@305Magazine – Miami, FL


March 24, 2012

Interview: Magic City Memoirs – One of Many Miami Stories


-| Director: Aaron J. Saigado | Producer: J.D. Freixas | Editor: Jorge ‘Jokes’ Yanes | Film score: Infamous |-

Magic City Memoirs quickly became one of the most anticipated independent films from Miami. Directed by Aaron J. Saigado and produced by J.D. Freixas this isn’t the first time the duo worked on a project together, in 2006 they released ‘Jamaica Motel’. In 2011 they released ‘Magic City Memoirs’ which revolves around the lives of Angel (Michael Cardelle), Stock (Andres Dominguez), Mikey (J.R. Villarreal) and the last three months of their senior year in high school.  The films debut was sold out within four days of releasing the trailer, 1500 seats. I took an opportunity to sit with the Director of ‘Magic City Memoirs’ Aaron J. Santiago and talk about the film and the experience of making it.

What inspired the story for Magic City Memoirs?

It’s based on our adolescence, on true experiences that J.D. and I have had during high school. We went to different schools but were always in the same circles. It’s a true-life Miami story and it’s dedicated to 11 of our friends that we’ve lost in high school or fresh out of high school. That fast paced life style that you’re used to in Miami. Born and raised here you know temptations are always there, easy access. At that point you’re so immature that you take advantage of that without knowing what the consequences are. That’s what the films about.

Being that the characters are based on people you knew, which of the characters in the film is closest to you?

I’d say that the closest to me would be the Stock character. He easily represents many friends in my circle. They were all different elements of different friends lives to compose these three characters. Stock was not the lead role, that’s the Mikey character, but I knew the Stock character had to be extremely potent for the movie to work. Everyone’s performance in the film was amazing though.

You wore many hats for this film. Wrote, directed, edited, and produced that sounds like it’s a lot on your plate…

You know [laughing] I’ll take that I directed the film, wrote the screenplay, J.D. Freixas and I came up with the story and did wear a lot of hats. I edited the first cut then Jorge ‘Jokes’ Yanes came in and polished it up. Jokes is the Editor of the film. He did a great job by taking it to the next level. I did the co-editing and first few cuts. When you have a low budget you have to do everything yourself and that’s something that we knew we would have to do.

Do you think that a “Big budget” movie company would make a movie like this?

Magic City Memoirs wouldn’t have been made if it weren’t an independent film. I don’t think that a studio would go out and make a film like Magic City Memoirs. It’s something that we, the home grown artists from Miami, need to do. Go out there and put everything on the line. Start making art that represents our city for the whole world to see.

Knowing how difficult it can be to shoot/film at certain places. Did you come across any hurdles while filming at any of the locations? 

We got shut down a few times. We were doing shit guerilla though. We set out to make a movie and if we needed to jump out of a pick up truck and shoot what we needed to we did. That’s our mentality. We wanted to make this movie and nothing was going to stop us. Cops pulled up a few times telling us we had to get out of a few places. That’s something as an independent filmmaker you need to do, revise your script in order to compensate for something you don’t have when you go into production. Your scene can become much more potent because of it.

I notice the Marina Stadium in the trailer…

When we wrote the script I always envisioned a scene-taking place in the Marina Stadium.  I don’t want to give away the movie but the Marina Stadium was always a very strong location for us. We thought it was going to be difficult to shoot there but the City of Miami backed us up and helped us shoot there. I know a lot of people haven’t been able to shoot there in the past… but we shot there and it’s an amazing scene.

What’s the most difficult part of putting this movie together?

The most difficult part of making any movie is funding. Raising enough money to make a good movie. You can have a great script but unless you have the money to go make it. You’re not going to be able to execute what your vision is. The hardest part is funding but lucky for us we got it to the right hands. Our executive producer, Juan Villareal, he loved the script. He came through and helped execute our vision.

How is it that you and J.D got together to make a film like Jamaica Motel?

[Laughs] It was inspired after I stayed there one day. I thought it would be a great place to shoot at and then it all came together. It was actually J.D’s project at University of Miami. J.D. and I base ourselves on making real Miami movies. We want to be the Miami filmmakers that come out here and tell real true to life stories. A lot of Hollywood movies have been coming out really exploiting our city. I like them, they entertain me but they are not real Miami stories. They’re very cliché and we strive off that to tell a real story. It’s what ‘Jamaica Motel’ was and that’s what ‘Magic City Memoirs’ is. A true Miami story told by a local artists and it being something that’s true to life.

What’s next on your to do list, your next project?

I have a lot of friends from all over the city so know a lot of stories. I feel like its up to me to tell them. We have a lot of scripts and ideas to go over…

Keep an eye out for these guys  www.enlightenfilms.blogspot.com

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