SxSW 2015 Interview: The team behind EL PORVENIR

By Jason Whyte
Posted 03/13/15 05:09:23

"EL PORVENIR is a short film about cockfighting in Mexico. It tells the story of Abelardo Olguin, a third-generation cockfighter struggling to pass on his family’s traditions and life's passion to his children in the face of efforts across the country to ban the sport. The film is a glimpse into this unique and controversial culture." Director Josh Chertoff on EL PORVENIR which screens in the Short Film showcase at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival. Josh is also joined by co-director/cinematographer Alfredo Alcantara and producer Ben Altarescu.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

Josh Chertoff: I had a film in last year's festival; it was called WAWD AHP and it won in the Midnight Short category. It's really exciting to be back; unfortunately, we can't stay this year for the entire festival, but we will be at the first two screenings of our film.

Ben Atharescu: I have been to SXSW twice in the past, as an attendee, but this is my first experience with a film in the festival, and I'm really psyched to be a part of it.

What do you love the most about showing movies in Austin and Austin in general?;

JC: SXSW makes really bold choices with their film selection, and I think that's partly because Austin is such a good venue for independent film. I have seen a lot really inspiring stuff here in the past so it's a very exciting festival to be a part of.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?

JC: I grew up in a really creative family, and I have been obsessed with watching and making movies since I was a little kid. Ben and I grew up around the corner from each other in upstate New York and began making films together at a young age. And the three of us; Ben, Alfie, and I, attended NYU film school together. Out of college, I worked for a few years as an assistant editor on feature films before I got my first real directing job on a documentary TV series produced by Doug Liman, whose films I had worked on. In recent years I have worked on TV, film, music videos, commercials...really all kinds of stuff. Most recently, Alfie and I co-directed a short documentary series for The History Channel that will be released in March, based on a short film we made together last year. Ben and I have a production company called Bows and Arrows that is based out of Brooklyn, where we live.

BA: I became really interested in filmmaking when I was about 13 years old. For college, I went to the film program at NYU, where I met Alfie, and most everyone else that I collaborate with today, and I really loved it. After graduating, I worked as a freelance editor and director and then in 2012 I started Bows & Arrows as an umbrella for projects that my friends and I were working on. Over the past few years, we've grown into a full service production company mainly focusing on doc-style content, but we've got our hands in everything from music videos to narrative shorts and feature films.

Alfredo Alcantara: I was raised in the film production environment in Mexico City and I always aspired to become a director of photography. I had the chance to apprentice with some really cool and creative cinematographers there. I started shooting when I went to NYU film school and shortly after got the opportunity shoot a feature documentary called AMERICAN PROMISE which won the special jury prize at Sundance in 2013. I got really into shooting doc after that and along with my friends and colleagues, Josh and Ben, have made some really fun and interesting projects.

How did your movie come together?

JC: Alfie knew Abelardo from back home in Mexico and the three of us had had this project in the back of our minds for some time. Even though Alfie knew Abelardo, cockfighting was a world that was foreign to all of us and having the opportunity to get thrown in the middle of it was an adventure we all wanted to go on. So we bought 3 plane tickets and went down there together and filmed for a couple of weeks.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?

AA: My favorite moment out of the entire production was when we shot the last scene during Abelardo's birthday bash. That was when we realized that no matter what the future holds in store for Abelardo, he's going to fight relentlessly to keep his traditions alive. At that moment, he really embodied the spirit of the cock...or rooster.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

AA: An all out breakfast salad. Hands down.

For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and all that fun tech wizardy!

We shot the film on Canon 5D and 7D cameras using all Canon L series lenses. At the time, they were the most accessible cameras for our budget. Their small size really helped us keep a low profile, especially when shooting at the cockfights. People would forget that we were actually filming, allowing us to capture some really candid scenes.

If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

BA: Growing up in Westchester, NY, the Jacob Burns Film Center was always where the best films played. As a kid who was interested in movies that weren't necessarily playing at the Multiplex, it was cool to have a place that you could rely on to see important films that were coming out. I'd love to have EL PORVENIR play there.

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 30+ filmmaker interview series for SxSW. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to follow us for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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