Close Up with Ricky Rosario
Ricky Rosario’s good natured spirit and sweet smile are what you first notice when you meet him, it makes you wonder if he is ever capable of being upset. Today, grin in tow, he wears a fitted cap, 70s vibe thick-framed glasses, and a black graphic tee. The words “im-migrant” in white create a stark contrast on his shirt, and instantly give you a feel of where Ricky’s interests lies and his values.
This June will mark six years for Ricky, it has almost been six years since he first set out to Los Angeles, to pursue his love of film making. He has spent most of his twenties in the industry grind, he’s worn several hats—production assistant, production coordinator, assistant director, office production assistant, producer, and director.
Between jobs, Ricky wrote and directed Abuela’s Luck, a short film set in New York City. His film, the first of its kind, tells the story of a Dominican-American youth trying to find his way. Abuela’s Luck has been accepted to over ten film festivals and it has received a lot of love and praise. The buzz around the film, has lifted Ricky into a whirlwind of even bigger projects and even longer days. Luckily, he was able to carve out an afternoon to sit with pspoets and talk about his journey and creative process.
Ricky enters Sue Tsai’s Wildflower Pop-Up Exhibit in West Hollywood. His love for art, goes beyond film, and is apparent in the way he admires Tsai’s bold canvases, which tell stories of roots and heartbreak. He stops at each portrait, soaking up the colors, snapping pictures of the ones that move him.
He says very little as he walks around, until it’s time to sit and talk, then something inside of him seems to wake up. Soon he is beaming, the love for his craft radiates and breathes new life into him.
Let’s start from the beginning. What brought you out to Los Angeles?
Ricky: I am originally from New Jersey—Union City to be exact. I’ve been in LA for a while, it’ll be 6 years coming this June. I am Dominican-American both parents Dominican, I was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. Six years ago was the first time I left Jersey, I left to pursue a film career, and instead of paying for film school, I just paid for a USC summer course.
Did you always want to be a director?
Ricky: No, when I was younger I wanted to be an NBA basketball player. That didn’t happen—I am 5’5’’. I just wasn’t that good breaks out into laughter. That was the first dream. In high school, I decided I was going to pursue a career in business. I took up finance first just because I wanted to learn everything about money. I also picked up marketing because it handled the other side of business. My interest in film happened, I would say, my senior year of college. I got an internship with NBC. And I soon saw this whole other world, people filming and telling stories. I was like who are these people and how can I do this? And that’s how I fell into the world of production and production costs. My way into the film industry was learning about budgets, I used the skills I learned in school to get in the door. I was more aware of what things would cost and not necessarily how a story was told. I learned the range of what money could get you, and I started to get a better idea of how much it would cost to get creative ideas produced.
When did you start writing and telling your own stories?
Ricky: I like to write about things I have experienced. I wish or I hope all my stories stem from things I have experienced. I then try to find ways to elaborate on them and make it something the audience can connect to. Same goes for all art, especially film, what you see is an interpretation or retelling of a moment, or an experience the artist has had.
Thinking of your experiences growing up in New Jersey, can you talk about the process of writing Abuela’s Luck? What were some obstacles you faced? What did you have to do to get the final version?
Ricky: First and foremost, I think everyone has their own process. There are people who like to write in a cafe, some people like to write at home, others like to go away, travel somewhere new. I used to go to coffee shops all the time, but I don’t do that anymore. For me, I like to write at home. I’ve learned to vomit draft. That’s my writing process. Literally, whatever is inside of me I just get it out of me. I have come to learn, my process is all vomiting, not only the first draft, every step of the way first I’ll get all my initial ideas down on paper. I have a bunch of google documents, and I organize them into folders. I even have a scrap document, anything that comes to mind goes there. If I potentially want to write about it I make sure it get it out. No matter what it is. Writing around story beats, that’s what I enjoy,
What do you mean?
Ricky: The beats are more than just the beginning, middle, and end. The beats could be anything that happens to character, one moment can change everything. I think, how did we get there, and what happens next? I love writing around beats, creating shifts in a story or film. I like to outline but my outlines are all over the place for that reason because I’ll sometimes get an idea for another story beat and I have to make sure I write it down.
After filming your final draft of Abuela’s Luck, what are some big takeaways or lessons you have from this experience?
Ricky: Patience, patience, patience. Actually, I think patience and persistence. I know now more than ever what it takes to push forward and complete a project. It’s not gonna happen randomly, I wrote Abuela’s Luck fifteen times before I thought it was ready. Not that everyone has to write it fifteen times, whatever it takes to convey a message, if you are not there by draft 8, do it again. Mine took 15 drafts. At every step of the process, you need persistence to make things happen. For this film, I raised money three different ways. I did a Go Fund Me to raise 6 grand, although I really needed 8. I wanted my friends and family to be the first to contribute and I was able to raise over 5000 just from that. I still needed to make 8, so I did an Indiegogo and ran it on my social media. We didn’t end up raising 2000 we got like 1000 but again it was something. So now we are like at 6, I also did a bodega-themed fundraiser back at home, my friends Suaso and DJ Rob Cast hosted, and some of my family helped me with decorating and making the place look good. We raised like 1800.
How did it feel to debut Abuela’s Luck back home, in front of so many people that have supported you with this project and along way?
Ricky: It’s a day I will never forget. I didn’t expect that many people to come out, I expected a lot of family and friends, but on the actual morning of the festival, we sold out. Right before the afternoon, and I was like okay that’s insane. I was so humbled by it. Then night came and it was like a mad house. Finally when we made it to our seats, they announced the films, and when they said “Abuela’s Luck”, the whole place erupted, and there was a huge standing ovation. I am still at a loss of words for it because I cannot believe it.
How can we see Abuela’s Luck?
Ricky: Right now it is strictly on the film festival circuit, but I’ll be sure to announce when it’s available online on the Abuela’s Luck page.
What would you say is your next project or something you are excited about?
Ricky: I’m not sure where I want to be but this is a great place to be, I am just getting started. I have to have things ready now, I am at the place where people are like, what’s your next project? My goal for 2019 is to have projects ready to go.
When you are not on set and you do have free time, what do you like to do?
Ricky: If I am not on a job, it’s catching up on my personal projects. Right now, I am writing an Abuela’s Luck feature and I am working on my friend’s short film. She’s super talented, I was supposed to help her with another film last year, but I couldn’t because of Abuela’s Luck. There’s another short that a friend of mine wants me to write, produce, and direct.
It sounds like you have a strong network or community to work with.
Ricky: Yeah for sure. When I first moved to LA, I didn’t know anybody, but I would meet people on set and they would introduce me to more people. And they would help me out, “Hey Ricky wants to do this.”. We all help each other out. For anyone that wants to work in film, two things. One, know what you want to do and tell people what you want to do. If you want to be a DP, tell people you want to DP, because that means you gotta know camera and you gotta know lighting. Those are the two departments you have to focus on or you should focus on. And two, and this kind of goes for anybody, and this is my question to you—what are you doing with your free time? Find time to start a project, something you have been wanting to work on, whether its with film, photography, or writing.
What or who are some of your inspirations?
Ricky: It’s hard to pick, but some of my favorite directors are Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, and David Fincher. Reading about career filmmakers made me realize the importance of persistence, to keep doing it, over and over. A lot of the people I admire had like 10+ years of doing something over and over again. Michael Jordan is a big inspiration. I read about Michael Jordan’s killer instinct in How to be Like Mike, MJ worked to make thirty points a game, which sounds like a lot. MJ would break it down, as long as he scored eight points each quarter or some variation of that number he would meet his goal. And I applied that to what I do, if let’s say I want to write a short film, I need to write pages, and in order for me to write I can’t go out, I had to make the choice to stay home until I met my goals.
What do you do when you watch movies? How do you study films?
Ricky: I’ll write notes when I watch a movie, I try to jot down scenes I like or I’ll take a picture of a visual that moves me. I write down things I find interesting and I organize it into different folders, then it’s easy for me to search it. Google drive is great because you have everything at the palm of your hand. If I want to write into my Abuela’s Luck notes I can write into it. Letter Boxd, is a social network for film fanatics, and that’s how I first started tracking my notes and ideas. When I first got to LA I was so behind, I knew I needed to watch a lot of movies. I didn’t go to film school. I told myself I would watch 200 movies a year. I have yet to make that goal, I get to like 90 something, but just the idea of this number keeps me motivated. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad movie, good movie, great movie, even if it’s a shitty movie there could be something great, maybe just one thing that inspires me.
Lastly, what are some words you live by or a quote you really enjoy?
Ricky: My favorite quote, lends itself to this industry, work without any expectation and you will be rewarded unexpectedly. I say that because often we work and expect a pay off or for new opportunities to come from it. This is my personal mantra, I didn’t read it anywhere but I say it to myself. It keeps me working hard. If someone asks me for a favor, and I work for them I don’t expect anything in return. I just jump right into it, do the work, and I don’t expect anyone to do anything for me. I would say those are the words I always strive to live by.
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