Arts - Local filmmakersTwo down, a dirty dozen to go

Local Roaring Bear Pictures is making noir and action films faster than you can say, 'Shoot'

They might not be as famous as the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix), Coen Brothers (Fargo), or Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary), but San Antonio's own Campos brothers are just as passionate about their work as anyone with a $60-million dollar budget at his or her fingertips.

Duane, 39, and John, 30, who started the independent film-production company Roaring Bear Pictures, are filmmakers who are not going to wait around for a handout.

Brothers John (left) and Duane Campos of Roaring Bear Picutres. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

"There are no opportunities in filmmaking," Duane told the Current from the home he shares with his brother in a quaint northwest San Antonio neighborhood. "There wasn't anyone who knocked at our door and said, 'Hey, you want to make a movie?' You have to dedicate yourself."

The Camposes, who moved to San Antonio from Arizona in 2000, started Roaring Bear for many reasons, but one of the most important, they said, was to prove to themselves that they could remedy many of the problem areas they see in films. From the screenplay to the director's intentions to the actors' motivation, the Camposes, like scientists, dissect each film to its basic elements, exposing the picture's weaknesses.

"We would always look at movies and go, What the heck? Where did that come from?" Duane said. "People started telling us, If you don't like it, why don't you make a movie? and then we started to think, Why don't we?"

The Campos brothers grew up in awe of the motion-picture industry. As children, they shared a love of cinema, whether it was watching a film on TV, going to the theater during the summer, or sneaking off to the drive-in as teenagers.

"Movies are the greatest thing we shared as kids," Duane said. "We could always hold long conversations on anything we saw. That `inspired` a lot of what we are doing today."

Today, the Campos brothers are publicizing their first two films for distribution to festivals across the country. The films, Fallen Saints and Fallen Saints Parte Dos, which were shot in San Antonio, Castle Hills, and Crystal City, are modern-day crime dramas and, according to the duo, "set in a sort of neo-noir style that takes aspects of the hard-edged crime and suspense from the '40s and transplants them to today's surroundings." Fallen Saints is making its way around the North-American film-festival circuit, with Parte Dos soon to follow.

"It's a story of redemption from oneself, one's peers, and one's society," Duane, who graduated from Phoenix College with a degree in communication arts, said. "But at its core, the film is a murder mystery."

The brothers also hope that their work will inspire other Hispanics with filmmaking dreams to take the same bold step they did. Their culture, Duane mentioned, was not well-represented during their youth.

"As Hispanics, there is a whole bunch of room out there that we haven't gotten into," Duane said. "We don't have to be Hispanics like Al Pacino's Tony Montana, or comedy sidekicks, or the token third character police investigator. We can be the role model."

The brothers are also models of collaboration and prolific output. In addition to their two finished products and another in pre-production (an action film whose working title is The Hit), John said their company owns more than 12 full-length screenplays which they have written and can choose from for their next film production.

"We collaborate equally on the screenplay and then challenge each other to go through it and find holes in the plot," John said of their intricate work on the scripts. "If neither of us can do that, then it's a greenlight on the script. And if we do find a hole, then we rewrite it so there isn't." The Camposes said that lack of preparation is one of the main problems with many films today. This leads to underwritten characters, plot holes, and script inconsistencies, they said.

"We pride ourselves as filmmakers on having that seamless storyline where ... the audience is not going to be questioning the storyline." If the audience is noticing problems with the tale, "we didn't do our job," Duane explained.

John added, "Unlike a traditional screenplay, we do not only write our screenplays from a writer's standpoint but from a filmmaker's standpoint. `The screenplay` is broken down shot by shot so we don't have to think about it on the set. We don't want to waste celluloid or time."

Time, the brothers agreed, is their most valuable commodity on the set, since they usually only film during weekends.

"The actors and everyone else have schedules and obligations during the week - their jobs, their family, and whatnot," said Duane, who moonlights as a machine operator when he's not behind or in front of a digital camera. "We have to know ahead of time where we are going to put the cameras, mics, and additional lights, where the power sources are, and how we are going to feed the crew. Plus, we have to coordinate with local officials to film this stuff."

Even then, whether it is unpredictable weather or a crew member running an hour late, there are always surprises when filming on location.

"Sometimes we have to alter `our plans` when we get there because something always pops up and throws a monkey wrench in our schedule," Duane said, "but we usually work things to our advantage instead of turning around and getting depressed about it."

However, the Camposes said, when the stars align, there is nothing in this world that is more exciting.

"Filmmaking, when you are doing it well and everything is coming out like clockwork, is like, well, I've never flown an airplane or sailed a big ship, but it would be like being in control of that much power," John said. "I get such an adrenaline rush."

By Kiko Martinez

A key grip

SA filmmakers are getting some backup from local organizations and a proposed studio

The words "San Antonio" and "film" haven't been synonymous since the 1920s, when no less than five major studios called the Alamo City home. Over time, many studios succumbed to the generous tax cuts and land grants California offered, leaving San Antonio and other cities fighting for scraps. Austin, with the support of '90s superstars Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater, has emerged as the modern Texas epicenter of cinema culture.

Despite the considerable competition to the north and west, a number of local initiatives are trying to reestablish San Antonio as a filmmaking hotbed.

On June 15, the Greater San Antonio Film Council, under the direction of former San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau Commissioner Al Frakes, announced its plans to establish a production studio. Frakes says that SA Film Studios, an anonymous group of elite industry players is interested in locating major shoots in the city. "San Antonio is so attractive because of the weather, location, and, most importantly, the friendliness of the people. That's why I'm here," says Frakes. "Austin productions generate an economic impact of $360 million annually; there is no reason that San Antonio should be missing out."

Mark Sullivan, who heads the San Antonio Film District, is less candid about his organization's plans, but he left the Current with the impression that the local film community can look forward to exciting news in the near future.

The City of San Antonio's Film Marketing Manager, Drew Mayer-Oakes, hopes for more community involvement. "There's the Short-Ends project, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, various film festivals ... the North East School of the Arts also turns out high quality productions; their students prove it by winning awards left and right. People don't realize this city has so much untapped potential."

— Mario Ochoa


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