Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Miguel Torres & Mauricio Mendoza’s Supernatural Encounters Sets Industry Abuzz

Recently, the Imagen Foundation announced its 2011 Imagen Award nominees and the new original web series, Encounters, is among those nominated for Best Web Series. If you haven’t already read the first part of this interview on Latin Heat Online, make sure you do. Here’s the link: 

This year, Angel Flight Media launched its original web series, Encounters, and has already garnered a coveted Imagen Award nomination with only a few webisodes uploaded. The definitive formula for the consummate web series is still a mystery and pioneers are trying to figure out how to grab television-viewing audiences and keep them riveted for seven to eight minutes on their on-line screens. Not easy to accomplish, yet Encounters has managed to tap into our most sacred emotions and hold our attention for the entire show. How many of us have lost a loved one or maybe a not so loved one without ever having a chance to clear things up or say one more time how much they impacted your life? Watching Enounters could save you big bucks on expensive grief therapy!
Miguel Torres

I recently spoke with the series creator and co-executive producer, Miguel Torres, about both his show and the positive reaction from the show’s growing audience.

Where did you get the idea for your story concept?

MT:  I was jogging one day through Boyle Heights and I began to notice people… truly notice them. I don’t know what it was at the time but I felt the pain and hurt in them. Most of them walked with their heads down and I wondered why. I began to think about what I would say to a loved one who had passed away.  And, what if these individuals spoke to a loved one who had passed away? How would it change their current lives? Unfortunately for all of us, we often believe that have something holding us back in this world from becoming great and I feel that losing loved ones takes a bit of our soul away. The original name of the series was One More Day, but I decided to share the concept with one of my mentors, Jesus Trevino, who in turn suggested the title of Encounters. I loved it and it stuck. What we are most proud of is dealing with social issues like alcoholism, child abuse, homosexuality, and suicide. We feel we are doing something positive for our community and the world.

“Intrigue, mystery, confrontations, revelation—these are the elements that make up the new Encounters webisodic series…. Encounters explores human stories of passion, anger and love. Topnotch performances and filmmaking by Latino talent, in front of and behind the camera, make for dramas that are provocative, arresting, and memorable.”
-- Jesus Trevino, Director and creator

Mauricio Mendoza
 How did your partnering with Mauricio Mendoza come about?

MT:  Mauricio and I both know that we need to create our own projects if Hollywood is going to listen and we both understand the importance of universal themes and the quality of our work.  We were talking one day about working together on a project, any project. We threw ideas at each other but nothing felt right. I told him about my jog through Boyle Heights and about having one last opportunity to meet with a loved one who’d passed away. He loved the concept and within days we started calling our friends from Armando Acevedo (DP), Lorena Alvarado (Associate Producer), Kenneth Castillo (Series Director), Enrique Castillo (Actor, Series Writer), Joe Camareno (Series Director), Ruth Livier (Actress, Episode Writer), Stephen Murray (Series Editor), Kico Velarde (Series Editor), Kevin Sifuentes (Series Director), Yeniffer Behrens (Actress, Writer, Producer), Ruben Padilla (Series Writer) and others asking if they wanted to be a part of it.  Once we shared the concept, without hesitation, they were on-board. Mauricio and I are the Co-Executive Producers of Encounters. It’s tough to produce but we are enjoying most of the process and the professionals that are working with us are amazing.  Encounters has talented individuals that I cannot thank enough and we are also providing them with a platform so that their craft as storytellers can be seen. This is a win-win for all of us because we believe and trust in our work as professionals.

What is your average budget per webisode?

MT:  The average budget per episode is between $650 and $800 and all of the funding has come out of our pockets and many individuals, including the cast, are providing their time in hopes that we do get funding. As of now, the funding is all hard costs.
Latinowood Note: Keep in mind that this low budget does not reflect extensive built-in equipment ownership advantages. Most independent producers do not possess the inventory and must rent out equipment and facilities.

“Encounters is an excellent and fresh premise for an Internet series that promises to be emotional and heartwarming.”
-- Randy Zisk, Executive Producer/Creator, Monk

Are you & Mauricio seeking out funding/sponsor sources?

MT:  We would both love to have sponsors, a grant, or someone to give us funding for our web series but I know it’s difficult. I work freelance as a camera operator and editor for both and CNN Español, allowing me to put funding into the web series for the past two years. Sometimes you have to believe in yourself and in your projects and if it means funding it yourself, then do it.

When marketing Encounters, is your primary demographic target Latinos? If yes, how do you intend to cross-promote to mainstream?

MT:  The Encounters concept is a mainstream concept. We wanted to share the “encounters” stories of the various cultures in the world. We originally wanted to tell a Caucasian, a Black, a Latino, an Asian, an Indian, and a middle-eastern story, however, due to our resources, we went entirely Latino. But, here lies the key to the series and especially our culture: Yes we have a Caucasian in our series but they’re Argentinean. Yes we have a black in the series, but he’s Cuban. What our Latino culture offers us is a beautiful rainbow of colors. We have talent from the lightest skin to the darkest of skin. Is this a Latino project, by no means was that our intention but we called our friends and our friends come in various colors. Our creative team and the people behind the series are all Latino and we are great storytellers.

“Mi Media Naranja is a moving and wonderful webisode of Encounters. If they’re all this good, I’m not going to miss a one. Carlos and Mauricio take you on an emotional journey about how two brothers can look identical but still be so different. A real winner!”
-- Ed Begley, Jr.
Will there be a new season of Encounters?

MT:  We have completed 11 episodes and we’re launching the first 7 episodes of the first season. We are planning on taping three more episodes in the coming months to complete season 2. The scripts are ready for production. Hopefully we can obtain the funding to keep telling individual stories and produce many more seasons to come.

Has the importance of getting an Imagen Award nomination sunken in yet?

MT:  I was definitely nervous the day before the announcement of the 26th Annual Imagen Awards.  I watched them via live-stream on the site and, when the announcement was made, I was thrilled for the entire cast and crew.  I was thrilled that a prestigious organization like the Imagen Foundation recognized the hard work we’ve put into the series for the past 2 years. The nomination sank in immediately because it validated the series, the cast, and the crew.

Who does your casting because you have brought together some fantastic talent?

MT:  For budgetary reasons, Mauricio was in charge of the casting… meaning he called his friends!

Don’t miss any of Miguel Torres’ and Mauricio Mendoza’s Encounters:
Mauricio Mendoza and Miguel Torres
Executive-Co-Producers, Encounters

Encounters Latinowood © July 2011
Edited by: Casandra Moreno Lombera

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