jerome leyba and henry valdez

Mak­ing a scene— for $80

Pasatiempo - - Young Artists -

“We’re Jerome Leyba and Henry Valdez. We made a movie for $80.”

And with that, film­mak­ers Leyba, 24, and Valdez, 22, in­tro­duced them­selves to Pasatiempo at a Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val event. Their ul­tra-low-bud­get drama, But Jenny, You’re From Ve­gas, ac­tu­ally played at the ri­val Santa Fe In­de­pen­dent Film Fes­ti­val, where it picked up a cou­ple of awards.

The na­tive Santa Feans have been long­time friends. Both at­tended New Mex­ico State Uni­ver­sity — Leyba for busi­ness mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing; Valdez for gov­ern­ment and crim­i­nal jus­tice. Three years into their ed­u­ca­tion there, they be­gan to make short films for the mar­ket­ing pro­gram. They be­came hooked on film. “It was too late to turn around [and study film], so we fig­ured, let’s teach our­selves,” Valdez ex­plained. “We’ve never taken a class on film edit­ing, di­rect­ing, pro­duc­ing, act­ing.”

They’re mak­ing it hap­pen, and they’re in­tent on stay­ing here to make movies, as they re­lated in a joint in­ter­view with Pasatiempo. Pasatiempo: So how do you make a fea­ture film for $80? Jerome Leyba: We di­rected; we wrote; we edited; we did all the pro­duc­tion as­pects. Where we spent the $80 was in rent­ing a room at the Golden Nugget [Casino] for $50 and buy­ing high-def­i­ni­tion tape and print­ing the script out at Kinko’s. We were su­per self-suf­fi­cient; we kept ev­ery­thing in-house. Henry Valdez: Af­ter we grad­u­ated from school, we moved to Las Ve­gas, so when I wrote the script, I wrote it us­ing lo­ca­tions I knew we could jump out of our car and start shoot­ing. The stuff that hap­pens in the house was shot in a friend’s house; the stuff in the desert was shot in the desert. And then it was all tim­ing. Ve­gas isn’t like New Mex­ico in the sense that peo­ple are up in the morn­ing. They don’t get up early there, so if you shoot around 8 o’clock, it’s pretty dead. Leyba: And our cast was awe­some, they do­nated their time. We found a lot of ac­tors who were do­ing [stage] shows or work­ing as print mod­els, but as far as movie act­ing, there weren’t a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties. So when we started au­di­tions, we were sur­prised at how great a turnout we got. We got re­ally good peo­ple who were will­ing to do­nate their time, who showed up and did what needed to be done. Pasa: The act­ing is ac­tu­ally pretty good. Valdez: None of us had done that much act­ing ex­cept Roberto Codato, so we held ran­dom act­ing classes in our liv­ing room, and re­hearsals were con­ducted with San­ford Meis­ner tech­niques of act­ing, and we tried to make things as real as we could. Leyba: That was our key thing, be­cause our el­e­ments of pro­duc­tion aren’t of the great­est qual­ity. There was only so much we could do with just a boom mike and a cam­era. We know if we could por­tray the story through the qual­ity of the act­ing, peo­ple might look past some of the pro­duc­tion flaws. Pasa: New Mex­ico is known as a film state, but is Santa Fe a young-artists’ town in gen­eral? Valdez: It is known as kind of an older-crowd town. As we grew up, we heard every­one say they wanted to leave. Santa Fe has cre­ated its own lit­tle bub­ble in terms of avail­able artis­tic venues. That was clearly ev­i­dent in this year’s Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val. Not a lot of young Santa Fe film­mak­ers were in­cluded, and that’s why Jac­ques Pais­ner and his bud­dies cre­ated the Santa Fe In­de­pen­dent Film Fes­ti­val: to show­case young New Mex­ico film­mak­ers. But no, there’s not a lot of av­enues to dis­play your art in Santa Fe. Leyba: I agree. Santa Fe has a lot of art, but there’s not a lot of out­lets for young peo­ple to get in­volved. A lot of times what hap­pens, es­pe­cially with younger artists, is that they feel they are not a part of the scene, they feel no one is in­clud­ing them, so in­stead of get­ting in­volved or mak­ing a scene, they leave and look for other out­lets. The prob­lem is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion is not there with the youth. I think the artists are here, the art is here, but no­body knows about it. Even lo­cals aren’t aware of it, be­cause no­body’s pro­mot­ing it and no­body’s looking for it. If you want peo­ple to see your art, you have to pro­mote it. Valdez: A few of our mu­si­cian friends have left Santa Fe and pur­sued ca­reers in Seat­tle or Port­land or Las Ve­gas. Leyba: Lenny Lu­jan, who did al­most 90 per­cent of the score for our movie, left here for Las Ve­gas to pur­sue a mu­sic ca­reer be­cause he could get pro­mo­tion there, he could join a work­ing band. Pasa: What can be done to en­cour­age young artists to stay here? Valdez: It’s not a short-term fix. You have to tell kids early on, It’s OK to paint; it’s OK to write; it’s OK to act; all th­ese artis­tic av­enues are there for you. The sad thing is, schools are cut­ting back on art ev­ery day. It seems to be tak­ing the artis­tic vi­sion away and try­ing to ap­ply art to teach­ing sci­ence or math or English so they can pass a test so the school can get more fund­ing for sci­ence or math or English. Leyba: It goes back to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The state could set up a pro­gram where pro­fes­sion­als go to high schools, to colleges, and say, Hey, here’s an out­let. We’re go­ing to put on a di­rect­ing class, an act­ing class, a film­mak­ing class. If any adults had pushed me to­ward th­ese things, I would have jumped on it. Pasa: So if things don’t work out for you here in two or three years, could you see your­self leav­ing Santa Fe to pur­sue this ca­reer else­where? Valdez: I wouldn’t say we see that. Our goal is to make films. What­ever out­let opens up and al­lows us to do this is the one we will take, but our vi­sion in­cludes New Mex­ico. We just want to keep mak­ing films that peo­ple want to see.

— Robert Nott

Henry Valdez, left, and Jerome Leyba; top, Valdez and Crys­tal Starlight in But Jenny, You’re From Ve­gas

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