Making scenes

Before Alonso Emiliano was able to finish his Kanye West impersonation at last Friday’s San Antonio Local Film Festival press conference, fellow filmmaker Dagoberto Patlan interrupted. Basically, he had heard enough.

Emiliano, whose short film “Delirum” was announced as one of the eight chosen to screen at this year’s SAL Film Festival on October 10 at the Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes, made his way to the front of the crowd to disagree with other local filmmakers who had come up earlier to praise the film community and thank the San Antonio Film Institute for creating a festival exclusive to Alamo City residents.

“I’m seeing every single one of you say that this is a community and that San Antonio has a lot of potential and yada yada yada,” Emiliano said. “But there is no community. There’s something that’s called a false prophet where everybody wants to make something better than it really is.”

One can only imagine what Emiliano would have said if his film hadn’t made the cut. All the awkward moment needed was the muted-trumpet “wah-wah” from SNL’s Debbie Downer skits.

Instead, Patlan, who is also a film-production teacher at the Harlandale Film School, stood up to defend his colleagues.

“To say there is no film community here — I’ve met `all these people` in the film community,” Patlan said pointing out local award-winning filmmakers in attendance, including A.J. Garces and Pablo Veliz. “You may be outside the circle and don’t know what the film community is!”

Despite the ill timing of his tantrum, self-proclaimed “bad boy” Emiliano raised a few provocative questions. Is San Antonio really ascending toward a film-industry peak or is the city stranded on an unbreaking plateau in Austin’s shadow? Is the circle Patlan mentioned accessible enough to newcomers, or is it “cliquier” than anyone wants to admit?

Garces, who picked up the SAL 2009 Grand Jury Prize for his short film “Death Rattle,” says it’s up to each person to determine his or her own future as a filmmaker in San Antonio. It all depends on talent and confidence.

“The opportunity is out there,” he said. “I’ve been to many groups, and there’s never been one time where any of them have shunned me away. If you want to make a movie, you can make a movie, but it has to be up to you to go out there and grasp it.”

While Garces agrees that at any given time there might be isolated pockets of filmmakers sprinkled across the city, it’s a goal of his and groups like SAFI and the San Antonio Film Commission to merge the talent into a more constructive and efficient whole.

“The cool thing is that eventually all these groups come together to form a bigger group,” Garces said. “That’s what we want. We want diversity. We want to be all-inclusive and give everybody a chance.”

Paving her own way in the local film scene is first-time filmmaker and KABB-TV reporter Sylvia Rincon, who won the SAL Jury Selection prize for her short “Shaken.” The 16-minute narrative chronicles her persoanl experiences living with a brother who suffers from epilepsy.

“Throughout my `news` career I have accumulated so many amazing stories but never get to elaborate on them,” Rincon said. “My stories run under two minutes, so I never get to sink my teeth in. In filmmaking, you can expand on your ideas and be more dramatic. Obviously, 16 minutes is like a lifetime for me.”

Finding success in San Antonio’s filmmaking community, and even finding the community itself, requires work, Rincon says, but the pursuit is rewarding.

“This was my first film so there was a lot of divine intervention, but I also did all my research and found out who all the players were and what I needed to do to make a film,” Rincon said. “It turned out to be a very small community, but one that ended up being incredibly embracing, loving, and generous.” •