Interview with Filmmaker/Animator Roger Edwards (LUCHA AND THE EKEKO)

LUCHA AND THE EKEKO was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the FEEDBACK Animation Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Because of my interests in Spanish language and Latino culture, music, etc., I’d wanted to write a Latino-themed story for a while. I’d been thinking about a broader dramatic work, partially set in Bolivia. Then 2018 happened. The Zero-Tolerance immigration crackdown. I watched—along with the rest of world—the disturbing images of children being separated from parents at the southern U.S. border. Deeply moving. This story is a personal reaction to that.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

In 2019, I got busy developing the story and writing the script. It took maybe 3 or 4 months to write and polish it. In 2020, I entered it into various screenwriting competitions to see how it would do. After winning a few contests and getting favorable feedback from judges, I decided it was time to make a film. Once I found the animation team and got them on board (February 2021), it took about 1 year to complete—due to the pandemic and their current slate of projects.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Finding family

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Apart from fundraising, the pandemic was the biggest obstacle. The initial plan for the film was live-action. But the pandemic shut that down in its tracks. While I was discouraged and sidetracked, a good friend suggested I try the animation route. He’d been binge-watching some very impactful StoryCorps animations. That started me on my path to animate, and here we are. The pandemic and animation choice also had the added benefit of saving on production costs as well.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was humbled. It was heartwarming and rewarding to hear how so many of the viewers were touched by the story and characters and really got what I was trying to accomplish. Had to fight back a couple tears.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Well, it wasn’t overnight. It happened in stages. First, in high school, around 1982, one of our class assignments was to watch the TV miniseries Marco Polo (with an all-star cast starring Ken Marshall, Denholm Elliott, Leonard Nimoy, Ann Bancroft). I watched and got drawn into the characters, their storylines, their dreams, etc. I found myself crying at the tender parts and even thinking about the characters long after the show was over. Being the introspective dude that I am, I was curious about why I was impacted so much. How did they do it—pull me in like that? Was it the writing, the acting, the directing? I wasn’t sure. I knew then that I wanted to be able to do that—move an audience, make them think and feel. Then in college, I picked up screenwriting in my spare time. After graduating, I wrote a short, entered it in a southeastern regional contest, and won 1st place. Part of the prize was a staged reading in front of a live audience in Atlanta. They invited me down, and I watched as several in the audience were moved to tears. They were engaged. That made a major impression on me. That was the moment.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Enter the Dragon, starring Bruce Lee. I’m also a martial artists having studied since age 13. Bruce was a childhood idol of mine. So I’ve watched and analyzed the heck out of that movie—both the storytelling and fight choreography.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

They do a great job at getting filmmakers’ projects in front of festival directors/programmers and connecting with audiences. For me, it would be nice to have something, an option that helps connect filmmakers with industry professionals (producers, investors, studio execs) to make connections and help pitch their work. Realistically speaking that’s probably beyond the scope of a festival platform and up to the individual fests.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It’s been an awesome experience for me. A real joy. The platform is so intuitive and easy to use. They make it easy to filter and customize searches for festivals. They send notifications of upcoming festivals, provide discount codes in some cases. They provide what amounts to a digital press kit. You can find a festival, research it, enter it, and pay within a just a few clicks.

10. What is your favorite meal?

It’s a ribeye dinner with a loaded baked potato, side salad, and a dessert that somehow combines chocolate fudge and peanut butter.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I’ve been blessed with such positive audience feedback and reviews. So I’ll be working to expand this into a larger work—from a short to a feature. The short, given its themes of adoption and immigration, naturally lends itself to outreach and can hopefully be leveraged as a tool for advocacy.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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