. It wasn't simple. He even made me write an essay saying why I wanted to do this film."

The early interviews weren't entirely successful. Marroquin found it hard to open up about his feelings. He was adamantly opposed to returning to Colombia, but Entel persuaded him to travel to Ecuador, where Entel could film him literally looking across the border at his homeland. "I felt that if I could get him that close to his country, it might trigger some reaction inside him and open him up," says Entel. "I have to admit that my secret hope all along was to get him to go back to Colombia."

In 2006, after he'd completed a series of interviews with Marroquin, Entel went to Bogota�where he met with the sons of the political figures murdered by Escobar. The reactions of the sons were very different. Rodrigo Lara Jr. was, as Entel puts it, "immediately curious -- he was fascinated by the whole idea of the movie." The sons of Galan were far more skeptical. "They were much more cautious and prudent," says Entel.

Entel went out on the campaign trail with the Galan brothers, following them from town to town, in part to assuage their doubts about his intentions. He was so wary of spooking them that he didn't even ask for them to sign a formal release until after he'd finished shooting and was in the editing process, a highly unusual strategy for a documentarian. "I moved very slowly, using what we in Spanish would call turtle steps," he says. "I knew it would take time for them to warm up to the idea."

Finally, after Lara Jr.�had met with Marroquin in Argentina, Entel persuaded Marroquin to return to Colombia for the first time in 15 years for a face-to-face meeting with the Galan brothers. The meeting was done in secret. As a precaution, Marroquin traveled in a bullet-proof car with two bodyguards, although as Entel wryly puts it, "By Colombian standards, that really isn't a lot of protection at all."

(It's a telling commentary on U.S. immigration policy that it�has proved to be�easier for�the son of a mass-murdering Colombian drug lord to travel�to Colombia than it is for him to get into the United States.�Marroquin has�applied for a visa so he can appear with the film in Sundance, but according to Entel, "even though he's been back and forth to the U.S. Embassy several�times, the State Department hasn't made a ruling yet. They seem to be trying to figure out -- what�do we do with him?")

It turns out that Colombia hasn't entirely embraced the idea of forgiveness, at least not when it comes to anything involving Escobar. "Sins of My Father" opened last week in Colombia, where it earned good reviews. But the old political establishment had its issues. "At first, everyone from the right to the left supported the gesture of reconciliation," says Entel. "But as we got close to the premiere, the Colombian establishment started attacking the movie, perhaps because Colombia still isn't ready to have a serious conversation about why Escobar's cartel had so much influence over so many powerful people from so many different political parties in the country."

Entel sighs. "I guess the film made some people a little too uncomfortable." But for me, that's another sign that the film has done its job.�Like so many�provocative documentaries, "Sins of My Father"�isn't just a tribute to the healing process but a cautionary tale about the horrific toll exacted by men in the thrall of greed and cruelty.

Jonas Rivera
Producer of Up discusses filmmaking

By Tiffany Maleshefski, The Examiner

Jonas Rivera, producer of the animated feature film, "Up," from Pixar Animation Studios, graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in film production. He tells us about the difficulties of balancing the creative and practical, the rewards of persistence and how movies can bring us all back to our inner kid.

What would you say is your favorite part about your job? The best part of my job is that it's a different job almost every single day ... you see the film go from page to storyboard to the computer model to animation; it's like I see life breathed into it.

Which is your least favorite? The truth is, I'm the producer and I have to sometimes be the bearer of bad news. As much as I like to [say] the sky's the limit at Pixar, the sky isn't the limit. This is a medium of limitations and sometimes, I have to be the voice of reason to the director: "No, we can't do that." That's very hard to do because it's a director-driven studio and it takes a lot of navigation, I think, to balance the creative and technical needs of the show with what we can really do.

What's the best piece of advice someone's given to you? This may sound corny, but actually my mother, when I got this job as the production assistant, actually I was the intern, we're talking 14 years ago. I was the first intern at Pixar. And I knew I loved animation ... I was frustrated, I said, "God, I wish I could animate." And she says, "you should just hang on to what you love, learn everything you can about it, and you might find you're there longer than anybody." And lo and behold, 14 years later, I'm in charge of making these movies as opposed to animating a character in one of them. If you love what you do, there's no reason to ever let it go. You learn everything you can and you just kind of hang onto it, and that's what I've done here.

What would you say is one thing you need to do before you die? I'd like to travel. We spend so much time on these films -- and this is going to sound so "boo-hoo me" -- and the only time we get to travel is with the film. Now that I'm done and I have two small girls, I want to take some time and I really want to travel. I want to go to Africa or somewhere crazy, take my girls and my wife, and really breathe and see the world.

Is there a book or film that has had the most impact on your life? That's easy for me. The original James Barrie "Peter Pan" without a doubt ... There was this quote by Walt Disney once that said: "We're not making movies for kids, we're trying to make movies for kids that are lost inside the adult in all of us." I've always thought that's such a cool way to say it ... to remind everyone what it was like to be a kid and to have that sense of wonder, and to see these films.


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