What is your definition of a creative practice?
Everything can be a creative practice. Walking down the street can be creative practice. Conversing can be creative practice. Making a meal can be a creative practice. Philosophizing about existence can be creative practice. Giving your mom a back massage can be creative practice. As long as you are expressing an internal, intuitive, human truth in what you’re doing I think that can be considered a creative practice.
Is there anything that you would consider not a creative practice? Are there any lines that can be drawn to distinguish whether or not something is an active extension of one’s practice?
Hard to draw a line considering I’m starting to see that with my practice everything is starting to become a lifestyle, where life and work are symbiotic. Like some sort of never ending couples dance, where the weight leans from one end to another but never really disconnects. For example, a conversation with a stranger can have profound influence on the output on something as tangible as a script or a decision made on set. The way I arrange the things in my room may inform how I stage actors or camera in a shot. Taking notice of natural light during a casual dinner may influence what time of day we should stage a scene. You can’t only measure a painter's practice when paint is brushing against canvas, considering their walk down the street may be the spark of their next decision. What I can say though is I think if the mode of how a creative product was conceived can be replicated by an algorithm then it can be considered not creative.
What was it like at the beginning of Nice & Juicy?
Considering I started the company broke on personal credit cards with my business partner Christian, kind of felt like jumping in a deep end of a pool without any knowledge on how to swim, only to realize it’s an ocean...with sharks (turns out to be little fishies). You learn the swim over time, then perhaps learn how to build a boat then hopefully start seeing a trajectory of momentum that makes you think.. maybe it’s not crazy to assume that we can fly. To summarize though, extremely tough, tremendously educational & incomparably fulfilling.
As the creative lead in a collective practice, how has your work environment been shaped by your own personal ideologies?
I’ve always had a resentment against any sort of institutionalism or dogmatism and found myself healthier when independent and free without the bounds of regulation. I think I've been blessed to share similar ideologies with my comrades at Nice & Juicy & feel we’re all doing our best to preserve our own independence as we strengthen our interdependence. We all dropped out of school. We connect on values. We want to live a balanced & virtuous life. We play on the same soccer team. We decline jobs that don’t align with our voice. We’ll pour money and time into things that we feel connected to. We fancy risks. We favour growth over comfort. In many ways, we’re different, but in others very similar. The collective environment & culture has to be shaped by all of our personal ideologies or else it’s not worth pursuing.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I became that kid at the skatepark with the camera, sadly before I learned how to kick & push. Lots of bruises and a healthy dose of coming-of-age delinquency later, started taking the art more seriously.In short, hustled a load of random video related opportunities to keep alive and kept a disciplined study & practice at any available opportunity. Fast forward a few years, a few impulsive life decisions later, now finding myself in a position where I’m confident to say that filmmaking is going to be a lifelong pursuit. The level of emotion that can be evoked in a motion picture and unmeasurable amount of information that gets communicated to an audience is absolutely magical.
Can you upload a screenshot of your desktop and phone background?
Can you provide some context to your background images?
My desktop background at one point was double layered in screenshots and documents in it’s smallest icon form. Technological vomit. At the time I was working with Justin Manahan (or Mister Victory) on a project & he showed me his ropes of organization. Coming from a design background, he was definitely more particular on order. Since then I just simplified to a minimal set up & never looked back. Same goes with the organization with the phone applications, kind of replicated the set up from the boy Elie. Both set ups made me appreciate keeping it clean.
The frame of the man is a still from our documentary “Mothers of”. I just remember the feeling of walking into a lively El Salvadorian bar, cigarette and beer in hand, with my DP Diego gripping his 35mm Arriflex and a bare bones local film crew to support. Without much time to process, we dove in, essentially barging into their games without much more than swift head nods and hand shakes to approve our unexpected appearance. Our eyes were set on this dingy dark room in the back, slot machines illuminated by a few worn down florescent tubes - a weighing decaying ambience as a single fan oscillated, breezing a row of men, chain smoking with eyes locked on the prize. So we decide to roll on one gentleman, just inches away from him, really without his consent at this point, edging closer and closer until.. unexpectedly, he turns 180, breaks the 4th wall for a quick moment, completely unfazed and semi-distressed, before returning to his game. Something about his vulnerable, childlike gaze stuck with me like glue. It was one of those moments you know you'd never forget & ended up being an essential shot used in the film.
There is a graphic object with which you seem to have a special connection with. Can you speak about your infatuation with circles and the implications that they have in your life?
Circles are awesome. This kind of fascination picked up during a branding project that got me existentially wired. Contemplating things like patterns, time, culture, humanity, universality. The most ancient Chinese symbol is essentially a sliced circle, twirling around each other with remnants of the inverse in each side. That in itself implies so much. Duality. Chaos and form. Balance. It’s a concept that I’m quite obsessed with. There’s so much simplicity and information in such a simple object. It’s a polygon with infinite sides. It’s kind of infinite and nothing at the same time. Like a paradox. The Vintruvian Man. Ouroboros. Sacred geometry. Fibonacci. PI. Intersect it and you’ll see a plant. I lived in a Mongolian yurt for short exchange in China & it felt really cleansing to have the sun peak & disperse the room evenly in the shape of a circle. Also the utilization of space was surprisingly optimized. There’s just a lot of phenomenas & meanings I’ve drawn from circles. I think most complex problems should be able to be illustrated in a few simple shapes & I always seem to weirdly come back to the circle for answers.
How do you manage your schedule? What’s your typical day like these days?
Google calendar & a notebook, for shared & personal management. Every day is different but usually involves reading, conversations, writing, emails, meetings, food and a little too much caffeine. Pretty chill, as opposed to days on set which feel more like a military operation in comparison.
What were the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your profession?
Too many. I learned to trust my intuition, the gut. I feel most things are felt first and post-rationalized after. I think it makes sense to trust the former, considering it has already been subconsciously processed. I’ve learned to be more open. The importance of learning. The importance of unlearning. Ex-forming. Staying foolish. Staying curious. Learned to celebrate differences. Including my own. Learned to value vulnerability and honesty. Learned to not only trust but enjoy the process.
Where do you see Nice & Juicy in the near future?
Doing exactly what we’re doing right now. Shedding blood, sweat, and occasionally tears for the love of humanizing, cinematic experiences. But perhaps on a bigger scale. Much much bigger… To be continued...
If you had to decide right this moment, what would your last meal be?
Hmm.. likely a splurge of Japanese food. Miso soup, sashimi salad, a plate of torched sushi, karaage, motoyaki, takoyaki and whiskey on the rocks to wash down the sorrow.