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UTA Films: Ice Cream, Phone Ghosts, and Avocados

by Mashal Noor 14 Oct 2014 3:14 PM

This week on Frame of Mind, watch films by students who are a part of the UTA Film program.


This week on Frame of Mind, three films from the UTA Film program are being featured.

  • Tune in to KERA TV on Thursday at 10 PM to catch this week’s episode!

The films included in this week’s episode are:

  1. “Phone Ghost” directed by Jean-Patrick Mahoney
  2. “Avocados” directed by Julie Gould
  3. “Helado” directed by Gabriel Duran
Photo: Gabriel Duran

Photo: Gabriel Duran

I spoke with Gabriel Duran, director of “Helado,” and Jean-Patrick Mahoney, director of “Phone Ghost” to talk about their films.

On the ideas behind their films:

GD:  Basically, the idea stems from looking at day laborers – when I go to school, there are a bunch of day laborers on Cooper St.  But the rest of the idea actually came from a dream which is really what helped me put it all together.

Photo: Jean-Patrick Mahoney

Photo: Jean-Patrick Mahoney

JPM:  Last Halloween, I was really interested in doing a horror film.  It’s something that I had never really done before, but I was really interested.  There’s always a big element of comedy and surrealism in everything that I do, so I was really inspired by Dario Argento films, like Johnny Carpenter, but my version of that would be funny too.  The issues that I’m interested in and wanted to explore were the tensions between old technologies and new technologies.  I wanted to explore how new technology is so insatiable and how we’re always searching for that digital nirvana, but sometimes these new devices make our lives more complicated even though they were supposed to make things simpler and easier.  After all, on that same token, if you want to be a part of society and be a part of the world, you have to keep up – you can’t rely on the old ways of doing things.

On the creation of their films:

Photo: Gabriel Duran

Photo: Gabriel Duran

GD:  The whole process for me starts with knowing exactly what I want and then finding my location and actors.  For my films, I write them in English and translate them over to Spanish which means that I prefer for my actors to be bilingual so they can understand exactly what I want.  It was sort of difficult to find an actress at the age of the protagonist who speaks fluent Spanish and English and does acting.  All of my films have been in Spanish, other than the one that I’m working on right now which is my last thesis film.  The special effects deal with the situation that’s within the story – it’s more of a magical realism type of film where it deals with the reality as well as looking at the world through this girl’s head.  She’s so innocent and naive about what’s going on outside of the house.  At the end, when the two worlds collide, the father starts to see a little bit of what she sees.  So the colors are there to play with the difference between innocence and the real world.

JPM:  I created the Phone Ghost world that they enter because I am interested in the abstract and experimental filmmaking as well as narrative filmmaking.  So when I did that, I’m employing very old analog video feedback techniques, but also mixing that with digital manipulation.  I really enjoyed playing with that idea in the story and that visual style.

On the biggest challenge they faced:

Photo: Jean-Patrick Mahoney

Photo: Jean-Patrick Mahoney

GD:  The biggest challenge while making Helado was to make sure that I was getting everything that I really wanted to portray on the film.  As a director, you see your film after the work is done and you go back wishing that you had done some things differently.  It just comes to the progression of how the film goes.  The hardest thing for me was location – having to find new locations and even having to shoot some times in guerrilla style, where we just show up and shoot stuff as fast as possible.  Locations were probably the hardest part for me.

JPM:  Previous to this film, I had been making more documentary, or experimental films.  This film, for me, was really getting used to doing these a lot more professionally with working with professional actors and things like that.  It was also something that was new to me, but also very enlightening.  The whole thing was very collaborative and really evolved with the actors and the crew.

On UTA Film:

Photo: Gabriel Duran

Photo: Gabriel Duran

GD:  The film program at UTA is amazing.  I’d say it is the best in North Texas.  I think what separates us from everyone else is that we focus on our storytelling, and the visual aspect of it of course, but the storytelling portion of it is the main focus.  We have film festivals every year with different colleges and UTA’s films are always a notch above everyone else.  I’m not just bragging about that, I really think that because we’re more focused on telling a story that is compelling and grabs the audience, our films are better.  We’re taught not to make student films.  It’s one of the best and I’m very proud to be a part of it.

JPM:  The graduate program at UTA is very individually focused and very independent as far as how you are guided through the program.  While you’re there, you make 4 short films and then the process of how that’s done is based on what you need and what kind of filmmaker you are.  It’s very open.  It’s led by Ya’Ke Smith, who is very prolific and a very respected filmmaker and is a very talented storyteller.  He’s really helped me and the others in forming the stories that we tell and bringing out what we really want to say in our films.

On their future in filmmaking:

Photo: Jean-Patrick Mahoney

Photo: Jean-Patrick Mahoney

GD:  As for as my future, I want to shoot a feature.  I was thinking of shooting a feature for my thesis, but we’re still in the progress of figuring that out.  I really want to work in production of making more Spanish based films – but films that aren’t dealing with the stereotypical stuff that’s going on, like the drug wars and what not.  I want to make films that make sense to these people.  I think that right now, most of the films that are coming out that are Hispanic or Latino based all have to deal with the drug cartels, and I want to steer away from producing films like that.

JPM:  I would really like to teach – I come from a family of teachers and really enjoy that.  There are a few features that I’ve had in my head that I really want to make, so once I graduate, I do really want to get started on a feature, but I’m also really passionate about educating.

On being included in this week’s episode of Frame of Mind:

Photo: Gabriel Duran

Photo: Gabriel Duran

GD:  Oh wow, it’s been amazing.  Ever since I started going to school and pursuing filmmaking, I’ve always loved watching KERA and the films or documentaries that they show.  I always wanted to be on KERA, so when I found out that they were playing my film on KERA, I was floored, but also really proud.  I’m definitely honored.

JPM:  It’s a great honor to be on KERA.  I love public radio and public television, and to be broadcasted is an incredible feeling.  Short film is probably an art form that is hard to find a large amount of venues for, and it’s something that you won’t see broadcasted just for people to tune into every so often.  So I really respect that KERA provides a venue for Texas filmmakers, and I also feel really honored to be apart of it.

You can find more work by Gabriel Duran on his vimeo, and more work by Jean-Patrick Mahoney on his vimeo.