To all the people who think that it’s easy to leave everything behind you and settle down in Los Angeles to become famous, you’re wrong. There are a lot of dreamers out there – and keep on dreaming, it doesn’t do any harm – but only a few will make their dreams come true. You just can’t succeed by accident or with a big ego, there is a lot of work behind. Sweat, blood and tears. Ups and downs. Hopes and disillusions. But as everything always happens for a reason, this is what makes every actor’s career very unique.
This is the story of Luis, who’s getting every day closer to his dream. I can’t thank him enough for sharing this with you all.
– Luis, who are you and what are you doing in this crazy Hollywood World ?
– Well about me, I am just another man chasing a dream.
It may sound “cliché”, but this is what I am actually doing. My whole life purpose is only about one thing: achieving my “Hollywood Dream”. I currently work as a Film Editor, VFX Editor and Online Editor, but my heart always leans towards acting (comedy), directing and writing. I am originally from Guatemala, but I have been residing Los Angeles since 2003. I have to say that I really LOVE Los Angeles ! Los Angeles can be amazing magical rollercoaster, that is if you let it be that way.
Let me tell you a little story about “Magic in the City”: in 2003, the first thing I did when I came to LA was to go to the Kodak Theatre. I went to the main entrance and began to say: “I am going to be here for the Oscars !” Perhaps I was very naïve then, but I set some Universe wheels in motion that triggered magical forces that made my wish come true.
In January 2004 after I had claimed that wish, my life was far from the life that I had wished for. Instead I was working as a graveyard security guard for a famous mall in the center of Los Angeles. I wasn’t thrilled; I hated the uniform, especially the hat. They made us wear it, but I refused to wear it like the plague. I felt like a Smokey the forest ranger, I was a step away from being asked to warn people about forest fires. I must admit, though I hated everything about being a security, being a security guard, it wasn’t all that bad; it had its own little perks.
For instance it allowed me to :
a) Drive a little electric car, which then I thought it was the coolest shit
b) Audition during day
c) Practice my acting skills while on “duty” at night, and
d) Since I had a perfect view of the Kodak theatre, it allowed me to spend hours visualizing myself attending the Oscars at the Kodak Theatre.
One day after my after my tenacity and will weakened, and my decision to leave LA was made. I received a call. The call was from a Theatre Company in Glendale. This company organized Musicals for Children, and for some amazing reason they wanted me ! I had been cast as part of the company ensemble, and the show that I was going to be part of was: “Sleeping Beauty”. “A musical ?” I thought. “They want me to dance and sing ?” I knew I was in trouble, you see back then, and to this day, I have not yet been able to master the act of coordinating my feet as I dance, or master the skill of professional singing, but I took the challenge anyway. Things turn out to be great ! I don’t know how I pulled it off but I did.
As time progressed I became impatient, I wanted “bigger” things; I didn’t want to be ensemble anymore, I wanted to be a lead actor. I wanted to be Sleeping Beauty’s “Prince”, so when our lead, the “Prince” got fired, my heart jumped in excitement ! This was the opportunity that I had been looking for ! So I mustered all my confidence, and went for the part, but I didn’t get it ! I was too late ! Somebody else had been cast!
So when my competition (so I thought) showed up to rehearsal, my eyes turned into daggers as I squinted, and my lips pressed with an obvious disdain. I was green with envy. “ How could they chosen this man over the obvious choice: ME?” “This man is no “Prince” I thought. In my head he was far from being a prince; he was fat (stocky), shorter than me, blonde, and with a snub nose. Ironically, this short man that I thought to be my competition, was the answer to what I had, several months before, asked as I stood in front of the Kodak theatre. He was the answer to my wish.
On the day of our first day working together, he walked towards me : “Do you know how to sing and dance ?” he said. I, without hesitation answered “yes”, I had been acting and singing in musicals for two weeks; I was ready for anything. “Cool ! Go to this address tomorrow”, he said.
So the next day, a February gloomy day, I finished my graveyard shift, and decided to take a nap before going to the mysterious address. One hour later, I woke up and my body protested with bitter lethargy. I was exhausted ! So I decided that I was going to forget about the whole thing. I decided that I was not going to go, but a friend convinced me to go by forcing me out of bed.
To be honest I was still reluctant to trust my competition, so as I drove to the mysterious location I kept thinking that I was going to go to bogus address, and that the “Prince” was going to get a kick out of me for being so naïve. “Why would he want to refer to go to an audition? What’s in it for him ?” I thought. Finally, I arrived to the mysterious location then I realized that it was a dancing studio. As I entered, I realized that I had been wrong about him. He had actually sent me to a real audition, but not just a regular audition, I was looking at the real thing. I was dealing with real players; in front of me there were lines of professional dancers. Legs stretched up to ceiling, perfect vibratos from distant singing voices, and the chaos that comes when high energies become intertwined; I felt like I walked into Broadway, and I was intimidated.
“How’s it going ?” a voice said, it was the “Prince”! I was actually happy to see him. “I’ll let them know you are here”, he said. Thirty minutes later they were ready to see me so I was told to go to Studio “A”. The way to get to Studio “A” was through a narrow hall that connected the smaller studios, and ended up with Studio “A”. As I walked through the hall I could hear the slapping of feet against the hardwood floors; someone was tap dancing.
I wanted to peak in, I wanted to see who was the dancer, but I didn’t I was too intimidated by all the talents surrounding me. There was talent all over me, and my ass was shivering in cold sweat for I had never been properly trained, and I did not want to admit to my competition that I just been lucky to get cast in the children’s show. I kept walking to Studio “A”. As I arrived, I realized that the room was empty and as I walked into the room I made my presence known without even trying; the resonant echo following my every footstep gave me away. At the end of the room sat a woman behind as desk, next to her there was an old piano. As I got closer I could see that she was signing some paper work, her desk was stacked with piles of music sheets and piles of headshots. She was the show manager, she was probably in her sixties, short gray hair, and with a look to her that warned you about not to fuck with her.
I got to the table, and the woman didn’t acknowledge me. She didn’t even raise her gaze. I said, “Hello” but I didn’t get an answer. I became nervous so I asked, “Do you need me to sing ?” I knew that that was a rhetorical question, of course they want you to sing at Musical Theatre auditions. What was I expecting ? Maybe I was expecting this to be over soon, I guess I was looking for an excuse so I could get the hell out of that place. I was not ready ! I was not ready to compete with the professionals. What was I expecting ? I braced myself and hoped for the best, then she finally acknowledged me, she adjusted her glasses and put down her pen, then she glared at me and said: “ You are hired, here it’s the schedule”. My heart stopped; I was in shock. “No dancing ?” “No singing ?” “What kind of audition is this ? “ I thought.
She gave me a binder, as I open the binder, I read the title of the show : “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, by Andrew Lloyd Weber. I began to go through the pages of the binder, I went through a whole block of music sheets, and finally I got to the page that read “Schedule”. I turned the page and I saw the marked days for the rehearsal days for the Months of February to March of 2004, it had been marked as follows: 2 weeks in Temecula, 2 weeks in Riverside and then I turned to April’s page. For the month of April, it read as follows: from April 11th to 18th, theater performances will take place at the Kodak Theater.”
Entering the Kodak Theatre for the first time was amazing, millions thoughts kept going through my head as I grasped the idea that I was standing right where people have won the Oscar. The whole experience was a very surreal experience. The weeks that I performed at the Kodak Theater were one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I remember when I saw the red curtains opening, I was thrilled beyond my wildest dream, and my heart was beyond content as they revealed a gigantic ocean of lights and people, whom all were eager to see us perform. Then the lights dimmed and orchestra began to play, then there was my cue to go on stage, as I readied myself for my cue, my heart began to beat fast for my dream was coming to life. I walked from side stage into the center, and my dream came true; I was performing at the Kodak Theater.
Tell us more about you’re past work, you have an impressive list of movies on your resume: “Avatar”, “Clash of the Titans”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Harry Potter” and many more.
When my boss called me to meet with her at her office, I didn’t think anything of it until she said, “ We need to talk”, you see my experience with those words have always been hardly positive. They usually imply that I am in trouble or that I am at the brink of collecting unemployment. As I began walking to her office, my stomach churned at every step I took, and my brain lapsing in paranoia. I was really concerned, I was worried because I didn’t want to leave that place of work, not because I needed the job or because I was afraid of being unemployed, it was because for me this job meant the world to me, this job was my first step in my Hollywood Dream, and I was not ready to lose it.
The year was 2007, and I was working at CBS digital. CBS Digital is a small VFX Company housed at CBS television city. For me this place was a dream come true; just a simple walk to the commissary meant that I was going to be able to walk by soundstages where actual shows like “The Price is Right”, and “American Idol”, were being taped. Once in a while I would see the charismatic face of an actor or a conductor, who would sometimes smile at me, or ignore my entire existence. That didn’t matter of course, because I was fascinated with the environment that I was in, there were warehouses with props, film equipment, wardrobe, giant mural posters with « »I Love Lucy themes and other famous shows, editing suits. etc. It was a city of television indeed, and I was in heaven.
So when I received the “We need to talk” call from my boss, I knew that my heaven was a stake. As I arrived to her office, I heard the hasty clicking of her keyboard as she typed away, She sat behind a wide desk with a crumpled speaker to her neck, her eyes followed me, and then she signaled me to sit down. As I waited for her call I could not help to think to myself “ Wow she looks tiny seating behind that desk”, I smiled. ‘Thank you, I will talk to you soon”, she finally hung up, then she went through a stack of papers, jotted some notes, put the pen down and then took a deep breath. ‘”You are not going to be coming here tomorrow”. My heart stopped. I had been right all this time! She was going to fire me! “Instead”, she continued, “You are going to be our new VFX supervisor’s Assistant” My heart shot to roof.
I was going to be helping out head boss, the VFX supervisor for CBS Digital ! “You are going to get to meet Barry Sonnefeld”, she concluded. I was stoic, beyond happy, and right there I realized that my boss, that little lady sitting behind the wide desk, was not only the producer that changed my life, but also a really good friend. “Thank you Toni” I said, as I left her office, we both smiled, I could tell that she was happy for me, and I was happy beyond my wildest dreams.
I met Toni for the first time in 2006 at a Graduate’s communication class at Gnomon School for Visual Effects. She was my teacher. The irony in how we became acquainted, it’s was what makes my friendship with her so special, the reason why is because I was never meant to be in her class due to the fact that I was still a freshman at that school. Anyhow, I guess that school’s error paid off big time for me because Toni was the person who opened the doors for me to the Film Industry.
I guess that saying about “being at the right place at the right time” applied to me, if I hadn’t been assigned to her class I wouldn’t have had jumped to the opportunity when she offered to the students to come and talk to her after class about an internship at CBS DIGITAL. She didn’t need to ask twice for I was the first one to talk to her about my interest in being part of that internship, however little did I know that I was not the only one who was interested. So when I got the call to interview with her, and another producer, I had to pitch myself to them like nobody’s business, I guess they liked me because not only I beat 15 other contenders but I also ended up being hired not as intern but as a production assistant.
My first show at CBS was Star Trek the original series, working on that show was amazing, for I learned the entire process of re-mastering a show, which later on helped me to set up pipelines for Visual Effects houses, and to develop workflows for Visual Effects Editing and online Editing. At first being an intern was a great experience, however, I wasn’t satisfied, I wanted more !
I wanted to grow, I felt like time was ticking, and being a production assistant felt like I was at the end of the rope, so I talked to my friend Toni, and I said: “ Toni I need you to help me to meet Steven Spielberg”, she smiled and looked as I was crazy, and then she said: “ Well I’ll see what I can do ?” and she meant every word for couple months later, she had used her word skills to have me not only meet Barry Sonnefeld but also to have me work with him; she got me to work in the show “Pushing Daisies”.
Working on the show “Pushing Daisies” was another dream come true ! I remember driving to the Warner Ranch giggling to myself in excitement. As I arrived to the main Gate, I gave them my name, I was on the computer, the security came back with a pass with my name on it. I smiled; it was the first time in my life that I was getting to my name and the Warner Bros logo together as part of the same print. I parked my car, and walked out, I should have gotten the soundtrack “ I am walking on sunshine” playing in the background for I felt like I was walking on sunshine. I was waving at people and people were waving back. I was part of their world.
I arrived to soundstage 29, and they were already prepping to shoot couple scenes, “Good Morning Luis”, I turned around it was my boss, Craig. He briefed me on what to do, then gave me couple notes, then he walked away, as he walked away he said “You are on your own”. “On my own? What does that mean ?” I thought. Well it meant that I was going to be getting camera information from the Camera operator, taking measurements on set, which meant that I had to walk on set, get the right information as quick as I could so I would not disturb the crew, and keep records for all for every shot that was shot, so I could take it back to the Visual Effects artists, so they could create digital magic.
I must admit, it was nerve racking, not only because it was the first time in my life that I was actually working on a set, but also because there was a lot of responsibility weighing on me. But I pulled it off, my first day as a VFX Supervisor assistant turned out to be a success; my boss was happy ! So he kept bringing me to set over and over. Then he gave me an amazing gift. On the pilot for “Pushing Daisies” there is a Time-lapse scene where Chuck (Ana Friel) is reading a book. The scene tells the story of Chuck spending time at her aunt’s reading tons of books, she is seating on a chair and behind her we see an empty book stand, but as time progresses we see the books begin to pile up. That scene was a VFX scene, Craig my boss, was supposed to direct it, but when he saw that I had done a previz for the scene, he allowed me to direct it.
Anyhow, here a little bit of my prior work after Pushing Daisies.
In 2008, right after I finished working at CBS Studios, I got the opportunity to work in « Avatar » as Assistant to the Director of Animation, Richard Baneham. Working with Richard Baneham, and of course in Avatar proved to be an amazing experience, not only because Avatar was a ground breaking movie world wide, but also because I got to learn many things. As Assistant to the Director of Animation, my job consisted in being a link between Richard Baneham, and other departments such as: Animation, Editorial, Visual Effects, and Production. As we got closer to finalizing the movie, I gained the additional role of Animation Coordinator. As animation coordinator, I had the opportunity to work with one of the top Visual Effects houses in the world such as WETA, ILM, Framestore, Frantic Films ( Prime Focus now)and many more.
My experience in the Film Industry took a different turn, as I began working at Prime Focus, where I got to work with pioneers in the 2D to 3D stereo conversion. The first movie that I worked on with Prime Focus was « Clash of the Titans », this proved to be a significant learning curve for me for not I only developed my skills as in pipeline development since we were pioneers in 2D to 3D technology, but I also got the opportunity to grow, and become a Visual Effects Editor. What helped me to obtain this position was that in the past I had had in several occasions worked as a creative Film editor.
In 2011, I got my big break as a Film Editor, when I got the opportunity to edit Guillermo Del Toro’s director reel for Mirada. http://motiontheory.com/directors/guillermo-del-toro For me this was a huge pinnacle in my life, because Guillermo del Toro is someone who I aspire to be like, so having that opportunity meant the world for me. Working at Mirada Studios pushed me to the next level in my career as an editor since I got the opportunity to work with directors Mathew Cullen (California Gurls), Mark Kudsi, and Jesus De Francisco. From them I learned well crafted story-telling techniques that are essential for filmmaking.
Also in 2011, I got the opportunity to work as Additional Editor as well as Online Editor for the Feature Film “Leashed” directed by Marco Weber. The year 2011, it was definitely the year for my editorial growth as I also worked as a Visual Effects Editor for the movies : « Dream House », « Conan: The Barbarian », « God Bless America » and « Big Miracle ».
In 2012, I have similar goals and some additional goals, this year I am in the process of writing a horror short novel, I am the process of producing and writing a 30 min short, and going back to acting.
– How did you get involved in the Toscars 2012 event ?
– In January 2012, I became acquainted with Rick Garcia. He later became the producer and lead “Actress” of the Con Artist. He mentioned that he was an actor, and that he previously had been part of a well-known film competition, The Toscars. Then he showed me the movie that he worked on for the Toscars, and I was impressed. “The name of movie the is “King Speak” » he said. As I watched it, I thought, “This is really funny”. I loved the movie, especially because I love the King Speech. I was excited, and I wanted to do something similar. Couple weeks later, Rick invited me to his birthday party where I met Nicolas Hosking, the director of “King Speak”. Nicolas briefed me a little bit about the Toscars, and I was thrilled not only because I love comedy but also because I am a huge fan of British comedy. That night when I left the party, I knew that I wanted to be part of the Toscars, then I paired up with Rick, and the rest is history. Though there were many great movies to parody this year, I knew that I wanted to make a parody of the Artist, and once again I was very luck; I got exactly what I asked for.
– How long did it take to write the script ?
– I wrote the script a day before the shoot. Though we had written five different scripts through out the week before the shoot, we were not still sure that we could represent the Artist in a respectful way. I believe the best way to parody something is by being clever. Cleverness is something that I really appreciate from British comedy, that’s why I love British Comedy so much. My goal when writing The Con-Artist was to pay homage to the British humor, and to pay hommage to a great movie by making a clever parody.
– You took part of every step of the creation of the “Con Artist”. As you have only 3 weeks to complete each parody, it must be like a marathon to scout the filming location, find the right costumes, etc. Every single detail has its importance… Where did you find those old cameras and writing machines ?
– Well, a team created the Con Artist; everyone who was involved with the project played an important part. In regards to the costumes and props, Walter Lowry played an important part, not only he has a professional eye for antiques but also he is an avid collector. We were very lucky to have him as he provided us with all the necessary antiques for the creation of the Con-Artist. I remember on our shooting day, he managed to design every set to match the classic standards of the twenties. He made you believe that you were in the 20’s. For the location, Mr. Rick Garcia, our producer and lead “actress”, was generous enough to provide us with his art deco home located in Pacific Palisades, his home was definitely far from modest, and this helped us with the style that we were looking to emulate.
– How long did it take to shoot and edit the movie ?
– The process of editing varies from project to project, in the case of the Con Artist; it took me about a day to get a rough-cut and about a 3 more days to finesse it. A relative short time but we shot to edit, so the script explained the sequence of the story so there was no question about the pace of the story.
– “The Artist” has been such a surprising and delightful movie that was not even supposed to see the light, and received so many prices all over the world: did you expect that “The Con-Artist” would have the same success ?
– I honestly did not expect anything. I just love the filmmaking process so much that for me that’s enough. I just wanted to see my idea come to life. There is something so magnificent about writing and then seeing your characters come to life, and that was my focus. My success was the completion of the movie, and seeing people laugh, beyond that, it’s just the cherry on the top.
– What was your reaction receiving all your awards ?
– I was very excited to see that the audience and the judges had liked the movie. The intention that was put into this project was able to speak to the audience, and that made me very happy !
– Did they end up on your chimney ?
– Yes, they ended up on my chimney, and they will be a reminder for me to put my heart into everything that I do, for it will always comes back to me with a rewarding energy.
– Is it the first time that you’re bringing one of your own projects to life ?
– No, I have written, directed and edited other projects of my own. Those projects include music videos, short films and fashion shows. Also I have written one man’s shows, which I have performed as a stand up comedy routines.
– What are your up-coming projects or is still “Top Secret”? I know you’re working on another parody…
– I am finishing up with one parody, which still a “Top Secret”, since it’s still in the process of rewriting dialogue, I think it’s probably going to be taking a little bit longer than anticipated for it to be shot. I know it’s going to be very challenging.
– Would you like to be part of The Toscars 2013 ?
– I’d love to be part of the Toscars 2013. I am really excited to see what other new things are going to happen at the 2013 Toscars.