"It was tough but inspiring. A lot of ups-and-downs, and a lot of rejection at first. The difficulty with the movie industry is that when it is good, it is great, but when it is bad, it is soul-crushing. And the trick is to stand strong and survive, but to keep moving forward. "
Do you have post high school studies and where?
Studied Film at the University of Southern California (USC), in the School of Cinematic Arts, with a major in Film Production and a Minor in Theatre.
What are you up to right now?
Currently working as a Film and TV Director, having directed films like Overdrive, Transit, Seconds Apart, Towards Darkness, and various series like Arrow, The Flash, Lethal Weapon, The 100, Hawaii Five-0, Supergirl, MacGyver, Once Upon a Time, and Scorpion. Upcoming shows include Magnum P.I., LA’s Finest, and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
How would you describe the experience you had when building your own business. Or your experience in the movie industry?
It was tough but inspiring. A lot of ups-and-downs, and a lot of rejection at first. The difficulty with the movie industry is that when it is good, it is great, but when it is bad, it is soul-crushing. And the trick is to stand strong and survive, but to keep moving forward.
Having said that, I’ve been blessed and grateful that directing is all I’ve ever done. Right out of University, I jumped into directing a TV show, and while I did that I wrote my first feature and started looking for financing. That was Towards Darkness aka Hacia La Oscuridad, which to this day is my most personal film. It was made with people I love and who supported me when no one else would. And it is no coincidence it was a bilingual film - inspired in many ways by the classes and environment I grew up with at Cotopaxi. It got into Tribeca Film Festival, and that got me my agents and got me going in the business.
It taught me that if you want to direct you kind of have to plant a flag in the ground and say ‘I’m a director.’ Otherwise, no one is going to give you that chance. Since then, it has become a lot about finding balance and maintaining a working rhythm. Luckily for me, bouncing between TV and Film lately has allowed me to both make a great living, but to also give myself time to find the right films that speak to me. But with each project, I continue to learn and grow.
If you were transported back to your high school days, how would you describe it?
Pretty magical, to be honest. Cotopaxi was, and is, a very unique place. I got the strengths of an International education, mixed with the priceless life experience of a multicultural environment. It was a safe place, where I felt supported and encouraged. It allowed me to find my interests, and it challenged me to make them grow. To this day, I stay in touch with several of my friends from Cotopaxi, and am always checking in on social media on countless others. It really was a great community. I got to meet people from many countries, of varying religious and cultural practices, and of countless backgrounds. And yet, we were all fellow students -- all together on the same journey, accepting each other and learning together.
What did AC do well in order for you to reach your dreams?
Well, first of all, it introduced me to my wife! That’s right, I first met my wife Luiza Ricupero while studying at Cotopaxi! The rest is history. She’s an amazing film producer in her own right, and we’ve worked together on various projects over the years. I think one of the things that has kept us so strong is that we both came from similar backgrounds. We both lived in various countries growing up, speaking various languages, and experiencing the world without ever really belonging to one single place. That kind of bond is hard to understand, if you haven’t experienced it. And luckily, a lot of students get to experience it at Cotopaxi.
Also, specifically for me, the Arts Program at Cotopaxi really shaped who I am today. Special thanks goes to Tom Mallan and Tom Biel, both of whom pushed me in English and Theatre classes, fostering my love for storytelling. But all of my teachers were supportive, allowing me to explore filmmaking within other classes. I don’t know how many ‘final projects’ of mine ended up being films - but I can tell you it was a lot! More than that, being a part of the amazing plays in that cool theatre, and being exposed to the incredible music shows, and being awed by the Recitales LatinoAmericanos, inspired me to pursue storytelling and ultimately filmmaking. As I mentioned, making my first film bilingual was a direct result of being exposed to bilingual Arts at Cotopaxi. Those years in Quito inspired me tremendously.
How have you grown since you graduated from AC?
In many ways, I feel I am still the same kid that would obsess about movies and make a fool out of myself. Perhaps I’m a little more jaded now, because leaving the bubble of Cotopaxi will do that to you, especially if you are pursuing a living in the Arts. However, it was that very bubble that made me strong enough to go out there and fight. So I feel the same, in many ways. One thing I’d like to think I’ve grown in is the way I dress now. Not that I’m a great dresser by any means, but certainly better than I was back then. I think of the outfits I would wear at Cotopaxi (from military pants to full on trenchcoats) and shudder with embarrassment. Hahaha.
Ultimately, the biggest way in which I’ve changed is I’m a Father now. And as my son grows closer to school age, I find myself wishing one thing: I hope I can find for him an environment as special as Cotopaxi was for me.