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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Vera sees very much in indie movies

By MIKE McILVAIN

Julia Vera has achieved that enviable point of not being able to remember all of the movies, commercials and television shows she’s been in.
But she has been writing a possible series of stories set around a young girl growing up in a very different Laredo some 55 years ago when only some 35,000 lived in a much smaller, more innocent, dustier and much more personal borderland town.
“La Metiche” is only a creation traveling between Vera’s mind and typing fingers – when time allows and free time isn’t plentiful with a full schedule. In a few days she begins playing the adopting mother in the independent movie “Juan Franzic,” (pronounced like Juan Francis) adding another note to her busy filmography on IMDb – probably the best way to try and keep up with Vera’s growing cinematic career.
She has five credits this year, up one from last year and up three from two years ago.
Vera didn’t start acting until she was 46, but wanted to since childhood days back in that much smaller Laredo, and the thriving independent film industry could eventually bring that world to life.
Vera made a brief stop in Laredo after attending New York City’s Latino Film Festival where her “The Virgin of Juarez” was among those showing. That potential in independent movies might not let Vera rest long anywhere as she sees plenty of potential for captivating, sharp, attention-grabbing, streamlined scripts and finished products in indys that their much bulkier major studio counterparts might not deliver as readily.
Big studio films are expensive and weighed down in formula -- forced to follow too many already familiar plots, scenes and lines.
“Like with Mission Impossible III they had a lot of explosions because they think that’s what the public wants.
The much freer independent film can be put together for less than $100 and shot with a rented camera and someone willing to act. Sometimes, nothing more is necessary.
“They rent that equipment in Dallas, Houston and I’m pretty sure in Austin and San Antonio,” Vera said.
A minimal expense indy needs very little to qualify for screening consideration at any of the numerous film festivals around the world, but Vera believes in following the tried and true paper trail to produce something the public would want to see.
“If it’s not down on paper you can lose your way,” she said.
A movie made without its principals holding Screen Actors Guild cards can get lost, too, missing any chance for major recognition. In New York, Vera saw “Quinceañera,” which she liked very much and is gaining critical backing, but cannot be nominated for Academy Award consideration because it is a non-union production.
And that sad note doesn’t have to be repeated.
“The SAG has in place ways of using union actors to make ultra-low budget, paying them $100 a day,” she said. “Most love to act and a lot would do it for free. It’s an amazing experience to be part of a creative force.”
Vera notes the success of “Monster,” “TransAmerica” and “Frida,” which all operated under ultra-low budget financing and brought in big box office and rental returns.
”In ‘Frida,’ a lot worked for free just to help,” Vera said.
“Quinceañera” will probably make money, despite going non-union because it was picked up by Fox and could already be in rental stores.
Up front checks between $35,000 and $45,000 and a public that likes to rent stacks of movies ensure that moviemakers make money when their projects go video.
Awards won at those numerous film festivals like $5,000, a trophy and extra film help independent film making grow, but Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival held each January in Utah remains the leader. Vera says Sundance’s Spectrum 2000, in which the top new films are selected is helping speed recognition of the top indy filmmakers.
“When you’re picked, that’s a biggie,” Vera said.

Note: Online versions of many LareDOS editions can be seen at www.laredosnews.com. This story is very similar to one printed in the Sept. 2006 edition.

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