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Writer, actor, and filmmaker Jesus Sifuentes in his small studio space. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Aspiring filmmaker with a script is looking for dough

Local filmmaker and actor Jesus Sifuentes needs a brujo.

A sorcerer with magical powers could help Sifuentes, whose latest screenplay, The Myth of Brown, was completed in September 2003. He is ready to begin filming - except for one major plot point: money.

Sifuentes was inspired to write Myth of Brown after reading the works of author Carlos Castaneda, whose 1968 psychogenic, peyote-laden book, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, in which a brujo guided Castaneda through the desert, is still required reading for budding philosophers and seekers. "I became really enthralled with his writing," Sifuentes, 29, says. "When I found out he had died `in 1998`, it was like this part of my life I'm never going to be able to complete. I was so connected to his writing."

Myth of Brown is the story of a young man, Javier, who finds a book written by an anonymous author. He becomes obsessed with the book and spends most of his time trying to find the writer, who also serves as Javier's spiritual leader.

"The characters of any book are a part of the psyche of the writer," Sifuentes explains. "This story has bits and pieces of myself. I've never been able to find a spiritual adviser or leader. In that sense, you create your own myth. That's how I came up with the title."

Sifuentes' personal myth began at South San High School, where he enrolled in a theater class to fill an elective, but instead learned to appreciate the craft of acting. During that time, local actor Jesse Borrego, who starred in the Fame! TV series and such films as Mi Vida Loca and Bound By Honor, visited Sifuentes' acting class and told him about Grupo Animo.

The resident teen theater group at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Grupo Animo focuses on writing and performing stories that speak directly to problems facing today's Chicano youth. Grupo Animo launched Sifuentes' involvement in the San Antonio acting circuit: from the University of the Incarnate Word where Sifuentes did technical work for several campus productions, to performing with other companies such as the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, and Jump-Start Performance Co., where in 2002 he played in Jotos Del Barrio, written by Jesus Alonzo and directed by Maria Ibarra.

For the past two years, most of Sifuentes' roles have been offstage doing technical work in commercials and videos. He helped produce last year's promotional trailer for CineFestival, the nation's oldest-running Latino film festival, as well as a commercial for Water 2 Wine, a local winemaking store. Most recently, he worked as a grip for the television docu-drama, Oil Storm, which will air on the FX channel in June.

But his heart still is set on Myth of Brown.

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Jesus Sifuentes holds a copy of his new screenplay The Myth of Brown.

Organizations seeking city funding must have a fiscal sponsor. In 2002, Sifuentes met George Cisneros, a co-chairman of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, during a conference in San Antonio. Sifuentes introduced himself during a screenwriter's workshop and showed Cisneros a screenplay and his resume. Fortuitously, Cisneros is married to Catherine Cisneros, artistic director of the Urban-15 Group, which became the sponsor for Sifuente's project.

Although some of the funding for the $5,000 project will come from a City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs grant, Sifuentes must first raise $2,000, which the City will match.

"It's been extremely difficult," Sifuentes acknowledges. "I started this project when I first finished writing it, then I approached the Office of Cultural Affairs. It's been about nine or 10 months already."

Sifuentes says he hopes to have the money to complete his project within the next six months, but he seems accustomed to the idea that films aren't made overnight.

"It's the standard for any film," he said. "I mean, the idea comes in, then it doesn't get shot for probably a year after it's written, and then before it's even aired, it's been out for almost two years.

"That's one thing I definitely learned is to keep your mouth shut until you actually have the money," Sifuentes adds. "I'm so used to being in theater where we didn't have a budget, so we just did it anyway. Film is a different medium. It's probably the most expensive art form."

By Chris Perez



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