A young boy tries to escape his past by isolating himself in the woods where he soon discovers the true meaning of life and his identity. In 2018, Braza produced, wrote and directed his first horror film “Wayward Nature”.
The Geminate is directed by Raymond Gerard Braza and the film went on to win the category of "Best Horror Film" in Creeper Festival, Austin Texas and an international win for that same category at S.F.A.A.F. Festival in Chile. The film was also screened at various domestic and international film festivals. A year later, his horror short, "Pigmenta", won "Best Horror Short" again at the SFAAF Festival and was able to travel around the world and meet other young and ambitious filmmakers just like him. Having received such honors, Braza knew what he was meant to do - pursue his dreams of producing, writing, and directing more films and prove to his family that there are other people doing the same thing like him around the world. He isn't alone.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
I started making films after college, and that was during the time I worked with a skateboard YouTube company called NKA Vids. During this time, Nigel K Alexander introduced me to all sorts of cameras, liked the Sony A7sii, and he was telling me how good of a camera it was and that you can make incredible films with it with an affordable price. With my love for filmmaking, I was really new into actual narrative storytelling and all that, so before I decided to make my first film, I did my research, especially with films filmed specifically with the Sony A7sii. The first film I watched that was filmed with a Sony A7sii was called PRND, a film by Joss Refauvelet, of which my friend Javi was in, and that’s how I heard about it. It was an indie horror film, and after seeing that, I knew I wanted to make something like that especially with a good affordable camera; however, I knew having a good camera wasn’t the only way to make a film. At first, I wanted to make a horror feature because of how inspired I was with Joss’ film; however, it was incredibly impossible to condone. Having an affordable camera with great settings isn’t going to make the film. What you put into a film and omit is everything. At this point, I wrote a short film called Wayward Nature, and it was going to be my first project; however, I wanted to do it right. So, I went back to someone who helped me change my career path for the better a few years back.
There’s always that one person you looked up to when starting a career, especially in the entertainment industry. There’s always that one person who helped you get started and still helps you to this day. There’s always that one person who changed your life for the better for the better, no matter how small or big the change was. This person impacted my career and my life as a whole. This person is a big brother to me, who’s seen me fall and get back up and who’s put me in situations that he knows I can endure all by myself. This person is Andres Flores, who helped me begin making films.
I met Andres through his sister back in 2012, and to say the least, I connected with him right away. Both being from different ethnicities, I found it amazing how both of us stand out from “other people” in the film industry, and that is something I resonate a lot with. My parents would always tell me I stand out in the film industry because I don’t have a certain look or feature about me and that it was going to be harder to make it. Well, meeting Andres really sky rotted my career from there because he advised me to do what I want which was pursue film in college and that is something I’ll never regret doing. My parents have always wanted me to pursue engineering because I was born in an Asian household where engineering and nursing was strongly advised. Because of him, I am happy with where I ended up. A few years after graduating college, I decided to make my first narrative films and of course asked Andres to help me with them. With his proper advice and supportive demeanor, we were able to win a few festivals for our first short horror film together, of which was my first project, called Wayward Nature. A year after that we ended up making another horror film together, called Pigmenta, which also received some accolades. To this day, we’ve made a few other narrative shorts and will continue to make more for a long time! Having someone I considered a big brother since I was in my late teens really helped me with where I am at today. He’s helped me on how to operate the camera, how to view specific scenes in a movie differently form a normal audience perspective, how to edit J and L cuts, and a lot more that I will cherish for a long time. Andres is also really great at music videos of which I believe he’s the best one at them from our hometown, Oxnard, CA. One of my favorites from him would have to be one from LatinBeastTV because of the way he produced and directed it. There’s just always something I learn from him every time. I am forever grateful for having someone like Andres in my life that I plan to work with for a long time. Stay tuned for our future works together and stay tuned for his upcoming projects as well! You can check out his work on his Instagram @andresflores805.
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?
I am very open to any genre in regards to filmmaking. It solely depends on the opportunities that come forth my way; however, if I had to choose, it would be horror of course. Horror has always been one of my guilty pleasures, but purely for entertainment. I love the feeling of being scared in a movie theater during an intense scene. I love watching people react to jump scares and even comedic relief. Horror just works with sub-genres that I believe certain genres cannot pull off, with no disrespect of course.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker
The most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker stems from mentally doubting yourself all the time and overall patience. How you react to certain situations and how you think is everything. For me, because of how narcissistic and competitive the film industry is, I’ve always told myself that I wanted to be “Hollywood” or like everyone else in entertainment, but being the same isn’t going to make you stand out. I thought to myself before, that I feel because of this industry, it would be more difficult for myself to truly “make it” because of my race, but after speaking to creatives like Andres Flores, I was able to take that mentality out and just put in the work. Even if I was a white filmmaker, doesn’t mean it’s go-to in the industry. It’s just all conception and how you perceive things. Nothing was and never will be handed to me, especially in this industry. You have to put in the work and ask yourself if you’re willing to be patient and give it your all to truly make your dreams come true. In all of this, the most challenging aspect is asking yourself if you really want it and willing to put in the work. It will never be easy, but it will be worth the wait as long as you try.
How challenging is it to fund indie films?
I am going to keep this short because it’s a topic I personally dislike but everyone does as well, but funding indie films, especially your own indie films, is always the hardest part. No matter how small or big the budget is, no matter how big or small the film duration is, no one likes asking people for money yet alone no one likes putting their own money into it. So far, most of my short films, I mostly personally funded myself because it’s a good investment for my own projects of self fulfillment; however, that can change anytime soon.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
My top three favorite directors change every year because of new discoveries. Now, they would have to be Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, and Christopher Nolan. All three directors influenced my work through patience. Each one of these directors have made films that made me have to rewatch them solely for the trying to fully understand what they are trying to portray because of how things are perceived differently. Sure, I may understand them the first watch, but watching their films a second time or even up to four times is a good feeling because of how detailed they are. They have so much detail in their films that I sometimes can’t catch the first time, and these details always end up being meaningful. Of course, even like myself, I love watching films for entertainment, but the main reason I love watching films in general is because everything is a math problem. In order to get the equation right, you have to fully understand what you’re trying to find, and that’s something I admire in the films these directors made. This has influenced me to be patient in my films. I love having fast exciting moments but also slow paced moments where it gives audiences time to think and answer. I want people to have to come back a second time to fully understand my messages the right and patient way and not the fast way.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
I am currently working on several short films that I finished writing and will film them when the time is right; however, I am working on my first feature called Enshrinement and getting a few drafts of the script done before I begin producing it, of which I cannot give full detail just yet. What I can say is that all my films will portray topics of mental health, all of which I hope at least one person can resonate with.
What inspired you to work on The Geminate?
What inspired me the most to make The Geminate was that I was ready to show the world what I have been struggling with in my head and that was identity. Mental health is important to me, so I wanted to make something personal about comparing oneself to others and how negative it can be in your mental health. What I love about making personal films is that I can finally show people what’s going on in my head through the big screen, and that feeling is so rewarding.
How did you finalize the cast and the crew of the film and what is it like to act and direct the film at the same time?
Cast and crew come from my friends and family. I currently do these passion projects with my best friends and family that have helped me be the person I am today. Like I’ve mentioned before, I worked with Andres with almost all my films as a producer and cinematographer, along with my other best friends Selina Gallegos as a costume and production designer, Michael Bernhard as the main lead and producer, Jordan Schulz who does amazing on coloring the films, and John Dannenbaum, the film’s composer who of which does amazing on and has received Best Original Score for Pigmenta and The Geminate. I didn’t act in the film, but I my lead actor and good friend, Michael Bernhard, for The Geminate, was able to act in a way I would react in the predicaments because the film solely about myself. I can say he did an amazing job acting as me which helped me direct this film even more. I made this film in the summer of 2020, during the pandemic, with Andres and the DP, Michael acting, and myself as the director. I am a strong advocate in receiving constructed criticism and collaborating, so it was great to collaborate with Andres and Michael to really make my personal story come to fruition.
What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?
For The Geminate, I have plans to release the film publicly on Vimeo or YouTube or even Amazon Prime Video, but right now it is still going through its virtual festival run through. So far, it has gotten into four film festivals, and one of them is called South Film and Arts Academy Film Festival that is located in Chile. For South Film and Arts Academy Film Festival, The Geminate received “Best Experimental Short Film” and “Best Original Score.” We are still awaiting submission for a few more film festivals, but once festival season is over for us, we will make it public to everyone.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
There are so many reasons as to why I make films. Yes, I love and will forever love making films and films in general; however, to summon it up, I make films because I don’t want other people telling my story. Right now, I am taking the advantage to really make a personal story that I want to be told through my writing. I want people to really see who I really am and what I love to do and the messages I want people to take in with. Being from a family dynamic where film is very uncommon as a career, I want to break that template and show my Asian-Americans and people of color that we can make our artistry as our career. We can break stereotypes and really push diversity in the film industry. Coming from Oxnard, CA, I want to be the big fish in a small pond. I am not going to do it alone of course. I work with my hispanic big brother Andres Flores, also from Oxnard, who’s already worked with big names like Latin Beast TV, and I know he will make a name for not only himself, but for every Latino filmmaker out there trying to pursue film. I’ve also gotten support from someone who I’ve only known for a few months, but he’s already breaking the template as a Filipino-American artist like myself named Kris Mangaccat. What’s so inspiring from Kris is how much he’s able to make things happen no matter the circumstances. His credits include doing work for Google, Usher, Ella Mai, Mustard, Pink Sweat$, Normani, and Kirby. Like Andres, Kris has been not only a good friend but a great mentor and teacher, and that is something I want to accomplish through filmmaking. I want to be able to inspire and provide education on certain topics through my films. Both Andres and Kris have pushed and inspired me to keep going and keep creating. They’re one of the big reasons why I make films. I want not only my work, but my collective to have an enormous impact on the world. With the help of my hispanic, Filipino, and people of color filmmakers, I want our films to really push diversity, truth, and honesty to the world. I don’t want to keep seeing the same thing over and over and though it is okay, I want to break the barriers of Hollywood and tell personal stories I don’t want someone else telling. Right now is the time to get to work. You can check out my work on Instagram @g_rad92 and my website www.raymondgerardbraza.com.