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‘Elvis’ tackles Teenagers Lost in the Immigration Shuffle: An Interview with Film Director Nick Santana #indiefilm #kickstarter

Elvis Short Film Nick Santana Interview

Inspired by the life experiences of a cousin from Mexico, filmmaker Nick Santana is providing a voice for teenagers who are faced with immigration challenges with his short film debut, “Elvis.” The movie is set in Brooklyn, New York and tells the story of a 15 year-old boy named Elvis who suddenly learns that he is undocumented and may be deported. In a recent interview, Santana shares some background information on how the screenplay for “Elvis” came to light while also reminding me why movies centered on real-life circumstances that are rarely seen in film deserves our support.

Madlab Post: How did you get attached to this film?

Nick Santana: I wrote the screenplay. It was an idea that I’ve been playing with for a couple of months. I’ve done other stuff in films – commercials and online content, but mostly for (corporate) brands; I wanted to do something else that was a little bit more personal and I was trying to figure out what that would be and this is the project that I wrote.

What inspired you to want to make "Elvis" during a time when our country's political landscape is battling such a touchy subject?

As I was trying to come up with an idea of what the short film would be, I kept pitching ideas to friends, to my wife and nothing struck a chord -- I didn’t feel passionate about them. I read a couple of articles in the New York Times, on children whose parents are being deported and it sparked a childhood memory of one of my cousins – he and I discovered that his citizenship was not legal, when he was about to graduate from high school.

He was an undocumented citizen, so he couldn’t apply for University -- he could, but he wasn’t eligible for student loans, the Pell grants or any financial aid, at all. I remember him getting discouraged; He wanted to study architecture. So, I drew from that – personal experience and the article that I read. That’s how I came up with the story for “Elvis” and I made it specifically very New York based.

Was the New York setting of “Elvis” chosen based on this city’s high immigrant population?

“Elvis” is set in New York because of two reasons – I’m here, so it’s easier for me because it costs less money to make the film -- I don’t have to fly out to Los Angeles. Also, New York has always been an entryway, a hub of immigration and diversity. We have the Statue of Liberty – that’s one big example, one symbol of immigration.

You meet a plethora of immigrants from all over (the world) in New York – West African, Middle Eastern and people from the South Pacific. In California, the biggest complaint is that there are people from Mexico and Central America there, but New York has people from everywhere. Your cab drivers, the street vendors selling food – you’re exposed to it; that’s what makes this city so amazing – you’re constantly exposed to change and to diversity.

In what ways can "Elvis" help teenagers become more understanding of either their peers or their own circumstances?

In this particular story, Elvis comes to a realization of his citizenship status and much like a lot of teenagers, you go through life not thinking that your life can change – you’re immortal when you’re young; The short is less than 10 minutes long but in the beginning we see Elvis being a normal teenager, wilding out and hanging out with his friends, trying to pick up on teenage girls from the city and then his life is turned upside down. He then almost steps up and becomes a man.

What I hope to achieve by telling the story of Elvis is that this is a serious problem – a lot of children come to this country, not on their own choice, they’re brought here by their parents from many different circumstances – escaping poverty or political persecution, etc. but all of a sudden, what do you do when you grow up and you honestly think that you’re American and you don’t know anything else?

I was recently talking to a neighbor who told me that his cousin, who is from Haiti, never knew that he was undocumented. When neighbor’s cousin got into trouble, was picked up for a minor infraction and sent to a detention center. While in detention, he got into a fight and they ended up not only keeping him there longer but they also deported him. They sent him back to Haiti. His entire family is in New York City! He doesn’t know anyone in Haiti and he doesn’t speak the language, so you know, it’s like these cases that I’m starting to realize that they’re not uncommon. So, that’s the story of Elvis.

"At a time when adolescent passage into adulthood is marked by achieving certain milestones, the Elvises of this country have to adapt to living in the shadows." - Nick Santana on 'Elvis'

Stay tuned for more on Nick Santana’s Short Film “Elvis,” tomorrow. In the meantime, support this film by donating $5 to the “Elvis” Kickstarter campaign.

Contributions to this project will help make the production possible in areas such as sound mix, transportation costs, editing and lighting. If you don’t have $5, there is good news – you CAN still donate even only $1 to help get this film in the can!

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The DVD Snorefest: Movies that were Less Exciting to Watch #netflix #amwriting #boring


It’s another installment of the Monday Movie Meme and today’s theme is inspired by my tiredness and recent lack of motivation to write a blog post. First and foremost, big thanks to Dale at Smurfin the Web for putting us all in the holiday spirit last week. Since it’s my turn to host the meme this week, here is the topic: Cue the yawning! Share on your blog some of the most boring movies that you’ve ever watched.


Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good opportunity to get new views of Matthew McConaughey as much as the next woman but even he could not keep my attention on “Amistad.” Maybe this is one of those movies that you have to watch in the theater to fully appreciate the work and not fall asleep. I bought “Amistad” on DVD several months ago because I never saw it and always wanted to check it out but about 30 minutes in to this movie, I lost interest in the film.

I started multitasking and then just let the DVD play in the background while I worked on the computer and performed other household tasks. I don’t know what happened and I don’t even care. Amistad’s lengthy running time doesn’t help the situation either, especially today when I tend to skip that selection while considering DVDs in my movie collection to watch on a lazy, boring or depressing afternoon or evening. Maybe I’ll get around to watching “Amistad” in it’s entirety one day -- if I have the time and patience to do so.

In the Bedroom

You can’t go wrong with Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson, but somehow, it felt like “In the Bedroom” was set into a cruise control mode that never let up. Fortunately,
this was a good movie, so I did give it my full attention, unlike the experience in watching “Amistad.” I still kept anticipating the end credits, like I couldn’t wait until the movie was over.

The few dramatic and action-packed moments were forced to make up for a LOT of down time. I get the point -- something tragic happened, people are sad, there is resentment in the air and the grief has to be dealt with in one way or another. So, why do we have to watch a guy sitting in his car for what seems like 15 minutes to forever, doing absolutely nothing?


I’m probably going to be criticized for this point of view, because “Slacker” is an independent film classic and everything.-- still, it’s boring. Sorry, but there’s no way getting around the fact that I just could not get into this movie. I don’t remember much about it because it stopped paying attention to it not too long after I popped the DVD into the DVD player.

Funny enough, though, I did find the short film located on the special features menu (or do I have this “Slacker” DVD mistaken for another movie? somebody let me know, please) to be much more interesting to watch than the main presentation. I don’t know if that is a plus or a minus for the DVD nor am I sure if there is something to be said about a special feature that gets more kudos than the main menu item that we bought (or rented or streamed, whatever) the DVD for in the first place.

Land of Plenty

Michelle Williams stars in “Land of Plenty” and aside from reading something somewhere that referenced this film, she was the only reason I wanted to check it out. Big mistake -- not because of Williams per se, but because this movie is not very entertaining. Hell, it isn’t even interesting enough to make me want to champion it or recommend it to anyone.

Nights and Weekends

I started playing “Nights and Weekends” and then after not even a few minutes of watching this movie, I turned it off. Enough said.

There are a few more boring movies that I would mention in this post -- if I wasn’t tired of being in front of a computer you know, kind of like how I became tired of watching the films listed here. Ha!

What movies have YOU found yourself falling asleep on?

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My Favorite Christmas Movies #amblogging #amwriting


As we kick off another Monday Movie Meme following my Big Payback from last week, it’s about that time to get into the holiday spirit. Dale at Smurfin the Web takes his hosting duties up a notch with the festive topic of naming our favorite Christmas movies. This one shouldn’t be a toughie, but I’m not exactly the most festive person in the world with regards to the Christmas holiday.

I don’t decorate, sing carols or participate in any related traditional activities that scream “I’m full of the holiday spirit!” -- unless I’m in a really good mood or have been inspired to do so for some random reason. None of the latter scenarios apply this year, but alas, there are some Christmas holiday movies that I rarely tire of watching -- and here they are.

It’s a Wonderful Life

I was vaguely familiar with this movie due to commercials and television programs that showed clips from the film, but did not watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” until my post-college years. After a long and gloomy conversation with a work supervisor about some negative feelings and thoughts going through my mind, this movie was recommended to me and I’m glad that I saw it. Now, that doesn’t mean I believe that a little perspective or some guardian angel from above will come down and fix everything or help us ‘see the light’ -- but, if there is anything that can get me into the Christmas holiday spirit, THIS movie is it!

Bad Santa

Now, this is on the other end of the Christmas holiday spectrum, which is why I love it. There is no reason to really be mad at Billy Bob Thorton’s character at all, since Santa Claus himself is a fictional character used to boost the commerce sector in our Western culture without providing any real value to children, or even adults, for that matter. Also, I found this movie to be obnoxiously funny and it sometimes holds a special place in my heart because I watched it with, and on the recommendation of a friend in the Navy, who was home on a short break.

The Kid Who Loved Christmas

Sammy Davis Jr. and Cicely Tyson star in this TV movie, a heartfelt little holiday story about an orphaned boy who asks Santa Claus for help in stopping social services from removing him from the home of his adoptive family. What strikes me about this little boy is that he had a positive and hopeful attitude, despite the tough circumstances he was in and the struggles that his adoptive father endured to try and keep them together. Although we all know Santa is imaginary, this little boy believed in the possibility of miracles, in the midst of all of his troubles. This stands out because the principles in this story are what life is about -- not just the holidays. While “The Kid Who Loved Christmas” does not seem to be available on DVD, it is on VHS and is often aired on television -- always a joy for me to watch!