Written By: Mut “in love with film” Asheru
BELLA, one of the best indie films I’ve had the pleasure of viewing this year came from the mind of Director / Screenwriter Alejandro Monteverde. Many times we hear from the independent artists that we cover that they pursue their craft for the love. But how many of them have slept on the mail room couch of their school and showered in the gym locker rooms in an effort to save money to finance their first short film?
This is what Monteverde had to do after convincing his professor at the University of Texas to let him direct his first student short film. His professor said okay but Alejandro would have to finance the entire venture from the rooter-to-the-tooter. He then sold his car and gave up his apartment to save money to purchase equipment and such.
He and his business partners’ goal is to create films that blast away the negative stereotypes of Latin peoples on film; a goal which he left Tampico, Mexico at the age of seventeen to pursue.
“I just love what I do and being a student that was the time to sacrifice,” he says. “School is one of the most important times because after your 4 or 5 years it could you put in a real strong position professionally. You must graduate with a really strong reel,” says Monteverde.
His sacrifice paid off. His student demo reel was impressive enough that Kodak and Panavision both awarded him with sponsorships to shoot his second short.
“Coming from Mexico, I realized early that you really must fight hard to make it someplace. When I arrived in school the game was on,” he says.
Fast forward to now. Alejandro Monteverde co-owns Metanoia Films, a film production company, with partners Sean Wolfington, Leo Severino, Eduardo Verastegui and J. Eustace Wolfington. His film ““Bella”” ended up finishing 2007 as one of the highest grossing true indies according to boxoffice.com.
He reconnected with childhood friend Eduardo Verastegui, of Chasing Papi fame, who had his own pivotal epiphany. On the precipice of international stardom, Verástegui had a crisis of conscience and realized that he could no longer take roles that contributed to negative stereotypes or objectified women.
“We call the production company Metanoia Films. Metanoia is a greek word that means “a light in the darkness”. We like the name because we looked around and saw a world that is getting darker and darker. So we figured instead of complaining why not light a candle. We opened this company, just me and him (Eduardo Verastegui) with and a cell phone and no money. I went from sleeping on the couch of the university to the couch in his apartment with that dream to try and make this film “Bella”.
“I was driving from Austin to Los Angeles to make another film, that’s how this story for “Bella” came to mind. Then we met our third business partner (Leo Severino ) who was a executive for Century Fox. Eduardo and I shared our dreams and ideas with him and he liked them a lot and said that he wanted to be part of this venture so he left Century Fox and joined us.
“Normally as a filmmaker your biggest enemy is yourself. You become a control freak. In “Bella” from the beginning I was letting it flow because at one point they were completely out of my control. Just because it was an independent film shot with little money in New York City. Everything that could go wrong did. So at one point I just decided to go with the flow. Then finally the investors that funded the film ended up buying 40 percent of our production company,” says Monteverde.
The end result of the partnerships is 75-100 million in funds to produce five films which Alejandro will be directing himself with “Bella” being the first.
“Films are like babies. You have to work with them until they are completely walking by themselves. So we made a commitment to “Bella” that we wouldn’t take any other projects until it’s walking by itself. We have a couple miles to go before we finish the race.”
Alejandro has some good advice about the company you keep. “People are like elevators,” he says. “You get in with them and they either take you up or they take you down.” Words that he and his partners have come to live and create by.