Juan Carlos Oseguera
We recently had the opportunity to talk to filmmaker Juan Carlos Oseguera. Juan’s latest feature documentary film “The Fight for Water” has made a huge impact in Central California so we wanted to find out more about his film and how he got to where he is now.
ITSA: Is the process of making a film one of self-discovery for you.
Juan: It has always been about self discovery and learning something new. I try not to repeat what I have done before because I like a challenge, whether it’s about filmmaking or the subject I’m covering. My latest project, The Fight for Water, is a documentary, and I had never done a documentary before. The idea of a documentary had interested me for years but I had never settled on a subject I was personally interested in until this one. All my previous projects had been short film narratives. As a student filmmaker I had done my action film, dramatic film, comedy film, commercials, and an animated short. I tried different things and different aspects of filmmaking, just to understand different roles. But I always wrote, produced, edited and directed most, if not all, of my projects. Also, in each one I learned something new. In my latest project, I learned a lot about feature films and documentary filmmaking, and a lot about how complicated this water situation is, and the difficulty of putting that into a film people could understand or relate with—because I was also trying to understand it. I had so much footage. I had a difficult time editing it. The director in me wanted to keep things that the editor in me just wanted to edit out. So, it was an adventure for sure.
ITSA: What age were you when filmmaking went from a hobby to something else?
Juan: For me filmmaking has been both a hobby and a career. It has been a hobby because for the most part I don’t get paid for what I do (on my own projects) and if I do, it is not very much. But it has always been a career. Ever since I took a film production course at a community college I knew that that was what I wanted to do and I have been doing that ever since—working on short films and small projects here and there. You got to love what you do to really stay with it.
ITSA: What limitations do you have when working on a film? Or what area would you like to learn more about?
Juan: The only limitation I have is not having the financial resources to do the type of films I want to do. But I’ve been able to work with what I have and I try to make the best with what I have. The people who came on board to help me make the documentary possible did it knowing I couldn’t offer them any compensation upfront but hopefully that it would be rewarding for all of us in some way—and I think it will.
ITSA: How do you finance your films?
Juan: I have always finance my own films through the works that I do. For my latest project, The Fight for Water, I did seek some donations and that helped me finish the film. I hope that with film screenings at film festivals and other places, the film finds distribution. I hope it pays off for those who assisted, contributed or helped me make this film possible. I know I owe them a lot for their time and dedication. I specially can’t thank the composers enough—Benjamin Coria, Dustin Morris and Eric Vega, who composed an original song for the film—for their music talents. They made the film come alive.
ITSA: As a creative person, you have to be faithful to your own vision. Is there a time where you haven’t been true to your art and self-expression?
Juan: I have always been very focused in terms of the type of projects I want to do, because I feel that if I did not do that, then that was not the type of project I wanted to do. That does not mean I didn’t listen to other people’s ideas during the creative process. I think directors need to be good listeners. We need people who can challenge us constructively; to make sure that our vision makes sense because sometimes we lose focus.
ITSA: If money wasn’t a worry for you, choose a leading actor and actress to star in one of your films? Why?
Juan: That is a hard question to answer. I like a lot of actors and actresses with whom I would like to work with one day in the future—if I’m ever granted that opportunity. Hopefully one day it does happen.
ITSA: When did you make your first ‘real’ film? What made that film feel different than others?
Juan: My first ‘real’ film is the one that I just completed, The Fight for Water. This film was not a student project, or a project I assisted in. I wrote, produced, edited and directed the film. That alone was a lot and a challenging. If I knew how to write music, I probably would have done that too. But it was a great experience. Made it more personal, I think.
ITSA: College or no college? Do you recommend it for filmmakers?
Juan: Absolutely! I recommend individuals interested in making films take courses in not just filmmaking but also in film theory—the history of film. View as many films, from the early cinema , to the important filmmakers from around the world; to see what they have done, to get inspired and see how they, as filmmakers, can do it differently—visually or stylistically. To me, those filmmakers tend to be the best directors because they studied film and know what has been done before and out of that create their own personal style or vision.
ITSA: What are some qualities you have that have made it easy for you to make a film?
Juan: I don’t know what qualities people see in me but I think being honest and sincere about things helps but above else be respectful of others too. I am a strong believer in that. I want to continue making films, and I can’t make the film I want to do if I don’t have the support of people, especially when we are working for very little. Filmmaking is a labor or love and we all have creative ideas to offer.
ITSA: In your eyes, what or who is a director?
Juan: A director for me is someone who knows exactly what he or she doing. Someone who demonstrates the skills to listen and give clear directions about what their vision is.
ITSA: What skills do you think are necessary to help a filmmaker make it in Hollywood?
Juan: I don’t know what skills filmmakers need to make it in Hollywood. I know that they don’t need to be in Hollywood or need Hollywood to make films. I think that if you are a skilled filmmaker, wherever you are, Hollywood is going to come knocking at your door. Your work will open the door for you. But if Hollywood doesn’t come knocking at your door, then it’s not the only door out there. Now days, one can make film and distribute films in many forms. The only thing Hollywood gives you is notoriety and maybe the fame, but without good skills, one cannot stay there either, because someone new will come along that will take that away. So it’s good idea to stay grounded and just focused on the films you want to make and find the people, the resources and the venues that will get your films made and seen.
Juan’s advice for new filmmakers: Study films, take courses in film, read about films, study filmmakers, do films, network with people interested in films; be humble, honest and confident in what you want to do. Focus on one project at a time and try to make the best project that you can with it, so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again and again.
Thanks so much to Juan for discussing film with us. Here’s more information for those who are planning to attend Juan’s workshop at the 2012 ITSA Film Festival in Sonora, California.