Jose Jimenez short film Dreamer is the most recent Open Projector Night Peoples' Choice Award Winner. We sat down with the filmmaker to learn more about his work, inspiration, and future projects
Give us a short bio.
I am a Latino filmmaker born and raised in Los Angeles. I attended California State University, Northridge where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Cinema and Television Arts. I’ve produced, wrote, filmed, and edited a sports documentary series for Fox Deportes, an original series for PBS as well as short-form content for the digital startup Super Deluxe. In 2017, my wife and I decided to take on a new adventure and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Tell us your favorite film!
Cinema Paradiso. The setting, music, and cinematography are just magical. I watch this film whenever I’m feeling a little down--it always makes me happy. My second favorite film is La Bamba. As a kid, I would watch it over and over--I wanted to be Richie Valens.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Family inspires me. My mom and dad moved to this country when they were 17 years old and did very well. I owe everything to them.
Jorge Ramos, the award-winning journalist, has also been an enormous influence. I try to emulate his courage and tenacity. I would love to work with him one day.
Finally, I’m inspired by those who don’t have a voice in our world. There are a lot of people who are not being heard and who are being silenced. I want to tell their stories.
Tell us about Dreamer. What's the overall narrative?
Dreamer is a film about a Native American veteran struggling with survivor's guilt, but he finds redemption serving his fellow veterans.
How did the project form and how did you get involved?
Dreamer was originally part of a PBS original Series called Angeleno. Angeleno is a documentary series that tells the story of Los Angeles through the lives of its people. Dreamer was the series finale, but we felt the show’s format limited his story, so we made it into a short film.
Any new projects on the horizon?
I am working with a family-owned Mezcal company to create a feature-length documentary about the process and art form of Mezcal making. (Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from various types of the agave plant native to Mexico.)
I would like to serve the Latino community in Michigan through a local news network. I would like to build upon the publications that already exist, add more digital media, and tell in-depth stories that impact the Latino community.
You produced, edited and filmed Dreamer. Can you tell us about each responsibility and how your contribution shaped the film?
Producing a documentary piece like Dreamer is a lot of work.
Filming someone like Dreamer is very unpredictable, and you have to be ready for anything. Filming Dreamer, I wanted to give the audience an insider’s perspective of what it is like to be homeless in Los Angeles. The director Peter Jones and I pushed for us to spend the night outside with Dreamer where we experienced homelessness in Los Angeles firsthand.
We did spend a lot of time watching Dreamer’s interview, logging and marking sound bites. There is a lot of editing that comes on paper before you even make a cut on screen: trial and error, lengthy discussions, and disagreements with others on the team. There is always some magic in the edit bay too. I designed all the ambient noises, using sound effects and foley. I believe sound makes the difference between a good piece and a great one. I wanted the audience to feel like they were inside the Freedom Barbershop in Los Angeles.
Tell us about your first film-related experience, what made you want to pursue filmmaking as a career?
In 10th grade, I took Mr. Russ’ Film Appreciation class and an after-school screenwriting class. The combination of those two changed my life. I remember our final project for Mr. Russ’ class was to create a movie. I was so engrossed in the project that I convinced my parents to drive to Tijuana, Mexico to shoot a scene. I remember editing on my PC for days at a time and hardly sleeping. I just knew that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Do you have any advice that you can share with aspiring filmmakers?
I think the best advice I ever received was to keep filming and never burn bridges. The more you film, the more you get better, the more you learn. This industry is small, so word travels fast. Don’t be a jerk.
If you were granted a large budget and could make your dream film what would it be?
I would love to do a full-length feature documentary or a dramatic mini-series about the all Mexican-American infantry during World War II. I feel certain groups of that generation are all too often not celebrated, forgotten, or unknown to fellow Americans in the first place. Anywhere between 500,000 to 750,000 Mexican Americans participated in World War II, and I think America needs to hear those stories.
What was the Open Projector Night experience like for you?
I think it is an excellent event for filmmakers to share their work. In L.A., while cinema is celebrated, with that comes a sense of exclusivity. I think all filmmakers should have an opportunity to see their art on the big screen and be celebrated for their accomplishments. Thanks to UICA for this great event and to all the filmmakers who make it come to life!