The Doc Doctor–Argentinian or Kryptonian…or Both?

I’m volunteering at a three day documentary workshop at URBAN-15. It’s been brought to town by NALIP (one of the very few film organizations I’ve ever belonged to which I can give unqualified praise). Kathryn Galan, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, came into to town to run this event. There are different pay levels for the weekend, but none over $150 dollars. It seemed steep to me at first, but after hearing that a two day grant writing seminar happening downtown earlier in the week cost about $450, I had to change my opinion.

The workshop is being given by Fernanda Rossi, the “Documentary Doctor.” She’s fucking amazing. Clever, quick-witted, and unbelievably energetic. I’m looking forward to tomorrow when we get into the nuts and bolts of creating trailers to use for seeking funding.

Last night we began the event with a screening of Gemma Cubero del Barrio’s wonderful documentary on women bullfighters, “Ella es el Matador (She is the Matador).” (The title comes from this great scene in the film. One of the Matadors has been knocked over and trampled by the bull. She’s rushed to the hospital. Two doctors are looking over her injuries, which turn out to be not so bad. One of the doctors scratches his head. “A bull? She got in the ring?” To which the other doctor, a woman, responds, rolling her eyes: “She’s the Matador.” Gemma Cubero del Barrio (one of the two women who made this movie) was in attendance. She talked to us about the film. It’s been showing recently on POV–I believe it’s coming soon to San Antonio PBS. If you see it listed or otherwise available, make sure to see it. Even if, like me, you have little interest in bullfighting, or even, understandably, an outright revulsion. It’s solid storytelling, and the women Matadors provide interesting insight into this world.

This morning I returned to URBAN-15 to help set up for the first day we’d be working with Ms. Rossi. I was up in the performance space when Fernanda came in. She seemed very unassuming, almost mousy. George tried to set her at ease by making a few jokes (as is his nature). She either wasn’t listening, or chose to ignore his comments. She was extremely focused and professional. She wanted the chairs arranged just so. A table over there, at an angle, a little lectern there. Don’t get me wrong, she was very gracious. But you know, all business. So I was somewhat pushed off balance when the session began and she turned on the charm and charisma. She was sure and confident in the manner in which she built rapport with the audience. There were between 25 and 30 people, and she connected with us all.

There’s an actor I’ve worked with on several occasions. He has energy and charisma, but he can’t pace himself. I’ve watched him, on multiple occasions, burn himself out before the first scene was ever shot–you, know, playing and monkeying around for the cast and crew. Fernanda knows how to pace herself. When she’s “on,” doing her thing, she’s Kryptonian to the max. Otherwise, it’s more Clark Kent, hanging out over at the water cooler.


Make sure to get her book: “Trailer Mechanics: A Guide to Making Your Documentary Fundraising Trailer.” Again, her name’s Fernanda Rossi. It’s only $22.95 (though I picked mine up today for twenty bucks). Find it on Amazon.

Check out Fernanda Rossi’s website:

During our lunch break were were given presentations by representatives of LPB (Latino Public Broadcasting), ITVS (Independent Television Service), and KLRN (the San Antonio PBS affiliate station).

After Ms. Rossi was done for the day (about five), we broke into groups at talk with “mentors”–production and distribution professionals brought in just for this event. I felt very lucky that I was able to meet with Hector Galan. Hector’s a producer and filmmaker based in Austin. You can check him out on IMDB and you’ll get an idea of what he’s done. But the truth is that Hector, like so many people in this business, has involved himself intimately and importantly in projects you’ve probably seen, but in which he was never credited. He’s the real deal. A man who everyone respects and no one (no one I know of) speaks ill of. I’d seen him at various events, but until tonight I’d never spoken with him.

When I pitched my idea of a documentary about the Jumano Apaches of far west Texas and their hopes to become recognized as an indigenous people, he was encouraging. He gave me some interesting and insightful feedback. But there was also another person sitting in on our small group’s pitch session. She works for a Texas arts and cultural organization. In a lull between me and Hector’s conversation, she said that my idea sounded like something her organization might be interested in. Of course I asked for her card. Back home I looked up the organization. I couldn’t quite see how this group would be interested in a film project. Still, I’ll certainly be keeping in touch with this woman.

We had people show up who were from Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Albuquerque, Missouri, California, and New York. I only wish more San Antonio filmmakers had understood the importance of this event. Without even stopping to scratch my head, I can think of five local filmmakers who would have benefitted enormously from this event…yet they never even showed the slightest interest.

There were people with projects on Bob Wills, Salsa (the foodstuff, not the dance), the Texas border wall, the Pope visiting New York in 2008, a specific type of Caribbean music I’m not familiar with, Native American land rights in New Mexico, and loads of other topics I can’t remember.

There were two women who were from Houston (if I recall correctly). They had some killer footage–clearly they knew something about production. There was another woman (I remember seeing her at the NALIP national conference earlier in the year) who has never made a film before. But her passion, clarity, and professional demeanor make me think she’ll make a great film very soon.


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