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  • Annette Dawm

Let’s Talk About Cinema with José Rosales

José Rosales is a filmmaker and podcaster from El Salvador who is currently pursuing his Masters in Media Production at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU was formerly known as Ryerson University). Also a Fanshawe College graduate with many academic honours and awards, José said that his time in London, ON acted as a “trampoline” or a springboard that launched his current path to success:

“I attended Fanshawe for a General Arts and Science with a major in Filmmaking for four terms…. I went to Fanshawe because I wanted to build skills and techniques for filmmaking, such as storyboards, editing, writing, shooting, directing, etc. I never imagined that TMU would have taken me had I not built a strong portfolio at Fanshawe.” He added that he loves how much he has grown as a producer since he first started.

“…I am a storyteller who enjoys writing compelling stories with loveable, courageous, and genuine characters that challenge the status quo. I also celebrate the storytellers who focus on writing about minorities.”

In 2016, José produced a short film called Boys Will Be, which won “Best Film” at his university’s annual student film festival. It later went onto be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which he described as “a humbling experience.”

“I remember feeling so incredibly proud of my whole cast and crew, and primarily my director Teryl Brouillette, for telling such a compelling and difficult story. As a producer, I remember feeling accomplished and challenged at the same time because I knew that people enjoyed the movie, which confirmed the potential I saw in the script.”

More recently, when José began to do research for his Master’s thesis regarding the film industry in El Salvador, he realized that this was a topic that very few people had ever explored. In order to get more information, he chose to return home and find it himself. This lead to countless interviews which then turned into a Spanish podcast series and a documentary!

“It’s a funny story,” Rosales recalled. “This project had a bit of an evolutionary path. Originally, I was only going to write a major research paper. When I first started, I quickly realized that the literature gap was huge and that there was little data around my thesis statement. I had a lot of research and writing ahead of me (a research paper is around 100+ pages). As a result, I had to find a way to make the process more entertaining and creative for myself. Eventually I took it even a step further and decided to create a website.”

Throughout his research process, José discovered that “most of the films that are made in Central America are not accessible to the public…. To me, it is important to create valuable content that is accessible to other people. I know there are tons of people who want to learn more about the filmmakers and the industry in Central America…. My goal is to create the landing page for people to learn about the film industry, showcase the work under one umbrella, and be a work tool for the filmmakers and investors.”

On another note, José also learned that El Salvador is home to Andre Guttfreund. So far, Andre is “the only Central American filmmaker to ever win an Academy Award and his trajectory is extraordinary.”

In terms of producing the Let’s Talk About Cinema podcast, Rosales explained that the required technology is easier to obtain than ever: “All you need is a proper microphone, a quiet space, (yes, you may have to unplug your fridge while you record) and a stable network (in case you are doing them online). The editing, transcribing and uploading to a platform is time-consuming, but fun.”

Looking ahead, José admitted that he has “the best of both worlds” by splitting his time between El Salvador and Canada: “I feel the most inspired in El Salvador. I’ve been lucky enough to escape the Toronto winter and focus on writing/producing my projects. But at the end of the day, Canada is where I see myself in the long-term. I am looking forward to seeing more Salvadoran stories, voices and faces represented and written on screen by the Salvadoran diaspora.”

Finally, when asked about his advice for other filmmakers, José Rosales gave a simple but important response: “Be kind to every single person that you meet and work with.”

For more information, you can follow José Rosales and his podcast on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of José Rosales.

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