Thursday, April 29, 2010

Premiering This Week: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland @ The Paper Wing Theater

Coming up this week is the Paper Wing Theater's production of James Michael Shoberg's “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.”
Stamped with “For Mature Audiences” warning, the play is an “urban” take on the classic Lewis Carroll tale. A full press release is available after the jump. I'll post a review next week.

The Paper Wing Theatre Company is Proud to Present:
by James Michael Shoberg.
Original, dark, urban adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic story
320 Hoffman Avenue @ Lighthouse, New Monterey
April 30 through May 29, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Tickets available online at or can be purchased at the door. $15.00 General Admission. Show and Ticket info: 831-905-5684
“Alice’s Adventures in ‘Wonderland’” is a fresh, modernized adaptation from Pittsburg’s most daring playwright. Originally presented with “Rage of the Stage Players”, this Alice is deviant, but doesn't deviate far from the original.
Alice encounters Lewis Carroll’s characters, each delightfully and darkly updated, as she wanders in “Wonderland”, a dingy, dangerous city. Clever and sexy, Paper Wing revels in once again pushing the envelope and presenting something new and different! Mature audiences suggested.
Of Interest:
This production features the talents of Shane Dallmann, who is the creature feature host “REMO D.” of the AMP television program “Manor of Mayhem”, which is in the top 3 favorites of AMP Programming!

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La Esquinita USA by Ruben Gonzalez, now playing at El Teatro Campesino

I didn't take notes during the performance, so this is not a review.
Instead, consider this an endorsement for “La Esquinita USA” written and performed by Ruben Gonzalez and now playing at El Teatro Campesino.
Gonzalez's piece is ambitious and complex in its narrative thread. He plays all 12 of the characters in the play, using spare props and costume changes to individualize each one.
There is a lot of insider-ism that can get lost in Gonzalez's rapid-fire delivery. This can be challenging to the audience, but in a good way.
What holds it all together is Gonzalez's investment in each character, carefully crafted with individual traits and characteristics that get you hooked.
“La Esquinita USA” is like a hellish version of the townspeople of Springfield from “The Simpsons.”
Gonzales's gift is his ability to orchestrate the town's characters in a seamless rhythm.
I recommend you go see the show.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

DJ Kazzeo's tribute to Guru of Gantstarr

DJ Kazzeo shares his thoughts on the death of Guru of Gangstarr:

"Throughout the history of Hip Hop, there have been thousands of duo's that came on the scene. Of those thousands, only a handful were able to rise above the rest and attain legendary status. Run DMC, EPMD, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and without a doubt, Gangstarr.
When I began my involvement in radio in 1991, Gangstarr was already well on the way to solidifying their legendary status.
While Premier seemed introverted at times, Guru was always accessible. Whether it was for interviews, pictures, autographs, or radio drops, Guru made the time.
I was fortunate enough to have interviewed him 3 or 4 times on my radio show, DJ a show for his Jazzmatazz tour when it came to the now defunct club Palookville in Santa Cruz, and hang out with him at events ranging from Santa Cruz to San Francisco to New York.
Quite simply, Guru was a good dude. No wait, not a good dude. He was a great dude! I have so many memories of the man that it would take far too much ink to recount them all.
One of my greatest radio memories thus far is when I first rocked "Mass Appeal". That song, to me, is Guru at his absolute best.
The last time I saw him in person was in NY at a showcase maybe 3 years ago and he was as healthy as could be. And in less time than it takes to go through high school, he's gone.
I'll always remember his personable & jovial attitude along with his immense talent & love for Hip Hop. Whether it be at a 15,000 seat arena or a 300 person capacity club, Guru loved representing Hip Hop. And he did so as well as, if not better than, anyone for the last 23 years.
My condolences go out to the friends & fans of Guru and to the entire Elam family.
Guru, R.I.P.".

DJ Kazzeo

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RIP Guru; DJ Kazzeo Tribute scheduled for Wednesday night.

He was one of the distinct and accomplished voices in hip-hop. GURU of Gang Starr was a hip-hop original and an American O.G. He died Monday after a year-long battle with cancer, according to several media sources. You can read the New York Daily News story here.
DJ Kazzeo of 90.9 FM KHDC will host a tribute show Wednesday, from 6-8 p.m. He will play music as well as the last interview GURU did on KHDC in July, 2008.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

“Lopez Tonight” bump should be for the better.

George Lopez has officially welcomed Conan O'Brien into the TBS late-night talk show fold with open arms.
Lopez made his opinion public on his show, “Lopez Tonight,” after it was announced Monday that O'Brien had signed a deal to launch a new late-night show on TBS sometime in the fall. O'Brien had previously hosted “The Tonight Show” on NBC before leaving amidst controversy in February.
Lopez, who owns a home in Pebble Beach, was vocal in his support of O'Brien's show coming to TBS. The move will place O'Brien's show at the 11 p.m. slot currently occupied by Lopez's show "Lopez Tonight.” Lopez's show will move to midnight.
According to the Los Angeles Times entertainment blog, Lopez announced Monday night on his show that he was “completely, 100% on board” for the move.
It's a great move for both parties. O'Brien will get a chance to indulge in the looser-boundaries of basic cable, where his talents won't be so boxed in as opposed to the stricter guidelines of network television.
Lopez could be the real winner. He gets a great lead-in from O'Brien that will only add to his already loyal following.
Although some Lopez fans will be irked by the change, the fact that Lopez has already proclaimed his approval of the move is a positive sign.
Now, I honestly can't wait to see if O'Brien and Lopez will team up for some promotional spots in the near future. To borrow from the TBS motto, that's funny.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Interview transcript: Thomas Steinbeck (Part 2)

Part two of my interview with Thomas Steinbeck:

How long have you been living in Santa Barbara?
Now, going on six years. I was living in Oxnard by the sea because I love to sail, they have two great harbors. But unfortunately, the agricultural chemicals did not agree with my system and I had to move. Because every time they plowed something in Oxnard, I got welts, so I had to leave.
But I love Santa Barbara. It's a very proactive town, unlike Monterey. Every thing's sort of a team effort here. I get that sensation sometimes. I don't know why.
I actually live in Montecito, which is a separate township just to the south edge of Santa Barbara. Actually, Oprah's my neighbor across the street. And the way this town is built, all the big estates are on one side of the street, where I live, and all of the homes of the servants are on the other side of the streets. I live in a homes where the servants live. I live in a house that was built in 1910, and all the chauffeurs, the maids, everyone lives on this side of the road. And all the Morton estates and the Spreckles estates and all of those are on the other side of the road. In this case, Oprah got the 40 acres and I got the mule.
I just find it amusing. Oprah's my neighbor and everyone assumes I live on an estate. I live in a worker's house. The woman who owned the house, I lease it from owners who have owned it for generations, the mother of the man who rebuilt and refurbished this house was the hairdresser for all the maids that worked at the estates across the road. and at the corner we have a garage that's been there since the turn of the century, because in the old days, chauffeurs had to be mechanics, and they had to go someplace to go work on the cars. So we have a little garage here. It's been there forever.
It's really quite quaint, despite the wealthy neighborhood. We're the quaint side. We're the colorful ones.

Are there any whispers of your father's influence or tone in this book?
Only in terms of cultural interest. He and I don't write the same. My father never used a five dollar word if a nickel one would do. I, on the other hand, feel I'm wide open to use a 12 dollar word if it pleases me, because I like words. I like to write. My father was writing a particular style. We don't even remotely write the same way, at all. And the things I focus on wouldn't necessarily be the things he would focus on. But he taught me to love the same things. I love the multiculturalism (of California). I love the area. I'm California born and bred. Good, bad or indifferent. The idea of living anyplace else is just impossible. And we've been evacuated twice because of fires form this house. So there's a penalty to be paid anywhere in California that you live.
My father's influence, is a matter of focal interest. Minorities, languages, diversity, history — very much history. My father was a big history buff. Which is why I wrote the book that's coming out, because it has as much to do with cultural history in California, but it's done in a very subtle way. I don't lecture people about things. I slip things into dialogue and text for my reader to think about, because you can't lecture people. It just puts you down. But if you voice an opinion (through) one of your characters, if one of your characters voices an opinion, to whatever degree that all writing is autobiographical, which it is, by the way. Even press corps is autobiographical, because it's filtered through you. All it's being filtered through me, so whatever I'm saying has to do with me. And If I'm positive about it, because I'm personally positive about it, but in this particular case, if I want to get a point across and still entertain my audience, I better make it part of my dialogue, so that the audience can decide whether they like that guy or not. Because somebody may read it and say “Oh, he's a real ass hole, but he fits into the plot.” You know what I mean? As long as they don't think it's me that's stupid, I'm fine with that (laughs).

Are you at liberty to speak about any of the legal haggling over your father's work?
Not really, because at this point, it's just getting so boring. It's just what a lot of people are facing. Corporate interests trying to take over private property. That's pretty much what it all comes down to. It's publishers trying to take control of property that rightfully and legally belongs to others, and control what they do with it. And in that particular sense, its' a lot bigger than what I'm doing.
A lot of people out there are in this particular position. Basically, they don't inherit houses, they don't inherit stock, they inherit copyright. And that copyright is protected, and only blood heirs can have copyright. And we've got publishers and agents who are acting as if they own the copyright. And they got away with it for a while and now they feel it's their right. That's what this is all about.
This goes back to the music industry, you know. In the old days, when basically, you wanted to make a record, the record producer owned the copyright, and for the length of the copyright. You basically sold out your song. This is what happened to Motown. All these people were all like “What happened to all of your money?” (and the artist said) “What money? He gave me $600 for the album, and he made 12 million.” And that kind of greed, that corporate greed, which is now institutionalized in this country, has jumped into the publishing business. It's like we want to own the cow and the milk.
And that' what we're fighting right now, is contracts and the idea that basically the law says that my father's granddaughter owns the copyright,and they're saying no she doesn't, and we're saying yes she does. She's a blood heir. It's still her copyright.
So that's all that i want to say about it, only in so far in that we just seem to be the tip of the iceberg, because we're constantly getting contacts — from the Hemingway family and from lots of people who have owned copyright from well known ancestors who basically are under the gun as well. We have a lot of support, and a lot of deals and unions as well have come on board.
We have problems with the courts in NYC because they didn't understand the law, literally. They eventually didn't understand copyright law. One of the things we're trying to fight for is that there is no universal copyright law in this country. Or is there a universal law when it comes to celebrity, and the way you can use celebrity? whether you can use my father's image? You can't, not without permission. You can use a cartoon of it if you want, but you can't use a published photo.
It's a matter of giving the power back to the people who have the most to lose. Ultimately, especially in the entertainment industry, all you really own is your reputation. Every movie you do is a work for hire, unless you produced it and you own it. So all you really have is your celebrity, your face, your likeness. That's all you have. That's what celebrity is. I try to stay away from it because mines' worthless, and I don't want the general public to know that.
That's what it's all about. It's really not personal. It's personal so much in that they owe me a great deal of money and the courts have got to determine what the national law is. We were going to go to the Supreme Court, and we may still go to the Supreme Court, but not because we're going to profit from it. Quite the opposite. I could have bought this house with the money I spent on lawyers. And I'm never going to see any of that back.
So the point is, my wife and I started to take a stance, not just for ourselves, but we saw a lot of other people in similar situations. And what we have to do is make precedent law. And we've been at it for seven years now. It's almost too late to quit. My god, you're up to your ass in shit, and it's not as if you can walk out and pretend as if you weren't. “Oh, I didn't mean that. Let's all forget about it.” I've got to write just to pay lawyers.
But everybody's got a drama. Mines not particularly anymore interesting than anyone else's.

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Interview transcript: Thomas Steinbeck (Part 1)

I answer the phone and a distinct, deep-bottomed voice booms on the line — “This is Mr. Steinbeck. I believe you wanted to speak with me.”
It's the voice of Thomas Steinbeck, although had I not known better, it could very well have been that of his father, legendary author John Steinbeck.
As it stands, Thomas Steinbeck cuts such a similar figure as his father it's staggering. The fact that Thomas Steinbeck took up writing for a living only adds to the mystique.
You talk to Thomas Steinbeck for 30 minutes about his book, but then you want to spend another hour with him picking his brain about writing and anything he might share from his own perspective or that endowed from his famous father.
At any rate, Thomas Steinbeck was a very generous interview subject, sharing memories and quotables from his father, while also going in depth into his own writing technique and details of his new novel “In the Shadow of the Cypress.” Below is an interview transcript (part one of two).

Is this your first novel?
Not really. I've written other novels, they just haven't come to print yet with other publishers I had some confrontations with. It's like, this is coming out first and yet, there are books already written that aren't coming out right away. I did a book of short stories some years ago and I generally, I don't usually write books, I write other things. But I've sort of gotten used to this, I suppose. It's what I do now. The commute's easy. That's what I like about it.
I'm writing another book (now). That's what I do. In our economy, I'm really lucky to have a job, let's put it that way. And I'm grateful,
The thing is, unless you're a Clive Cussler or something like that, for the kind of books I write, you just don't make millions of dollars, you know what I mean? I remember asking my father once how do you know if you're a successful writer. He said “If you can pay your bills, that's it, and that's where it ends. If you can feed yourself and you don't' owe the IRS a million dollars, you're a successful writer. Fame is fine, but it's a job like any other.”
My father (also) said writing a novel is just another form of the press corps, only we admit that it's fiction (laughs).

How often do you get up here to Salinas/Monterey?
I used to come up a lot , but very frankly, I just don't like driving that much anymore. And I tell you, if my car had a memory, I wouldn't have to touch the wheel between Santa Barbara and Monterey. I know that road like the back of my hand. Now that's boring.
And in the meantime, as I say, I'm under the gun to produce work so I can pay my bills. I'm working harder now than I did 30 years ago, for less money, just like everybody else. But I have to work because I've got to overlap books. I've got to have something ready to go for the next buying season. So even though this book is going out, I've started three novellas and a novel since this book has been processed. And I'm just finishing another novel. And you don't always sell all of them. Maybe the publisher likes one, doesn't like another. You just got to keep on slugging at it. It's like turning in stories to the paper. They spike some and others times, (they say) we want more on this.
You pretty much work one way or the other. You can come up with an idea. You can put together a book and everything else, but whether it's going to sell and how it's going to sell and how much money they're going to invest in that, really depends on the publisher.
For instance, I hated the cover of the book and I hated the title because I had a better cover and I had a better title. But my publishers decided they liked that title better and they liked that cover better and guess what, I wasn't about to argue with them because I had rent due (laughs). And that's the life of a successful writer, by the way, according to my father's parameters.

What was the original title?
“The Jade Seal,” because it's about The Jade Seal.
The book is a supposition and I use it to voice a number of arguments about racism and about multiculturalism. The instance of the story, which I totally believe, which people like Linda Bentz view as being totally improbable, but my father was convinced, and I became convinced, and since then there's been a great deal of written material on this, that the Chinese by virtue of the scale of the ships that they built had to have visited the west coast of the United States and Australia and all the islands in between. They were building these massive ships, they called them The Treasure Fleet. These ships were 480 feet long, they had 12 masts, they could carry up to 2000 people.
And the Chinese invented the compass, the stern rudder, the batten sail. They were sailing into the wind 1000 years before The Battle of Trafalgar. And they're building these incredible ships. They were so big that they even kept live wells down in the holes to keep fish alive. They kept chicken farms on board. Some ships just carried horses. And they went out to trade and they found out that everything they had was better than anything anybody else had, so they stopped.
Anyways, the premise of the story is, it's the turn of the century. Chinese labor in California is basically slave labor. Salaried, but slave labor. And it's got all kinds of structures, all kinds of subtleties. In the meantime, it's the era of Hearst, the yellow laws have been imposed. They're called the exclusionary laws. There's a lot of racism going on.
In the meantime, after a storm, a stone, a plaque and a seal are discovered by a professor at Hopkins Marine Observatory. But he can't really take advantage, although he is taken advantage of later. But what is discovered are the marker stone and imperial seal of admiral Zhou Man, who is part of the imperial fleet. He was one of the admirals. You can get all of this information from “1421: How the Chinese Discovered America.” It's a big thing.
I used very probable cause to create a little mystery. These stones are found and then they disappear. But it has more to do with how the Chinese are operating with the Chinese in California. There's a whole secret strata of tongs and allegiances and celestial corporations and things most white people know nothing about. But literally, since the beginning, the Chinese people have been running their own government in the U.S. They pay their own community pittances to their own tongs. They have their own police force. But it's all so subtle that white people who look down on the Chinese in America never see any of this.
And it's all true. What I try to do is buttress my novels with as much historical reality as possible, so everything fits into historical fact. They did burn down the village at Point Alones. All of these things happened, only I sneak in my own take on it.
I love writing about Monterey. That's my favorite place in the world, but I remember Old Monterey. Old Monterey was a lot more romantic, and I was a lot younger, ergo it was a lot more romantic. And there weren't too many people. And in those days, it was a lot poorer and people were a lot friendlier. People took care of each other. I remember hitching down to Big Sur and back. No one hitches anymore, you know. It was very laid back. And the '60s in Monterey was something all together. That was wild.
Anyway, the story deals with the discovery of these treasures that prove that the Chinese came to California before the Spanish. What kind of problems would this arouse? Basically, what if the Mexicans of California said wait a second, this was ours before this was yours, we want it back, because the treaty of Hidalgo was illegal. And it is. The Treaty of Hidalgo is completely illegal. It would never pass muster with today's history. But we want it back. Well you can imagine the infighting over that.
Well, the Chinese were well aware that if the white people found that the Chinese were there first, they would hate them more. So its the Chinese who are trying to hide this treasure. They don't want white people to find out about it because it will just give them another excuse to screw with them. The kind of elitism, “We were here first, maybe they want to take it back.” That's another reason to hate each other.
One of the things I try to deal with in my work — it fascinates me, but I don't go out to lecture anybody, I just slip it into the text here and there — is that one of the things I've always loved about California is its cultural and racial diversity. No one in other parts of the country gets as much treasure from the world as we have for the last 300 years. Chinese, Hispanic, you name it. Name a Pacific culture that we don't get something from? Food, culture, music, Mexico, we have everything. I've seen that as wealth and other people see that as regional discomfitures.
In Monterey, my best friends were Chinese kids, and talk about elitism, their parents hated me because I wasn't Chinese. Talk about reverse racism. The Chinese can be that way. They don't think that white people are particularity attractive, whereas they know they are (laughs).
At any rate, that's what the book is about. It's about the subtleties of racism in California. Its' about history. It's also about a great mystery. It's about something I believe happened.
This is just a what if story. And rather than making it a gigantic global thing, one of the things my father taught me to do was how to take a big concept and miniaturize it and put it in a small town. And my father did this a lot and you could always tell by his titles — I'm not as grandiose as he is. But, the point being, you take a very big concept, Agathe Christie was really famous for doing this and she says of Miss Marple's home town, this little tiny English town, that virtually all the vices and virtues that could be found anywhere in the world can be found in that little village.
So I just expanded on that concept and used Monterey as a model because of its gigantic cultural diversity over the years. I mean Portuguese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, abalone fisherman, Chinese, name it. It's so rich with writing possibilities. You'd have to be crazy not to pay attention to it. I mean look at the poets, the writers. Just look at the characters that they had. I mean, my father, they made a big deal out of him, but there were a lot of other people there that had major literary impact. I don't know why they glommed on my father. He didn't either. He thought that was really dumb. He thought that preserving Cannery Row because of a book was the stupidest thing he'd ever heard of. (He's say) “This is decent real estate. Put some homes on it. Canneries are ugly. They kill people. They smell bad and they kill people and they want to preserve them?” He couldn't understand it. He just thought that was just stupid.
But after a while, and this is really true, his works were no longer his property. They became the property of his readers and people who believed that nonsense, that there was something romantic about all of this. As my father always said, you could always tell old time cannery workers because they were missing fingers. That was a rough business. It was a rough way to live down there. And being poor, though it may seem charming in the pages of Steinbeck, isn't fun.
I love the history of the area. I've always loved California. I love history anyway and I love the history of the area. And I loved Big Sur. That's my spiritual home. That's where I'm going, up there tomorrow. I'm an old friend of the Post family. He just died. Old Bill Post just died and I loved him.
So I have a tendency to write about Monterey. It's fun. And since I don't live there, I don't feel threatened. I figure they can't drive me out of town like my father if I don't live there (laughs).

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Interview transcript: Peter Bratt (director of "La Mission")

Peter Bratt, director of “La Mission” starring his brother Benjamin Bratt, spoke with ‘The Beat’ about the movie and his partnership with his famous brother. Below is a transcript:

On the genesis of the project:
I would say that as a a writer, I start with a theme or an idea. I had a clear intention for what that theme was (in “La Mission”). I wanted to explore the presence of violence in the community, and how we kind of unconsciously accept all if its manifestations. And then prior to that, the ideas of masculinity and how we as males define power. So that was kind of the genesis.
It was always conceived as a coming of age story. At the center of the story is a father son relationship. But it's not necessarily the coming of age of a young man. It's the coming of age of a father who's at mid life. And it's really about moving beyond our accepted notions of what makes a man powerful and growing, coming of age so to speak, maturing emotionally and psychologically.
The catalyst to jump start the story was this old macho de la calle, who finds out that he has a gay son. And that kind of thwarts his identity of who he thinks he is, in the neighborhood, the street, and certainly the low rider community.
So that's the catalyst that sends the character on this introspective journey. That was the initial core theme that motivated me to want to write the story.
And the second motivating factor was, Benjamin and I have always dreamed of making a film in our home town, in The Mission District. So the perfect vehicle for us was to put in other people that we know (from the neighborhood). The template for Benjamin's character, Che, was a guy named Che. He was born and raised in the Mission District. He's a bus driver like the character in the film. He was a single father for a period of time, and was what they call in the street an O.G. low rider. So he was the template and we thought he was the perfect vehicle to take the audience into this unique world.

On presenting characterizations of real-life friends and associates in the movie:
I think there was a little apprehension in there. I wouldn't say that the characters are tied to specific individuals. Some of the characters, even Ruben's character, to a certain degree, he's inspired by one guy, but he's also a combination of many of th people in the neighborhood.
And I think any writer, any story teller, mirrors his or her life experiences and relationships that he or she has in their life. I think that all writers can borrow from the people that they know, the communities that they belong to. I don't think that's anything new. But I was a little apprehensive to see how the film would be received. Not apprehensive, but nervous, to see if it was going to ring true and have the authenticity that people, I think, were looking for. And surprisingly and happily, that was the case.
It's been praised by a lot of people in the Latino community. And the Latino community is very complex, like any community. There's the hardcore homies, the gay, straight (Latinos), hip-hop generation, old, young, first generation immigrants, second, third generation Latinos. Even with that big complexity, the film still seems to be embraced by the whole spectrum. We're very happy about that.

On the film's premier at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival:
The movie premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. I think the Sundance Film Festival is the premier U.. S. film festival. It's certainly that for independent films. But it is mostly attended by a mainstream audience, i.e. a white audience. So I think that any time you take material that doesn't speak to that mainstream experience and is peopled with brown faces, I think there's always a little bit of nervousness. Are they going to get it? Are they going to get the humor? Are they going to take the cultural cues that are imbued in the film?
I think that the father-son relationship is universal — everyone has a father. And everyone has experiences where they sometimes don't' live up to th e expectations of their parents, both mother and father. And the film is rife with that conflict. I think a lot of people got it on several different levels.
We had awesome experiences at Sundance. I think every screening we had was a standing ovation. And we were happy to see that the film was embraced not just by Latinos, but a whole array of audience members. That was pretty awesome.

On his hopes for wide release of the film:
It's an independent film, and the climate for independent films is not that great. A lot of the studios have closed their independent divisions. So there's not a lot of demand for independent content. The fact we have do have a distribution effort taking place is a miracle, let me put it that way.
But it is a small effort, so we are rolling out to I think about 25 to 30 cities. And depending on how we do the first week at the box office, that will determine how long the film sticks around or if it expands into more markets.
We're definitely using social networking to try and get out the word, because we don't have a big ad campaign. We're mainly reaching out to Latino community leaders, educators, and spreading out the word to not just support independent film, but an independent Latino film. If we want to see more content like this, we have to send a message to the powers that be that there is an audience for material like this. So the first week is critical.

On representing his hometown with the film:
I think that the Mission District is one of the most dynamic and unique neighborhoods in the country. There's so much going on culturally, artistically, politically. When I was a kid during the '60s and '70s, it was a focal point of so many grass roots, social workers (movements), the farm workers movement. The Native American struggle. Even the Black Panthers struggle, to a degree. So I think the neighborhood is imbued with this social-political consciousness that effects everyone living there, including the low riders. And there's a real strong Chicano pride, which can also be tied to the indigenous cultural root. You walk around the neighborhood and all of the murals detect indigenous resistance to colonization. And I think that spirit is still everywhere in the Mission District, in gentrification and all the other changes that have taken place the last few decades.
Certainly, when I was young and low riders were cruising through the Mission District, you saw that spirit and struggle depicted on a lot of murals that were painted on the cars. There's so much pride in the Mayan and Aztec culture and history. That's still very much intact. That's something that was incubated and nurtured in many ways, through the kind of Northern California, Bay Area, San Francisco, how ever you want to call it, culture. Every community has its own distinct quality. But I think what you find here, is that political consciousness and that sense of responsibility tied to social activism is really strong, even today, in the Mission District. It certainly influences both Benjamin and myself. I think that also comes through in the film.
At the same time, there are core cultural Latino signifiers in the film that I think speak to Latino communities everywhere. We played in San Antonio at Cinefestival, the oldest Latino film festival in the country, and people were saying “Wow, I thought I was in San Antonio watching this movie.” That' s also great, but I think what we hear from the hometown is“Wow, you guys got San Pancho, man. You guys nailed the 415.”,

On the experience of working with his brother:
We call each other best friends. This is our second film together, us as producers, and him in the role of actor, me in the role of director/writer. But like we tell people, this is not the first time we've worked together. We've been working together since we were kids, pulling weeds in people's yards , sheet rocking and painting houses. Me and Ben, we've always gotten jobs together. The fact of the matter is, I think we love to work. That's how we enjoy ourselves. And so, we do that together, and certainly, an independent film is probably the biggest job, the biggest endeavor we've ever taken on. And it's such an intense environment that it brings us even closer together. When you go through that with someone, it can't help but bond you. I guess it can make you or break you, but it's actually made us even closer.
As a director, this is only my second film. So in many ways, I still feel like this is film school.
And the great thing about working with Benjamin is, as an actor, he's been doing this for over 30 years. He's worked with some of the best directors and filmmakers out there. He's an incredible storyteller. He knows his craft forwards and backwards. He 's a great script consultant. He's great in the editing room. When I have questions or doubts about a certain aspect of the story, or on the set directing an actor, there's that trust I have with him as a brother. I can go to him and say “Bro, I'm not really sure what I should be doing her. Can you throw me a bone? Give me a tip?” And he'll pull me aside and just give it to me direct with no judgment or no negativity, just very supportive. I figure it's that brother component that allowed for that (type of support) in our creative collaboration.

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