DANIEL HOYOS is a champion for student filmmakers – his past work at NFFTY, The Children’s Film Festival and STIFF, as well as on his own, has been dedicated to working with and being a role model for bright young talent. During our conversation over coffee at Costa’s in Seattle’s University District, I was struck again and again by how genuine he is in his desire to help others, and how excited he is as a filmmaker, to push himself and create more and more quality work. Plus, he loves Spike Lee.
Eric Stone: How long have you been involved in student filmmaking and promotion?
Daniel Hoyos: When I was at the UW, where I got a degree in Communications with a focus on film and video, I got really interested in film festivals. I got an internship at The National Film Festival for Talent Youth (NFFTY), based in Seattle here, in 2009. I learned a lot about film festivals. I worked there for six months, then I started working for the Children’s Film Festival, working with outreach – contacting schools, individual filmmakers. I started making connections with filmmakers all over the world. I get a lot out of helping people produce, especially young people. What student filmmakers really need is a mentor on set and that’s what I provide. Sometimes they don’t know what to do here, what to do there. I help. It’s something I really want to be doing full time.
ES: You connect projects, you help people get funding, you act as a producer.
DH: When they get a project going I tell people about it, I help them work on it and compliment them when they’re doing good work. And they are doing good work. The quality of work is amazing. I believe in the next generation of filmmakers. A lot of them are really good friends of mine now. I get a kick out of their energy, their creativity and their sense of imagination.
ES: What’s Play For Me?
DH: It’s a short film about a composer and his granddaughter. She teaches him to play the piano. It’s a really heartwarming story. We got funding through IndieGo. It’s like Kickstarter, a good way to raise funds. Play For Me premiered at the Sierra Canyon Film Festival in Hollywood last March, where it won an award for Best Cinematography. It’s been in five other festivals, all over the country.
ES: What are some common student film mistakes?
DH: One is organization. Students sometimes don’t know how to keep the deadlines, they procrastinate at times. That’s when I come in and I tell them, “Look: If you want to get this done by such and such a date and time, you have to do this now rather than later,” things like that. Always with support and an emphasis on being focused. They may not know how to deal with people as well as adults. For instance if someone emails you, you have to respond to them right away. They’re creative but not necessarily organized. That’s normal, simple stuff. That’s what I’m there for.
ES: I was really impressed by the STIFF (Seattle’s Truly Independent Film Festival) student films this year. Really a lot of talent going on there. Good Taste, Impetuous, A Strange Day In July, Mother. Some of those films made my jaw drop.
DH: Oh yeah, just a great collection of films. We had 100 submissions and we had to narrow it down to 16. It was hard to choose which ones to put in the festival. Having student films at STIFF is a new thing. When I got to STIFF, Tim Vernor had just become the festival director. I told him I thought it’d be great if STIFF had a youth program. The festival was entering it’s 7th year and they’d never had a youth program, it never really fit into the culture of STIFF before, which is generally more of an adult crowd. But he liked the idea and we made it work.
ES: Tell me about your current project, No One Knows.
DH: I’ll be working with director Bunee Tomlinson, who was D.P. on Play For Me. He’s a wonderful guy from Oklahoma. The writer of the film is Jamie Livingston- Dierks. She’s a mutual friend of mine – I read the script and contacted her about it and she said ‘let’s do it.’ It’s about a 12 year old girl named Hannah, who is suffering at home; it’s about child abuse. It’s a powerful script.
ES: It sounds like a really difficult film to make.
DH: Yes, it’s a very challenging subject to address. It’s going to be tough to make. When I asked Bunee if he wanted to do it, I had to make sure he was really committed because it’s a subject that can really upset people. I relate to the story because the character of Hannah is a really shy kid, and growing up I was very shy. I wouldn’t talk to people. So I can relate to that feeling of being withdrawn. When you relate to the story or a character, it’s a way into the piece emotionally.
ES: When do you start shooting?
DH: We’re shooting the second week of August in Oklahoma City. We’ll have a crew around 10-15, maybe more. We’re shooting at a restaurant, a house, a church, a car scene. There are several important locations. One of the things that Bunee and I talked about when we decided to do this script was trying to up our game. This will be an 8-10 minute film with a little more budget and ambition and roles that are tougher to play.
ES: Do you have aspirations to produce films that are directed by adults as well?
DH: Oh yes, I have aspirations. I’ve helped out on the web series Look Up In the Sky, which local filmmaker Ashley Cozine is working on. That’s cool. I like to make films that are serious in tone and that are inspirational. I don’t dislike comedy, but I want to make people cry more than laugh. Drama is sort of where it is for me personally. We want to get No One Knows into some good film festivals. Some day I’d even like to start my own film festival.
ES: Are you a film buff?
DH: I’m a film buff, but I also like fun movies, like Back to the Future and Indiana Jones. I love those. When I got older I became interested in more serious films. One director who really inspires me is Spike Lee.
ES: Do the Right Thing is one of the greatest movies ever made.
DH: Oh absolutely. Another one of my favorites is Get on the Bus. That’s one where he really got out of his comfort zone in a way, his style changed somewhat. The film is about a group of black men that go to the Million Man March. It’s an important film. I love Spike Lee. I love his craft, his editing, his storytelling, the fact that he knows which actors to cast and he keeps working with them over and over again. John Turturro, Giancarlo Esposito, Denzel Washington. His sister Jodi Lee is great. His films are universal. Everyone can relate to them on some level. They’re groundbreaking.
ES: Try NOT talking about one of his movies after you’ve seen it. It’s impossible. You have to discuss them.
DH: He puts everything on the table, controversial issues. He really pushes buttons. Jungle Fever is a great film too. Films are all about pushing buttons, and Spike Lee does that.
Daniel is currently looking into opening up the STIFF Student Film Block to filmmakers younger than sixteen (the last two years students had to be between 16-22 to qualify) and is gearing up to start fund raising for No One Knows this month, with a release date set for October 2012.