Me and Oscar

I think I’m finally decompressing from my time in L.A. I can look back now and realize that it was one of the greatest moments in my life. My drive to succeed is even stronger now. Many people have told me that I am an “inspiration”. I am honored to receive such a wonderful compliment. Now it is my duty to continue following my dream no matter what obstacles present themselves to me. I won’t ever give up. I had the courage to change my destiny, and I succeeded. Follow your dreams and change your own fate.

My answers…

A gentleman from L.A. that will be following me and the other Academy winners sent me an email this weekend asking me several questions. Some were about my film, some were about my life and my experiences in film school. When I read my answers to a friend of mine she cried. It surprised me that it touched her in that way, so I thought I would share my answers with you as well. Hopefully it will be inspirational to you all.


I was originally going to do a documentary on the Mariel boat lift that occurred in 1980. However, my interview subjects were not available to meet with me at the time when I needed to do the interviews; and because of the time constraints of finishing my project for school, I had to move on to a different topic. I have a friend who is from Miami and she told me that I should talk to one of her friends that still lived in Miami because her dad was at the Bay of Pigs and had a lot of great stories.
So, last summer I took a trip to Miami and met with the three men who are in my documentary, Julio, Max and Eduardo. We all hit it off and they were very excited for me to interview all of them. Of course, at the time none of us realized that my documentary would make it this far. I hadn’t even contemplated entering it into the contest when I started.
I interviewed the three of them separately over the course of two days. I then went home to Jacksonville and didn’t even look at my footage for a few days. I was very tired and overwhelmed from all of the stories they shared with me. I learned so much in the few days that I spent with them and their families.
I spent about 5 months editing the footage and looking through old archival footage and searching for the right music. I knew the music was going to play a vital role in my film because I needed something to evoke the emotion that I wanted the audience to feel. Everyone who has watched my film so far has loved the music. One day, when I was watching my film, my 7-year-old daughter came in to the room and as soon as she heard the music she asked me, “Who’s the bad guy?” I knew then that the music was perfect, because my daughter, who knew nothing about my project, the story or Cuba, could tell just by the music that there was a bad guy somewhere.
When my film was screened in my post-production class, all three of my professors told me that I should enter it into the Student Academy Awards competition. So I did.
I decided to go back to school when I was 30 years old and my youngest daughter was just 2 months old. I was on maternity leave from my job and I was watching Oprah. She was talking about how you should control your own destiny and that you should follow your dreams. I cried, probably because of the hormones, and decided that I was going to change  my life. I was a single mom at the time (of three children ages 2 months, 4 years and 7 years old) and the only film school in my area was the Art Institute of Jacksonville. I went to the admissions office with my baby and enrolled myself in school. My boyfriend thought I was suffering from postpartum depression and everyone else in my life didn’t think I would be able to do it. But, what people now realize, is that I have a fire and determination that cannot be put out. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it and I don’t let any obstacle stop me.
Going into film school, I knew nothing about cameras, lighting, etc. I had never seen a Mac computer before (other than on TV). I had never heard the words Final Cut Pro or After Effects. I just busted my butt throughout my whole time at school and tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could. I tell students now that I’m certainly not an expert at any one thing, but I know how to do everything. I did my whole documentary by myself. I shot it, I did the lighting, I did the audio, I edited it, etc. There are a lot of film students that can’t do that. They focus so much on one thing that they neglect everything else. I would have to say the one thing that I’m a natural at is storytelling. I was born to tell stories and filmmaking is just one medium that I can use to be able to tell my stories. I love it.
The Art Institute of Jacksonville has only been around for 5 or 6 years. When I started there, I was one of about 30-40 film students. Now there are over 100. There was a big learning curve for everyone at the school during my time there, but the professors did the best they could with the resources they were given. I love all of my film professors and I learned a lot from them. Obviously they did something right if they took a mom of three, who knew nothing about filmmaking, and three years later turned her into someone who has now won an Academy Award. It’s pretty amazing and they are all so proud of me.
The most valuable lesson I learned while in school is that you have to be able to do it on your own. You can’t rely on anyone else to help you, especially other film students. If you want to be successful and you want to learn, you have to work hard because it’s not easy. 
Film school was very crucial for me, as I think it is for most people. I know there are many filmmakers out there that never went to film school. They are a rare breed and were most likely born to make movies. There are a lot of people who attend film school and never make movies. They just aren’t meant to do it I suppose. There’s no way I would be where I am today if I hadn’t gone to film school.
My advice to aspiring filmmakers would be to find the story first and make sure it’s a good one. Nothing else matters if your story sucks. You can have the most beautiful cinematography, the best music, the best sound design, but if your story is not strong and inspiring in some way, then none of that other stuff matters.
I have several projects that I would like to do in the future. One is a feature film that I wrote ( a comedy), and there are several other documentary stories that I’m working on, most are related to Cuba.
I tell people that some of my favorite films are Forrest Gump, Shawshank Redemption, Little Miss Sunshine and Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. But, I would have to say that by far, Forrest Gump is my favorite. I’ve watched it more times than I can count and I truly love Forrest. I cry every single time I watch it, even though I know Jenny is going to die and that Forrest will cry at her grave while talking about their son. I still cry because my heart breaks every single time for him. It inspires me to be a better person and to not take life for granted.

Oscar worthy dress

I went dress shopping the other day to find the perfect dress to wear to the Student Academy Awards. I will have to give a thank you speech in front of 1,000 people, so I have to look fabulous, especially if I end up crying with mascara running down my cheeks!

So I went to a small boutique here in town that only carries designer dresses. I’ve NEVER shopped in one of these stores. The owner of the store, Krista, was very helpful. She brought me four dresses to try on with the hopes that one of them would fit me right and look amazing.

I tried the first one on (it was black) and it looked so good on me. It made me look much smaller that I really am, which all women like that in a dress! Everyone loved it! So, then I tried on the next one (it was green) and it also looked amazing on me. Oh the dilemma! The third dress was a long, cobalt blue, sequined dress. It was a one shoulder dress and was beautiful on me! “Why?!” I cried. “Why do all these dresses look so good on me? How am I ever going to decide?”

Then came the last dress. It was a long, gold sequined dress with a cowl neck. First of all, I would have never picked a gold dress for myself. I am fair-skinned and I thought it would for sure wash me out. But, I tried it on, and when I stepped out of the dressing room everyone gasped and said, “Wow! You look stunning!” I glow in this dress, literally and figuratively. It truly is an Oscar worthy dress that I can not wait to wear on June 9th. Hopefully I won’t trip, LOL!

I’m going to Hollywood

Please click on the picture to read the article in the Florida Times Union newspaper…I’m so excited for this opportunity. I wasn’t expecting it all. I was actually prepared not to win, so when I found out that I won I cried for quite some time. I’m so blessed and grateful for all the wonderful people in my life, especially my boyfriend. He supported me the whole time I was in school and even now after I’ve graduated. He wants me to be able to do what I love and to be happy. I would have never reached this point without him.

When I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter, I was watching Oprah and on her show they were talking about following your dreams and doing what you love to do and what you were born to do. Then and there I decided to control my own destiny and change my own circumstances. I didn’t know where I would end up, but I believed enough in myself and my strength as a woman to at least try. Now, three years later, I have won a Student Academy Award (the highest honor for a film student) and I get to go to Hollywood and meet Directors, Writers, Cinematographers, Animators and Actors. It’s like a dream!

I am proof that anything is possible.

Say Hey (I love you)

Say Hey (I love you)

This song always puts me in a good mood :)


Mother’s Day

“Babies are always more trouble than you thought – and more wonderful” ~Charles Osgood

I love all three of my children, and yesterday they were very sweet to me. As much as I love them, and love spending time with them, I’m looking forward to the day they venture out on their own as young adults. I know that I will miss them, but I definitely won’t be one of those moms that gets “empty nest syndrome”. I believe it is our job, as mothers, to raise our children to become strong, independent, well-adjusted adults that can make good decisions. They should feel confident about who they are and what they want out of life. They should be respectful of other people and their beliefs, and they should have the courage to follow their dreams.

All I can hope for is that my children prosper as adults. I look forward to the day when they not only love me, but appreciate me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the selfless, loving mothers out there in the world!

The Academy Awards

I received the certificate from the Academy yesterday for being a finalist for my documentary Lost Country. I’m so excited and can hardly sleep! There is still about 2 weeks left until I find out if I’m going to California. I’m trying to stay busy and not think about it too much, but it’s very hard. I’m happy to be where I am, and I’m very excited to see what the future holds for me.


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