El Empantanado Filmmakers on the Miami Film Industry, Not Having Killed and/or Slept With Each Other
"It was an exciting place shoot," Drayton says. "We shot for almost 30 straight through and we all became a real team. Because we weren't in New York or LA, people aren't jaded here in the industry. They want to work on good projects. If you want to shoot at a place in LA, they just tell you the rates. Here, they want to know the story and they want to be involved."
Drayton and Echavarria also credit the University of Miami for connecting them to the filmmaking community in South Florida, where they were able to source their crew. And at the Miami Film and Media Market, they met their eventual executive producer, Petroglyph and CineVideoTech, who invested in the film by providing equipment. "They gave us what we needed to shoot a film that is competitive with big budget films being shot around the country," Drayton says.
Most of the film was shot on Broad Key and at the Gilbert Resort in Key Largo, both of which doubled for several other locations in the film. In exchange for Drayton and Echavarria shooting a PSA for them, the Shake A Leg marina in Coconut Grove gave the film boat support throughout the film. "They helped us with marina space, transport, with boat captains. They were our saviors," Echavarria says. "Grove Scuba gave us all our SCUBA support for the film and John Ellis, a boat captain from St. Augustine was a huge trooper in making himself and his vessel available for shoots amidst all our schedule changes from the hurricane and otherwise."
About that hurricane. As hospitable as South Florida was, Hurricane Irene forced the production to abandon its set on Broad Key. But for every setback like that, South Florida provided opportunities that the production couldn't have found anywhere else.
Drayton agrees. "Not just to develop an identity for South Florida but to preserve the content coming out of South Florida. We wanted to be an art film not just for us as artists but for our area."
But the IFP film labs are in New York City, from which Drayton and Echavarria just returned from the first of many trips they'll be taking there this year. And the pair freely acknowledges that it can be far easier to make and finance a film in Los Angeles than Miami, even with the tax credits they qualified for and all of the partners they acquired.
"I think that South Florida has been really nice to us and we want to keep working here," Echavarria says. "We are willing to put a lot out from ourselves to make it happen but we also need to have the industry to work with us. If I finish my next script and no one here is willing to do it but someone else is saying, 'Come here,' I can't be naive and say, 'No, I'm only doing it in Miami for the Miami film industry.'"
In the meantime, as Drayton and Echavarria take the lessons learned from the first IFP lab into their last period of shooting, they're doing a lot of taking stock.
"We're a really small gang," Drayton says. "We want to be but we also have a really limited budget. We engage friends but if I'm not paying the rent, it becomes hard and they can only give you so much time. We're afraid of maxing out all of our friends. They've given so much to the project."
"It can be overwhelming," Echavarria admits. "But with the IFP, they do this all the time and they're saying that we have a chance. It's a sign that we're on the right path."
For more information, visit elempantanado.com. As the film isn't yet complete, Maggie and Felipe are still looking for people to help them with the project. They can be contacted through their website.
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